Why run?

Running?

Some people hate it and some ‘crazy’ people love it.

As for me, I’m one of those crazy people to the crowd out there and I know a fair few of you reading this are too so great! We understand each other because there’s nothing better than meeting someone else out there who shares the same passion for running as you do!

Starting out running

As a child, I always looked up to sports professionals. I enjoyed being active – they enjoyed being active, and they were making a living out of what they were doing. Of course, I wanted to be the same. I wanted to do something that I loved doing and could live sustainably off.

Running in the Bedford Junior Aquathlon at 12 years old

Me running at the Bedford Junior Aquathlon, age 12

It was when I was 7 years old that I took part in my first race. The Bedford Junior Aquathlon. A 66 yard swim followed by a 600m run around the park. I came 32nd out of 40 other kids, boys and girls altogether. Whilst I certainly enjoyed it, I was frustrated that I wasn’t as quick as I thought I was or hoped to be.

Inside I desired to be faster, stronger, better and so I began doing some runs down at the park with my dad before the next junior aquathlon, and in addition, I joined my local running club, Bedford and County Athletics Club.

My first track race

I was 11 and it was county track and field champs and I was eager to sign up for the longest race available: 1500m. I didn’t even realise I had to wear a club vest, so I ended up pinning a number to the plain white vest I usually wore under my shirt.

I ran chasing everyone and honestly I wanted to drop out so badly. They were so much faster than me. It was painful realising even now I wasn’t quick compared to the competition.

But one thing always grew close to my heart after that race. The encouragement and support I received as I ran the last 200m was tremendous, and even as I finished, I was shocked to find that the other runners were waiting for me despite me finishing over a minute behind the second last runner in 6:26.

Moving to endurance training

Shortly before I turned 12, November 2012, I moved into a more specialist endurance group within the club. Training there was a lot tougher than I expected and I could only make one training session a week due to commitments at scouts. I came 80th out of 93 runners in my first cross country race. I had a long way to go and I resolved to keep training hard and so began training on my own.

Injury and barefoot running

Just over a year later I began getting pains in my knee when I was running. It soon became unbearable.

One week passed. Then three.

And then my father took me to a physiotherapist who said, if I recall correctly, I had developed a muscle imbalance in my legs which was causing patella bursitis in my knee. I was given hip exercises to strengthen my hip adductors and hip abductors using a theraband so that they were strong enough to prevent my foot from turning outwards as I was running (a sign of muscle imbalance).

It was down at my local parkrun that my dad met a woman who spoke of a book called Born to Run and recommended it to him. He then bought the book for me and I was absolutely enthralled by everything I was reading. It seemed that everything that was normal about running was wrong. This book was about how the Tarahumara of Mexico could run significant distances of over 50km in bare feet and sandals. If that was true, how was it their feet were not wrecked and their legs not broken from the sheer impact of running?

I investigated more into it and found that as I ran barefoot, I suffered less pain (I was still injured) than with shoes, so I began to do some light barefoot running. It certainly helped me get back into running and having no cushioning made my calves rather strong.

It was May when I finally recovered fully and began to compete again. Undoubtedly I got some odd looks when I was wearing my minimalist Vivobarefoot shoes but I didn’t worry too much. Soon everyone got used to me running in my barefoot shoes.

Furthering my running development

I wanted to do everything I could to improve. Whilst I was conscious of the fact that I was a chocoholic and could easily make my way through an entire bar of chocolate (and run it off to have some more), I decided to start incorporating morning runs into my routine in Summer 2014. I began waking up at 6 am and going for easy morning runs for about 20 minutes before school. These runs seemed to help me and I enjoyed them.

In addition, I began doing circuits we were taught to do on Monday’s at training (now I was training with the club 3 – 4 times a week) and eventually, I started doing my own strength and conditioning circuit after training 2 – 3 times a week in an endeavour to improve more and become a better runner.

I managed to reach a level of performance where I placed more in the middle pack in my races although in the shorter distances I lacked speed. In my mind, I always wanted to run the long distances so I didn’t mind too much.

Over time, my training paid off and I was certainly improving, but not to the extent that I felt I deserved for my endeavours. Seeking to switch up my diet, I came across the paleo diet and read up on it. Everything about it from an evolutionary perspective made sense to me, about how our brains are wired to want sugar which is why we can’t get enough of the stuff.

I began to cut down on sugary and processed foods with more emphasis on vegetable and meat with an ample, but limited supply of carbohydrates from fruit or potatoes. It was a struggle cutting down chocolate at first. I had to limit myself and cut down my intake and soon enough I found I was no longer dependent on sugary foods. It was great and I felt that I had full control over my appetite and what I was eating. I opted for protein rich foods and healthy fats as I saw these foods as the most useful for my development.

Good protein source to recover from running muscle damage

Thai green curry, a favourite meal of mine

Too slow.

Despite having it fixed in my head that I was going to run 10k’s and marathons when I was older, I knew when it came to track I was way behind the other runners. If I ever wanted to run a 30 minute 10k I would have to be able to run a 9 minute 3k which would mean a 4:30 1500m which I had not achieved in 2017 (my time was 4:37).

Speed was essential. Even for the longer distances. Especially at the end of a race.

Switching up my running training

By chance, I came across a post from a runner who I raced in April 2017. I lapped him in 3000m and finished in around 10 minutes. Now, I saw he was running a 2:09 800m indoors. That was something I knew I couldn’t do. I got in contact with him and am now receiving coaching from the coach that he got in contact with to further his development.

The training he gave me was different to my normal training which consisted of around three 8km runs each week as well as one long run on a Sunday. He gave me speed and strength sessions which challenged and engaged muscles I had never worked so hard and wasn’t afraid to tell me I was slow and needed speed development badly if I wanted to succeed.

And here I am to share my development with you as I grow as a runner.

Thank you for reading, feel free to comment down below and ask questions.