2016 Review: The Revolving Door of Running

2016 Yearly review:

Having spun another 365 times around the revolving door of life, and now about to be propelled unceremoniously out into the pavement of a New Year (think Elf when he does this very thing, and then goes and vomits in the bin), we’ve all – just about – survived another entire Vista Print Family Photo Desk Calendar – don’t worry, you’ll be getting another one on Sunday.

 

It’s time to reflect on a year that has thrown insane highs, and some melodramatic ‘it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things’ lows. And that’s just running.

But it’s more than that – running reflects life: running IS life! Running has all the emotional ups and downs of our daily vomit-inducing revolving door/rollercoaster ride, and perhaps it reflects it right back at us, if we let it. It shows us where we’re somehow out of balance, or not taking the hint. Do I need more rest? Running will tell me that. Am I stressed? It will mercilessly demonstrate that, too. Am I happy and burden-free? My body shows me what running ‘light’ really feels like, and it isn’t all down to the latest ‘improved bounce-mechanics’ footwear, either.

So, I’ve looked back at my year of running 2016. It looks a bit like this:

In summary:

According to our favourite data-gimp tool Strava, (as at today’s date – 21st Dec) I have:

Run 1,371 miles (this will be rounded up to 1400 before the New Year to satisfy my OCD compulsions);

Climbed 76,722 ft.

Clocked up 195 hours (and 4 minutes) running. Across all terrains, surfaces, countries, races, and treadmills.

And then there are the races. I have completed:

2 x full marathons (winter and autumn)

1 x 20 miler

4 x half marathons

3 x 10 milers (including a new PB of 71:12)

1 x 9 miler (odd distance alert)

2 x 10ks (including a new PB of 42:11)

4 x 5ks (excluding parkruns)

More importantly, I’ve looked closely at my year, and have tried to take from 2016 the necessary lessons. I’ve broken these down into convenient, Vista Print Desk Calendar-size bites. Taking one month at a time, here is how my running – and my life – have evolved over the last twelve months.

PART 1: JANUARY – MAY 2016

JANUARY – THE DUBAI MARATHON

Is that really only eleven months ago? And why? Just WHY? (I jest, of course.)

I wrote a couple of blogs about this madness at the time, (insert links) and so I won’t repeat what is already documented, but there are a few learning points I will take from one of the most amazing – and amazingly tough – experiences of the last year:

  • It is GOD AWFUL marathon training throughout the autumn and winter in the UK, and over the Christmas / New Year period… especially for a VERY HOT JANUARY MARATHON. Do I want to do yet another long training run on Boxing Day, during the worst floods the region has seen for decades? No. I don’t. I get that now.
  • The heat is unaccountable for. The marathon starts in the dark, but feels like a slow cooker warming up as the sun rises: you can’t believe the chicken will cook overnight ‘it’s not even warm!’, but don’t be fooled: by morning it’s bone dry and has stuck to the bottom, with a distinctly charred aroma. It’s like that, only you are the chicken.
  • I learned that I need MORE THAN 2 DAYS REST after a marathon. What a fool; a complete idiot. I’ve done marathons before. WHY DID I NEED TO LEARN THIS LESSON? It cost me my London Marathon as I fucked my legs up so much I couldn’t recover in the twelve weeks between the two. LESSON LEARNED.
  • Here, I began writing my blog. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I found my ‘flow’ and I’ve had so much joy writing about the ups and downs of my running journey throughout this year. And who’d have thought it would play a HUGE part in getting my book published? Yes, that. It began way before the Dubai marathon or the blog, but this opened up the door to creating my writing ‘voice’… long may it continue.

 

FEBRUARY – THE VILLAGE BAKERY HALF

The Dubai marathon had virtually killed me (see point (3) above) but back then, I HADN’T learned my lesson.

‘Shall we do the village bakery half again, Gav?’ I stupidly asked.

When is it?’

                  ‘14th Feb’

                  ‘That’s only three weeks after Dubai, Rach. Are you sure?’

                  ‘Yeah. I’ll be fine. Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day!’

 Guess what? I wasn’t fine. My legs hadn’t recovered. They hurt throughout every bastard mile.

LESSON: I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have even considered running a half marathon so soon after the full, having failed miserably to rest. I was six minutes slower than my 2015 time, and every step felt to be damaging me even more.

MARCH – THE BLACK HOLE

Running ceased to be a joy to me. Nothing ‘flowed’; there was not one single bouncy step. I still ran, but it all fell apart. I picked up an injury, and spent more time doing yoga and Physio whilst berating myself for having fucked everything up.

I dreaded the London Marathon which loomed around the corner and hung over me like a dark fog. And then it dawned on me: I’d have to pull out. And I was gutted.

LESSON: There are consequences for failing to learn anything from the cock-ups during the months of January and February. This is one of those.

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BURNT. OUT. MAKE. IT. STOP.

APRIL – THE NON-VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON, and the VALE OF YORK TEN MILER

I had to pull out of VLM, and I was heartbroken. BUT I started to learn my lessons, and put in place the changes I SHOULD have made earlier in the year.

I found my balls and did the first race since the disaster that was the Village Bakery Half back in February, and I loved it. ‘I’m coming back!! Yayyyy!’ My confidence felt to be inching its way back in the right direction, and it was a glimmer of Rach the runner I knew I could be. I began to put the divorce papers away, and reconsider my future relationship with running: We can still make it work!

 

MAY – WEDNESDAY NIGHTS DRIVING THROUGH HELL, THE DISASTER OF THE LEEDS HALF AND THE JOY OF THE RIPON TEN MILER

Two weekends, two changes in fortune.

Leeds half was an unmitigated, egotistical disaster. I flunked it badly. Why? Because my ego got in the way. Setting off like a bat out of hell on the back of ONLY JUST getting my confidence (and fitness) back was a HUGE mistake. I died at mile four, having entirely run out of gas (oh, and I hadn’t eaten adequately before the race, just to add insult to injury.) This one hurt my pride, knocked my confidence and made me feel stupid. I WAS stupid!

LESSON: Pace myself!

Rational Mind: ‘Choose your pace, stick with it, and DON’T let your insecure, glory-seeking ego get in the way!’

Ego: ‘But I can run sub-7 minute miles in a half marathon! I’ve done it before.’

Rational Mind: ‘Yeah, when you’re on top form, fully fit, and well-fuelled. You were NONE of those things. Nob head.’

What a howler.

Ripon 10 miler – reminded me of the WHY. I LOVED that race. Setting off feeling bouncy and light, I got over the previous weekend’s disaster in style, and came away with a good time, beating my previous year’s performance. This was me on the way back. Me and Running no longer required Relate counselling. And we’d moved back into the same bed.

And the Wednesday nights driving through Hell?

The journey from home to the John Carr 5k Race Series in Eccup is like navigating through war-torn Beirut. In rush hour. After work. With the hassle of school pick-up child care madness. Nose to tail with pissed off, commuting Corporate Wankers all trying to escape from their own version of Merry Hell. Through the arse hole of West Yorkshire. For a 5k race. That no longer has a justifiable claim for a 5k PB potential.

LESSON: NEVER AGAIN. NOT EVER.

To be continued…

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