14 September, 2012

Running on empty

My last two blog posts looked at who I run with and how I run. Now I want to look at why I run. The reason being that for quite some time I have struggled for motivation, which of course begs the question: why do I bother?
Well, that's easy to answer. Firstly, I like the benefits of being fit, secondly, I don't want to say "I used to be able to run ??km..." and thirdly, I am a competitive beast. Not particularly fast, but competitive none-the-less.
Geelong Half Marathon 2011
I also know why I started running - because I was already fit and I wanted to make sure I stayed that way. I am not a runner by nature. If I had to run to get fit, then I would never be fit. Staying fit is a struggle if all I do is run. No, I'm really a netballer (the Aussies and Kiwis will know what I mean and possibly the Poms and Jamaicans). For several years I have routinely played multiple games of social netball per week at a variety of levels.
About four years back I decided that some distance running would improve my endurance on the netball court. I was right, it did. It still does. It helps me run the legs off the guys when I play in mixed competitions and the women half my age in most of the other comps. I can't be taller and I can't be younger, but I can be fitter and faster and maybe occasionally I can be a bit smarter.
I play netball five days per week and squeeze in a run (or maybe two) somewhere in between.
At the start, the running was a nice change and didn't take too long, but then it began to take on a life of its own. First, I progressed to short fun runs and then to half marathons. If I didn't do at least a 15km run per week, then I'd slacked off. Times mattered too - not that they were anything special.
I ran my fastest half marathon in April 2010, then promptly tore my calf playing netball and four weeks later broke my hand. The injuries recovered but my times never quite did, nor did my motivation.
Whilst I was researching running cliches for the title of this (and probably subsequent running-related posts), I came across the following t-shirt slogan:
Garmin running slogan
Okay, so I don't wear a Garmin, but the same goes for my Nike Sportband. I wanted to know how far and how fast and anything which affected my time was not welcome! And assuming I was running a reasonably familiar course - say, oh...around the Barwon... after the run I could tell from the change in pace on my Sportband roughly where I was at any given point.
The problem with all this was the expectation it created. If I didn't run fast enough, I wasn't happy. So, I decided it was time for a change. But what to change?
Well, I could change my route. That was reasonably easy. I could still incorporate some sections of the river, but also include other trails like the Bellarine Rail Trail, the Waterfront and Eastern Gardens, the linear trail along the old train line from the Fyansford Cement Works to North Geelong, even a couple of laps around good old Kardinia Park. Perhaps one day when they complete the loop I'll even run out to Corio on the Ted Wilson Ring Road Trail and come back via the Waterfront. Incidentally, I've marked most of these routes using Google Maps at this address which is listed under the "riding/walking trails" option in the "links" section of this blog.
Distance? Well, that was another easy change. One long run became a couple of shorter runs each week. Running 5 or 6km to my coffee shop of choice seemed like a reasonable incentive. Running to meet the family for a picnic here and there worked too.
Corio Bay - not a bad view for a run
What else? Well, I had never really run with a group before, so I decided to give it a try. I didn't want a competitive environment, but I figured having a time and a place to start running on a regular basis and someone to do it with might help so I joined Geelong Runners. Once again, it did help. I am now running more, my distances are starting to creep back up and I have found some great new people to run with.
The other thing I could do was to change my pace. Now that was easier said than done and something I am still struggling with. If I was running with the group, if I chose a new route which didn't come with a time to beat then pace wasn't really a problem. But there were still the timed runs with results posted at the end for all to see.
I hate not posting a PB and the above picture sums up most of my problem! A problem I will have to face on Sunday when I run the next half marathon which is being hosted by the Geelong Cross Country Club. I have been advised that I shouldn't worry about my time and that I should feel pleased for the people who out run me - and there will be plenty. Needless to say, this was not a concept which had occurred to me before, but one perhaps with which I will need to become better acquainted on Sunday.

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