A year back I did a little planning for the new year. I am not a new year resolutions kinda person so they were less resolutions, more keep up some good habits. Overall I did pretty alright over the year.
One of the things for 2019 I noted was to do a little running consistently through the year, about 20 to 32 kilometres a month. That should notch up about 320 km for the year. At the time I thought it might be a little ambitious, but achievable.
How did that go? By the end of 2019 I’d run 1611 kilometres, just over 1000 miles. I’d hit my target.
I am not sure what happened there. I enjoyed it, that was the main thing. It was good to be able to run again, not really inhibited by asthma or the leg pains that have been barriers over the last few years.
As 2019 went on I wrote some run notes, which you can browse here.
Andrew Travers has already written a tidy little piece on his 2019 running experiences. Here are some of my little notes for anyone looking to do some running in the future.
Any pace will do
Don’t let the word “running” put you off. I saw a sign at Bradford Park Run that said walk, jog, or run — any pace is OK. People who run are like that. It’s just a rubbish word that describes the activity. It’s more moving a bit.
Just getting out and on with it is the main thing. It’s where I started the year.
On Sunday 13 January I had nothing to do for the afternoon. I went to the local gym and got on a treadmill and just did 5km. I wasn’t starting from scratch physically but I needed to get going. It wasn’t the fastest but I didn’t care. I had got out and got on with it.
Any time will do
Morning, lunch, evening: Find what can work and what works for you. (Preferably not straight after a big dinner or a few alcoholic drinks or a night devoid of sleep though.)
And don’t get dragged into the fastest time trap. Don’t get dragged into the always beating a personal best trap.
Any time can do.
Start local, start flat
I am lucky the Leeds to Liverpool canal is nearby. It’s a decent running surface. It’s also flat. And it’s a handy for a run out a bit and then run back. You probably know somewhere already. Have a little think. Plan in heading there.
There and back
At the start running out for a little then turning round is really useful. Start small. If you fancy doing a bit more running, run back out then run back in.
If you start doing loops that are over 10 kilometres you’ll just be doing a bigger there and back.
But start small. If you want to do bigger distances you can always do lots of small loops.
Get some decent running shoes
Seriously, it’s not a grift. It is worth seeing someone at, say, a running shoe shop, and just being honest with them. They’ll help you out. They’ll look at how you run, how you feet land. They’ll help you out. Yeah, they’ll usually want you to buy a pair of running shoes, but at least they’ll be shoes that support you. And there are shoes for every budget.
Listen to your body
If you hurt stop. Rest.
Planning and keep track
A twenty minute run isn’t just a twenty minute run. If you’re heading out from your own front door there’s throwing your kit on. There’s doing the run. There’s having a little walk back (as cool-downs are Good For You). There’s grabbing a drink, dragging your kit off, having a quick shower (I sweat, man, I sweat), drying off, and getting your clothes on. That’s a good 20 minutes on top of your run. It’s worth seeing when you can fit runs in. Are your fam and friends cool and supportive?
Every day I work out what I need to do, pretty much hour to hour. I have a slightly fuzzier approach to working out what running I’ll be doing every month. How much do I want to run every week? When can I go every day? How much can I do every week? If I don’t quite do it as planned, it’s fine. Most of the time I do though.
There’s unexpected windows. When my boy is at basketball training I’ve found I can get a decent hour running the pavements (as long as he is OK with my sloping off for a bit of his training and coming back red faced and little smelly). When I have work stay overs I try to get a hotel that has either some good running roads nearby or a gym so I can at least get some KMs in on the treadmill.
Planning doesn’t take ages. Five minutes a month.
If you do a little planning it’s totally worth doing a little tracking and analysis. A tracking app like Strava or a spreadsheet or a calendar or a little notebook: whatever works for you. There is an example of my planning in this run note from November.
My tip: Do not just note when did you run, where you ran, how far did you run, but also how did you feel before, during and after the run? It’s no good doing things you find painful or hate.
Early in the year I built up a little list of things to keep doing, things to try, and things to avoid. At the start of 2019 I put doing a race on the avoid list. Every month I revisited the list, added stuff, some stuff moved off the list onto give a go. Some stuff never moved off avoid.
I realised early on I was struggling with hills. I took a couple of hours and read up on running hills. I altered my running plans. It wasn’t about distance here: It was about finding out if I could be better at hills. They were something to try. If I hated them I’d put them on the avoid list and concentrate on flat runs. I am glad I gave hills a go. Some of my favourite running experiences have been in hillier environments.
On 12 May I did the Leeds Half Marathon. Do a race had moved over to the try list when I felt comfortable. I’ve done more races since, of various lengths, in various circumstances. Fell running became a thing to try — and I did.
In 2019 I was pretty bad at doing early morning runs though. Planned for a few, ended up doing them late morning or after work. Truth.
Discovery is half the fun
Just one of many examples: Over the Christmas period I tended to do a route that took me from my home, out to Calverley, down to Thornbury, across to Farsley, then up to Rodley, and back to Calverley and home.
The first time I did this loop it was dark, the roadside paths were lit by street lamps. The view on my left between Calverley and Thornbury was of the nighttime lights of Leeds.
The second time it was daytime. The sun was out, the fields looked lush. I came back along the canal.
The third time: Ahead of it I looked up to see if there were any other roads I could go down. Priesthorpe Lane, could go down that, it takes me off and brings me back onto the route I’ve done already. If it doesn’t I could just turn back.
I came across a lot of stuff by chance.
Running down old roads, where the tarmac gives way to cobbles, and then slims down to a firm earth track.
Bridges, to look at and to run over.
A bit of the Appalachian Trail, because we just happened to be staying next to it.
The Woolpack at Esholt, as featured in Emmerdale.
Deers in the woods. Swans flying alongside you.
The amazing dip in Calverley Woods.
Esholt Woods, which is an amazing place to run about — and fascinating for all the bits of engineering dotted about the place.
I could go on. Being in the moments, taking it in, and enjoying what was around me was an early learn. No headphones when I was outside. (Headphones definitely a thing for treadmill time.) It kept me alert looking at the world around me, to savour, to look for new opportunities. It helped relight my curiosity again massively.
And it wasn’t just doing the running. There were little bits of things about running. Because of running I read Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a lovely book, full of reflections on life/work balance.
It’s not just about running
A few people pointed me in the direction of yoga. My first take was “no way”. My second take was “no way”. My third take was “no way”. “No way” was my take for a while. But then I was faffing with the Nike Training app while I was bored in a hotel room and did some stretches. I tried it for a few weeks. My legs felt better, from the day off running, from giving them a gentle stretch in various positions. Every week I’ve tried to spend some time doing some stretches — and will keep doing them. (It has also helped with my climbing.)
I’ve yet to go to a yoga class. I am not sure I ever will to be honest. But thanks to the internet I can do yoga along with apps, articles on the web, and videos on YouTube.
The winner is you
Last week I was running along the canal, another runner heading towards me. About ten strides from each other the other runner held his hand out at his waist height. As we passed each other we did a low five. Supportive, encouraging. It hasn’t just been that moment. There have been many over the year. Running people tend be that kind of people. If you have been one of the many people that has helped and supported me in 2019, thank you. There needs to be more people with that attitude out there.
In 2020 I am aiming for at least 2000 kilometres. I doubt I’ll end up 1290 kilometres over that target. I’ve got a list of things I want to keep doing and things I want to try. The list of things to avoid is very, very small now.
But I remember very vividly where I was 12 months ago. I’d happily be back there, just aiming for a little, often. I hope you might too. I just got into the swing of it all again more than I thought.
I’ll continue to share my running adventures as blog posts here, on Twitter, on Strava, my running note in Evernote is publicly available, and I will keep my little tracking spreadsheet up to date. Feel free to follow me — and I’d love to hear from you!