What I think about when I think about running

I’ve recently signed up to do a 10k race and aside from the usual I want to be fitter / healthier / run more, I tend to find that I struggle to stick to challenges or more often simply forget about them, without a defined goal. So signing up to a public race with people I work with was just the challenge I needed to get me out there and back into regular running. Or Jogging, I don’t really run that fast so for the pendants out there, when I say running I mean jogging at a pace of around 8 minutes per km. I prefer to track my running in kilometres rather than miles as it just sounds more impressive in my head to say I ran 10km than I ran 6.3 miles, the rest of my life is strictly in imperial measurements only though, not to worry.

The Manchester 10k in five weeks’ time will be my second ever race, and for an infrequent runner like me it kind of sounds like a lot. In fact double the distance of my only other race (which was the furthest I’ve run in one sitting, ever) a 5k Race for Life which I did almost 4 years ago, so I suppose personally it is quite the challenge, not least to my ability to stick at something for longer than 10 minutes. Prior to starting my training plan a few weeks weeks ago, the furthest I would usually run would be 1.5 – 2km runs around the local park, with the dog in toe. This was all I did to prepare for the 5k race and I managed to hold my own, considering it was in the delightfully hilly Heaton Park, this time I am assured the race course is mostly flat but I know I still need to prepare and train a lot more than I’ve ever done previously.

What I’ve discovered about myself over the last few years is my tendency to over-think and this creates my biggest barrier with running. Initially with the short runs, I found it a great to clear my head of all the days stresses for the 10-15 minutes I was out there, but trying to run for much longer than that I began focusing on how hard I was breathing, how my shoe was rubbing my toe or some other imaginary ailment that means ‘You’re bored so it’s time to head home now’. I had a true mental block. So it was with great anticipation that I started reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

book, cover, japanese author,
Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I found the book in my local charity shop by chance, when looking for something to read on the long train journey to Scotland. I’d read some of Murakami’s short stories before and found the style very calming, almost therapeutic to read. The book’s premise is around how he started running to keep fit after giving up his Jazz bar to focus on being a writer full time. How this in turn has lead to many marathons & triathlons and is written over the course of just over a year.I found the similarities of how he approaches both disciplines interesting and had a couple of light bulb moments that helped me understand where I was going wrong myself.

It’s not just about physical preparation, but the mental preparation too

Realising that I needed to get my head straight, get in the zone as it were and prepare mentally for the task ahead was the main lesson. This was to take in two factors, thinking and music.
Instead of trying to empty my head on my first training run, I had a whole inventory of subjects to think about, from this blog post to shopping lists to dreaming of holiday destinations.
Factor two was the music, Murakami mentions the music he listens to while running quite a few times. For me getting the right play-list was essential to getting in the right head space. I’ve split the play-list into 3 parts, 1st part is something upbeat to get me in the mood for running, the middle part is a more chilled, rhythmical section for when I’m at a good pace, when my lungs give up fighting against exercising and go with the flow. The final section is my much needed boost of joy, on nearing the end. I’ve put my 20 minute run play-list on Soundcloud so you can have a listen, I managed to put that one up before my iphone was plugged into iTunes where it took it upon itself to wipe six out of the eight play-lists I’d created, annoyingly.

Being four weeks into my training plan (this was a plan devised by the Bupa Great Run website), I’m committed to three runs a week, the longest being on a weekend. More recently it’s thrown in interval training midweek and this weekend’s run was 40 minutes, I even ran in the rain which used to be a sure fire excuse in the past not to go outside!

I’m sure I’ll update more with my progress in the coming weeks…

One reply to “What I think about when I think about running

  1. I have a great running playlist, but found – shamefully – that the The Script’s ‘For The First Time’ and Fall Out boy’s Thanks for the Memories had the best rhythm for me – which sucks considering I don’t like either band!!


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