The glass is either half full, or half empty. And the calm is always either following or anticipating a storm. Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, a firefighter or a forward planner, or you really couldn’t give a monkeys about pop psychology personality analyses, it’s still interesting to acknowledge the ebb and flow of life, whether the waves are self-imposed challenges or simply the chaos of everyday life.
Personally, I have always found the calm deeply disturbing. I’m pretty sure that I’ve been on the go since my teens and have always been juggling hobbies, schoolwork, and various other commitments. Evenings in front of the TV are unsettling and guilt-ridden. Cycling without a definite destination (and map and flapjack reserves) is unthinkable. I’ve never not been busy and so calm periods in my life set me right on edge. My attitude towards running seems to be part of this habit, and I struggle to motivate myself without a goal to train towards. In fact I stopped running completely after my first half marathon – until I entered another to work towards.
This seems silly, as running brings me such joy. Bizarre, sweaty joy.
I find myself now in the midst of the calm after the storm that was the Waltham Forest Half. Or is it the calm before my next big race – the New Forest Marathon, my first ever marathon, back in my old neck of the woods, dahn sarf (Southampton folks will get this). I’ve drafted my training plan (yup, running geek, I know) and I’m chomping at the bit to get started, but what is it that I’m craving? It’s certainly not the feeling of being physically and emotionally drained as I crawl into a recovery week once a month. Nope, it’s that feeling of achievement as I jog home after a series of impressively even threshold reps. You know, the sessions that make you want to high-five yourself.
So, this period of calm between races has inadvertently become a challenge in itself as I try to continue to run, simply to run. No set distance, no set time, no set pace. Just running because I enjoy it.
The prospect of a month-long training hiatus initially made me anxious, but last Thursday my urge to run surpassed my anxiety of aimlessness and I went for a jog. A proper jog. The kind of jog that I imagine the old dude in Ron Hills who used to visit the newsagents I worked in as a teen did on a Sunday morning before buying the Sunday Times (and Transvestites Fortnightly, but that’s another story, and one that includes my deep admiration for him proudly carrying it home each fortnight and never asking for a carrier bag).
Thursday I jogged 3.5 miles and it was fun. Saturday morning I coaxed a triathlete friend of mine, who hates the running bit, to Finsbury parkrun and ran a comfortable 8:15/mile. And this morning me and the GF did a nice, steady 5K.
At the moment my motivation is simply not to lose any fitness before marathon training begins. It’s only a little, niggling motivation at the moment, but no doubt it will grow in the coming weeks. It does make me wonder though, what keeps jolly joggers motivated? You know the ones I’m referring to – the people who routinely run, come rain or shine, yet never need to train for anything in particular. I admire their love of running, a love so great it transcends all sporting logic. But I can’t help feeling like they’re all frauds. Or, more likely, that I am projecting my desire for the ultimate spiritual running experience – running for the pure love of running – onto them. Is it possible to not have a goal? I can’t imagine that it is, even if it’s a seemingly simple one like maintaining fitness or getting away from the computer for half an hour at lunchtime.
Ah well, I needn’t worry too much. Marathon training begins on 3rd June and that will keep me occupied.