Jogging Big Year: Why abandon such wonder?

Jogging an entire year always seemed risky, especially on January 1, but it’s now part of my life. An ingrained habit that invokes wonder week after week.

But I’ve made the decision to switch next year. To ditch the specific fortitude and skill built up over a calendar year, probably never to try it again.

Why? Wear and tear on feet is the most sensible reason; although the feet have held up well, how much longer can they? Secondly, I believe I can get the high of real cardio effort (call it huffing and puffing) with cycling, as long as hills are in the mix. Thirdly, it’s time to try something else, and surely that’s the most implacable logic. A Big Year isn’t a Big Year if it is two years.

Overcoming a hoodoo jog

A rigid routine: 4 jogs each week on set days, each on a different route. All 4 routes are 10 kms, so the only practical differences are the amounts of ascent, in layman’s terms how bloody hilly they are! It turns out my toughest route, North Loop, climbs 80 metres; I feel every metre and I run it at about 6:15 mins/km (with a fastest pace of 6:05). The easiest route, West & Back, only has around 60 metres and I’m clocking it at about 6:05 (fastest being 5:58). You can see that less hills means easier, means faster.

Another route, East Loop, lies in between the extremes. The ascent is about the same as the easiest route, around 60 metres, but the climb comes in the form of one daunting, steeper hill. Accordingly, I do this route at around 6:10, in between the others. (My fastest is 5:59).

But my hoodoo route, North & Back, also involves 60 metres of ascent, but I’m travelling at 6:15 and I’ve never run it faster than 6:10. It occurred to me over the weekend to question why this is so. There is a tough pinch, up to Yarra Boulevard, but the key factor seems to be that very little is dead flat. This route undulates and I don’t like it.

So a few days ago, I jumped at the hoodoo route. I set off at a decent pace, then focused on surging up all the slight inclines, and over the tough pinches, I put extra grunt into my strides. I was wrung out by the end, but not, funnily enough, more than usual, and my pace came in at 6:01.

Hoodoo conquered! But nothing comes for free: my right ankle is slightly suspect, and my left arch, cured now for two months, twinges once more. Sigh . . .

Jogging Big Year: Keeping the flame alive

Unexpectedly, a wonderful two months of hiking was affected by the Jogging Big Year. I’m investing much emotional energy into that year, so distancing myself from it for so long – two months! – worried me. Luckily, part of the running commitment, one I rarely allude to – is that I’ve committed to stretching (a long-established routine of one hour) – each and every day of 2016. By hook or by crook, no matter what country I was in, I managed to fulfill that resolve. Peace arrived, like a dose of Zen.

Jogging Big Year holiday: The downside!

August and September were hiking months with only sporadic opportunities to jog. I got out only twelve times, mostly in the first half of August. The overseas runs were invigorating and seemingly speedy enough, but I knew the terrains were mostly flat, so upon returning last Sunday, I wondered how I’d go. Well, the first jog soon after the plane trip was grinding and my slowest (on that route) since February! Had I really lost eight months’ worth of hard work? Monday’s jog on a different route was the slowest since May. Yesterday, on yet another route, energy surged and my pace was about the same as before the jogging holiday. Thank goodness!

A scintillating read about running

Tom Foreman’s “My Year of Living Dangerously” is a rollicking read for anyone who runs or has run. Its premise is blurbed as: “Four half marathons, three full marathons, one 55-mile ultramarathon, and 2,000 miles of training all in one year. From a standstill.” The tale itself is thrilling but I was taken by this post-race reflection:

As people get older, life becomes all about playing it safe. We protect our jobs and our money. We guard our houses, and we try to make the world as risk-free as we can for our kids, because that is important. But along the way, you can lose yourself. You start thinking that the great adventures are all gone and that you’ve reached all the limits. . . . So, when I started this, I don’t know, it felt like something woke up inside me. I stopped getting through my days, and I started getting into them. I guess I ran this race because I didn’t want that to end.

I like to think my Jogging Big Year springs from the same impulse.

Jogging Big Year: The joy of it

Nearly three weeks off, my biggest jogging gap in years . . . returning to York for a one-night stay before heading home, I wondered if I’d approach my running with equanimity. How surprised I was to find that I couldn’t wait to chuck on the green runners and head off into an afternoon of sun and swirling breezes. It was wonderful! A pace of 6:15 seemed surprisingly swift for my first outing back.

How to get fitter: Race or a Big Year?

A marathon! Maybe it’s always been on my bucket list. Set a training schedule and bingo, the fear and lure of the race will surely compel me to get out there week after week, month after month . . .

We all have friends, younger or older, doing exactly that, and it seems to work. How we admire them! But for me, the big impossible dream of a race is just that, a dream. I love to run but the time and effort and risks of a crazy quest might well derail me. So I’ll try this Big Year instead . . . modest but obsessive.

The mind: A jogger’s most implacable foe

Consider this tale. Yesterday I ran like the wind, to use a cliche I can’t resist. Today the weather is identical, nothing has affected my preparation, I’m no more tired, so I set out expecting more of the same. Three kilometers in, a thought surfaces and won’t go away: “This is crap, I can’t go on, why can’t I rest?”

That’s the mind for you. One day it’s on fire, the next it’s a pathetic piece of slime.

What to do? Clearly athletes can ignore their “negative thoughts” but can you or I? And if you use your mind to conquer your mind, won’t your mind rebel in turn?

For me, there never is a ready solution. I battle on. And of course this so-called jogging dilemma is one we face every day in every kind of situation. We are our minds and our minds are our best friends and worst enemies.