It seemed my jogs were of two types: I head off with leaden legs and huff all the way, or I bound away, run as fast as I can until the halfway point, and then struggle to the end. Yesterday, for the first time during this Big Year, felt different. Descending my first hill with ease, I wondered if all that repetition had changed me. Why not just run my 10 kms in comfort, almost out of breath but never out of breath?
What a run! Light on feet, barely noticing breathing, attentive to the world. Towards the end, I approached a stern-faced, elderly Indian woman pushing a pram, and the young boy gazed up at me, and . . . and . . . I beamed a smile at him. Who would have thought that possible?
How much more time consuming can this jogging biz get? Now I’m to chill my foot for 20 minutes every day for a fortnight!
So you’ve toughed out a half year, done the hard yards, put in the two hours a day every day, knuckled down . . . yadda yadda cliché . . . but legs are leaden and your other obsession, the more important one, the one that counts, the writing one . . . that one intrudes. Your jogging habit isn’t quite the habit you crowed about, is it? Isn’t it time to forget the nonsense? Remember the advice about taking it easy on yourself?
Personally I’ve no advice to myself other than this: out into grey, lovely Melbourne . . . a Currawong lilts low and high . . . a Coot scampers away.
1,001 kms, to be precise. To celebrate hitting four figures, I ran faster. I didn’t set out to but for once felt buoyant and at the halfway point was running an incredible 5:54 mins/km pace. I pushed up the final hill and found I’d done it in 5:59. My fastest this year and only the second time I’ve bested 6:00.
In the last week, I’ve separately extolled the physical and existential benefits of daily exercise. But it’s not for everyone:
- It chews up time and takes you away from resentful loved ones.
- For an obsessive person like me, adding an obsessive impost can tip you into anxiety, down a slippery slope.
- I can feel pressured by a daily demand. Stress can harm.
- If you’ve chosen an inappropriate Big Year focus and daily target, a sense of hopelessness, of anomie, can bare its teeth
A couple of days ago I asked whether this big year is a boon or a peril from the physical point of view. But who cares about the physical, really? Rather, does obsessing about running make a difference to a life’s meaning?
- I keep asking myself if anxious insistence on regularity does instill a habit. After all, that’s a worthwhile objective: who wouldn’t want to just be fitter and healthier as a matter of routine? Shouldn’t exercise be as easy as daily teeth brushing? Well, it’s too early to tell for sure but yes, slowly, day by day, the more I insist on regularity, the easier it is to stick with it, even in the midst of life.
- And I’m feeling a gentle surge of pride in myself. We try to reassure ourselves that we’re worthwhile because the comforts of life abound, but often, after the hard work of our 30s and 40s, we surrender the idea that we can still strive for something. In 2016 so far, I’ve worked hard and “done good” and I’m chuffed.
- Perhaps the most important insight I had last week – suddenly, while on the track – was this: running means something to me. Why? That’s not clear to me, but the insight said this: jogging is meaningful to me and I’m giving it space every day and that enriches my life. Wow!
So if there’s something you know is meaningful to you, be it large or small, are you giving it enough weight in your life? Wouldn’t a big year help?
Six months in, am I positive or negative about my every-day-activity 1,600-km obsession? Let’s talk physical first:
- Without a doubt my fitness has improved; it would be surprising if such a ramp-up of activity didn’t show up in stronger muscles and enhanced cardiovascular performance. I like this uplift. Run times, though still slow, are maybe 5% faster. The times when I gasp like a dying fish are less frequent.
- In spite of much whinging, and anxiety about “breaking down,” here I am, still upright and mobile.
- Finally, accustoming the body to very regular work seems to pay dividends for general health: no colds, ditto stomach disorders, good energy levels . . . all round “healthiness.”
Would I have gained these benefits by just “resolving to run more,” instead of hammering daily, daily, daily? The jury is out on that question.
And what about more general existential questions? Does a Jogging Big Year make a difference? More on that another day . . .
You run four times a week, every week. It’s familiar, right? So you can decide on any given day whether to run slower or faster, right? Well, it doesn’t work that way.
Sunday’s jog was like punching through molasses, horrid and slow from the beginning. The next day seemed no different but when Strava gave me the first kilometer split, I realized I was travelling fast, very fast for me. Off I went. This morning, running early after a rainy night, I felt just as good as two days ago, and anticipated a similarly sweet Strava call, but no, I was slow again. A different slow – hey, I felt fine – but slow indeed. The three days’ average paces (minutes/km) were 6:21, 6:11 and 6:22. We’re talking a difference of 300 meters!
So . . . if you’re an athlete, I guess you can fine tune fast or slow days. For the bulk of us thudding around the streets, running remains a mystery. The best you can do, it seems to me, is to take the slow days with the fast.
My left foot: recurring twinges of near lameness in that outer edge under the ankle . . . occasional arch soreness . . . two months old . . . random recurrence during jog . . . random recurrence sitting at a desk . . . time to visit a physio, someone cognisant with regular exercise, someone who won’t prescribe useless rest.
Ten years. First half year. Two big years halfway through. Progress?
Jogging Big Year: big thumbs up.
Writing Big Year: big thumbs down