Monday, July 22, 2013

Run Down

Advisory; this is a very personal blog post!

Everything you read, all the common advice given is that exercise in general and running specifically improves your mental health, helps fight depression and is a fillip to the body and soul. I buy into this if running isn't already a big part of your life. But if it is, it only works up to a certain point. I've never followed training plans or had structure. I run how I feel, and as long or short as moods take me. I know that if I want to run marathons and further there are SOME runs I have to do, but beyond that I just figure it out.

So, when I've had mood swings, or events that have had a significant effect on my life my running has changed. I find that if my life is happy and balanced I'll run 80km (50 miles) a week week in week out. If I'm going through difficult times it goes up to over 100km a week and sometimes hits the 'magic' 100 miles a week. This is never a good thing. My body doesn't like a 100 mile weeks anymore. My feet and stomach rebel. I can't stay awake, and I'm more of an unsocial than usual. When I've been hit with real black moods, I don't want to run. I literally can't run. All the natural motivation and enthusiasm seeps out of my body and mind. Mentally I don't want to step out of the door, and physically when I do, its a slog. When Lindsay passed away I didn't run for a week, I couldn't. Eventually it became cathartic again, and although certain runs still evoked bittersweet memories, it was a good kind of pain; one of remembering fondly. 

Lindsay and Nikki Campbell at the Hewat 100 miler
There's no doubt that over the last 7 years running had saved me from spiraling into an abyss, but it has also propped up and kept issues at bay. It has stopped those issues being addressed. It hasn't really 'saved' me from anything, it's plastered over the cracks and proved that you can't avoid pain, but have to confront it head on. Running is an escape. A much better, healthy, life affirming one than most, but still an escape. 

Winning the Comrades marathon. As a novice.
Maybe it's time to stop running. 


  1. I hear what you are saying. Last year I took a week off work to look after Dawn after her op, well I ended up with very big miles that week, and while it was good training I was drained and didn't have such great races after that even with the great base.

    So what I want to put on the table for you is running, but not for fun or as an emotional coverup, but run / train... Yes follow a program for 4-6 week with a goal race at the end. Then follow the plan run for run.

    There will be days when you feel great and want to run miles and miles, don't, only what's on the program. Then there will be days when you don't even want to get out of bed, but again I say follow the plan...

    This way, when you think running it's only about the goal race and nothing else leaving you to address the issues out there...

    Good Luck

    PS let us know if we should send you a plan to follow!!!

    1. Thanks Coach. I need to find a late season target. one thought is a WS qualifier (a 50 miler near San Fran) in September. BUT i enjoy a bit of racing too, so not sure i want to give up racing those 21km etc to slog the miles. Another marathon maybe, to see if i can get near my 2,50 PB? Maybe thats a better goal. 80% of my training is now on trail, so my training pace is slower but it hasnt effected my race times...

  2. Ian, I suspect deep personal sharing is not always appreciated in our culture. But as a friend I felt the need to respond.

    I have started into the abyss and I have soared feeling elated. In both extremes running was only part of my life. It could offer neither an answer nor a solution. It best it was a friend, a comfort and worst it was a reminder of everything that is wrong.

    I hope some friendships are as meaningful and last longer than a great long run. I look forward to seeing the rims and depths of the Grand Canyon with you.

  3. Ja, when I'm in a blue funk and should be running more - because it makes me feel better - I close down, run little, battle to get out of bed... When everything else in my life is fine and dandy, my running rocks and the mileage comes easy.

    Sometimes running too is an escape and a (welcome) distraction. Work the body, rest the mind.

    As you know, I juggle a lot so keeping my many activities under control is important (and necessary). When things outside of my control get a little wayward, running remains the one element I can control - a comfort. So there have been many phases where sport dominates - again the escape thing.

    Ian, you're not alone with this one. The important lesson I've learned is that it is especially in those times when we're in the abyss that we need to get out, even for 30 mins. And if you're feeling drained and tired, don't force yourself to run. I walk instead and always return feeling just that little bit better.