Monday, October 25, 2004

Remaining focused is a difficult thing. After my booster of inspiration at the parade in London last Monday, I ran on Tuesday and Wednesday morning; only a mile, but still, both days I ran at 6:30 in the morning in the dark and the cold and the rain. On Wednesday, I timed myself – a little over eight minutes – not too bad.

On Thursday morning I woke up after a restless night and spent the ten minutes I could have spent running around the park locked in the same old argument. This time, the part of me that reckons it probably isn’t ideal to run every single day in case I get injured prevailed. Missing Thursday made it so much easier not to run on Friday either.

Inspired by guilt, I did another timed run on Saturday morning. The whole way round I felt heavy and slow. On Wednesday, I had finished strongly and was thinking about how I ought to up my distance the next time – on Saturday, I had regressed to the "try not to be sick" stage. However, despite my heavy legs, I did it in less than seven and a half minutes on Saturday – El Guerrouj could have lapped me, possibly more than once, but I’m getting quicker.

My body is still a strange hybrid of several different kinds of athlete. I have the splayed feet and skinny, bandy legs of a distance walker. My belly is doing its best to balloon out like a top division weightlifter. My pectoral muscles are a long way from the chiselled perfection of a swimmer’s, and more closely resemble the concave chest of a marathon runner.

My arms should be good for swimming, at least in terms of length if not in terms of build. I read somewhere that Michael Phelps was an ideal build for a swimmer as he was 6'5" tall and 6'6" wide from fingertip to fingertip; I’m 6'4" tall (almost) and 6'7" wide. With a few light weights to build up my arms, and with my belly providing a degree of ballast Phelps so patently lacks, I should be up to his standard in no time.

Aside from my physical failings though, I need to build up again my ability to focus. When I used to play golf to a higher standard than I do now, I would practice pretty much every day. Some days the weather was dreadful - practicing in that can do your swing more harm than good as you compensate for wind and rain – but it was important to practice anyway; having done so, I was free to stand on the first tee at the weekend and feel like I’d worked harder than everyone else. That can give you confidence.

Similarly, I don’t imagine it will make a great deal of physical difference to a marathon I will try to run at some point in the next four years if I run one mile in the dark tomorrow morning or not, but maybe, as I arrive at the wall of pain that I am assured awaits me on that fateful day, I’ll remember how hard I worked, and I’ll remember getting up early in the morning to do something I don’t really like doing, and I’ll carry on running when I might otherwise have stopped.

Great Olympians don’t get to the pinnacle of their careers because they ran a mile in the dark one morning – they get there because they did it every morning while the rest of us stayed in bed.


Anonymous said...

From El Gourrouj:

I could have easily lapped you pal. And there were no Ulsterbuses to take me into town. I had to run, 800 miles, every day, at 4am. It made the man I am today.

1 mile? at 6 30am? LUXURY.

Lord Bargain said...

Keep at it. The only thing that will ultimately stop you from improving in your ability to run is boredom. Get an IPod or good skip-free walkman to keep you company...

To be fair, you can train to run the 26 miles in an Olympic qualifying time, but at some point you still have to throw yourself through thin air supported only by a bendy stick....