|North East Runner||
In my last blog I mentioned that one of my goals in life had been to see Lance Armstrong ride in the Tour de France and that I’d been fortunate enough to make that happen in several mountain stages of the 2004 and 2005 editions of the race. Another of my lifelong goals has been to visit New York, and especially to run in the so-called city that never sleeps.
Affairs, assaults, drinking, drugs, cheating, murdering, a web of lies and deceit. Sport really does have it all. In many ways sport is no different to every other walk of life and why should we expect it to be different? Yet we continue to be shocked every time the latest news story involving a sportsperson emerges. Oscar Pistorius’ recent murder charge is just the latest in a long line of high profile cases involving sports stars who have hit the self-destruct button, ruining their careers and shattering the dreams and beliefs of the millions of people who hold them in the highest possible regard.
“You’re not going out running in that are you? You must be mad” ……
Family, friends, work colleagues, even some of my fellow runners, they’ve all said it over the last fortnight. If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that phrase or a variation of it, well, I might not be a rich man but I’d certainly not be short of a bob or two. For every one of those people however, I’ve had a simple response: “No distance runner has ever achieved anything by staying indoors in winter”.
For marathon runners of all ages and abilities January is an exciting time of year. After the festivities and excesses of Christmas and New Year, all of a sudden attentions turn to the Spring marathon which now seems to be just around the corner.
Training starts to gather momentum and become more marathon specific, and race schedules are firmed up, all with the intention of making sure that you arrive on the start line of the marathon in the best possible shape
At the risk of looking like I’m copying fellow blogger Alyson Dixon, I’m going to use this edition of my blog to announce which marathon I will be running in the Spring of 2013. First though I want to mention a recent article which I spotted on the Yahoo website which made me laugh. “Too many marathons can kill, warn doctors” was the title. You can probably guess where I’m going with this.
For years now we’ve had to listen to the Government, doctors and other so-called health experts banging on about how we should all take part in at least 30 minutes of strenuous exercise a day. “It’s good for your health” they’ve kept telling us, “the more exercise the better” and “you’ll live for longer”. So why all of a sudden does that advice appear to be changing? Why, if the article is to be believed, are doctors now issuing “a stark warning about the dangers of taking too much vigorous exercise.”
The beauty of having young children is that it seems to naturally put everything into perspective. They don’t understand or care whether you’ve had a bad day at the office. The bottom line is that nothing else matters to them so long as they are loved, fed, watered and have toys to play with. After the Frankfurt Marathon on Sunday I spent the rest of the day, and all of my journey back home, beating myself up about the fact that I had only ran 2:53:44 because going into the race I felt as though I was the best prepared for a marathon that I had ever been.
Autumn. The season of falling leaves. Crisp mornings. Increasingly darker nights. The transition from summer to winter. The season of change.
In keeping with the changing nature of the season my life seems to be all about change at the moment. I started the month of October with an interview to try to save my job. As runners, especially when training with a long term goal in mind, we can all too easily lose ourselves in a running “bubble” and forget that times are hard in the real world.
And so it had arrived. The biggest day in the North East running calendar. The race that for so many people is their equivalent of the Olympic Games. So much training, so many nerves, so much fundraising, and seemingly endless banter on social media websites. Everything that goes before the Great North Run makes the build-up to the event just as special as the actual day itself. It is such a momentous occasion for so many people, for so many different reasons, and just walking around the start area beforehand leaves you in no doubt as to the enormity of the whole event.
This week is a blog with a difference. Rather than spending every blog talking about my preparations for the upcoming Frankfurt Marathon and going on about how many miles I’m doing in training (which incidentally is still going exactly to plan) I thought I’d do something a little bit different. I’m regularly asked questions about running - what I think about this race or that race, what training methods work best, would I recommend a certain type of trainer etc. That got me thinking about writing a blog based around common running-related queries. To assist me I first of all asked a running friend of mine to send me a list of 20 quick-fire questions that he would like to know my answers to. Here’s how it worked out:
Anyone who has read Charlie Spedding’s book will be familiar with the phrase “marathon madness” for it is this notion which Charlie uses to explain a number of below-par race performances during his build up to marathons. One quote in particular stands out following poor performances (by his standards) during his preparations for the Houston Marathon in 1984:
“I began to realise that they were symptoms of marathon madness. My mind was fixed on preparing to run 26 miles and I had been unable to push myself because subconciously I was holding something back. I told myself this was an excellent sign and it meant that my mind was saving everything for a huge effort in Houston.”
Mark is a former Elswick Harrier who now competes for Sedgefield Harriers.