On my 12k run at the weekend, I was running without any music, as my phone battery was low. Combined with the grey stillness of the day, I found my focus very much turned inward and the thoughts flowed, especially after a small voice casually suggested that “You can stop now.”, just as I tackled the steepest section of Posbury Hill

Now, the gremlins have precious little foothold in my brain these days and were dismissed without a slackening of pace or second thought, until I questioned, where do these voices come from.

I have written on here before about the need to run, which I believe we are born with but have never really thought about how we limit ourselves by listening to our inner voices. It is understandable, when doing something that your body is not used to, that you may question the sense of continuing. It is probably just an evolved self preservation ploy to stop you harming yourself by overdoing it. Whether this is innate or developed from our experience and socialisation was my main line of pondering.

Three years ago I could never have contemplated, nor tolerated, the degree of effort that I now routinely subject my body to while running. The voices would have screamed stop. Now they are tamed, to a degree, and this was, in part, accomplished by reading this very forum and realising that these negative thoughts are commonplace and can be banished by sheer will power.

These limitations, that we impose on ourselves, are not just our bodies protecting themselves, but there is definitely an element of conditioning from our upbringing. We have, by and large, become a more sedentary species and the demands that we regularly impose on ourselves and the efforts that we witness other mere mortals achieving, have become less and less. Therefore, we are conditioned to expect our bodies to be capable of achieving less and less. Of course, our bodies are capable of carrying out physical tasks way in excess of what most of us think we are capable of, so long as we train them carefully and that is psychologically easier if we can see other ordinary folk, just like ourselves, doing amazing feats of effort and endurance.

If you come from a family or society that does not exercise, then that is the norm and you might, quite naturally, neither expect nor aspire to do otherwise. We are fortunate to be part of this, very specific, community, which revels and rejoices in our new found ability to run. But we are also part of the larger national and international community and as more and more of us become runners, we are slowly changing the norms for that society. The exponential growth of membership of this forum (5,500 two years ago and approaching 20,000 now) is indicative of the increasing numbers of runners worldwide.

We all know of the personal physical and mental health benefits to be gained from running, but we are also changing the societal norms and expectations, which may in time make it more likely that others will join us. So we are having a positive influence on society at large as well as getting our running fix. One day a critical mass will be reached, where it will seem to be absolutely normal to run, rather than that slightly odd activity carried out by a minority of strange lycra clad individuals. Keep on running.

I was focused inwards again this morning, on my head torch lit run across the fields and was taught the lesson that it is important to keep your head up while running, even in the dark. As my eyes followed the beam from my head torch on the ground, three metres ahead of me, I was suddenly aware of a pair of wide set eyes reflecting back at me. Then through the very black morning gloom I made out the very black outline of a very black cow standing across the path, taking avoiding action only at the last possible moment. It was almost a case of me meeting a critical mass of my own. So, heads up in the future, fellow runners.

Keep running, keep smiling.

20 Replies

  • You are absolutely right and it continues to amaze me what I can get my body to do and what difference there is between my first walk/run on 27 Feb and now. Occasionally I have to remind myself, when I am on a longer run and another 8k for example seems hardly possible.

    Your comments also reflects sentiments I thought of when I read an article in Running Fitness this week ..It's called A Mile each Day and about how to deal with frustrations when we don't get things right first time and/or encounter obstacles in the improvements in our running. the author asks the question how we do maintain enthusiasm when we keep falling or moving backwards? He refers to research on combat personnel and that it "comes back to having someone to pick you up and encourage you" and says that that's why so many new runners or runners facing new challenges are far more likely to achieve their goal if they have someone to run with. I am not part of a running group, but thought that this forum fulfils the same function - plenty of encouragement, praise and empathy - absolutely invaluable!!

  • I agree, this forum is definitely a godsend for those of us who prefer solo running.

  • HOWEVER - I don't think that we , as runners, should get ourselves into a mindset where we NEVER stop when running - or consider doing so to be some kind of weakness or failure

    Last weekend, I decided to do a 5K return run (10K in all) to a small lakeside village. After about 3K , nature called me in a BIG way -:( and I was forced to walk the remaining 2K to the village. Having gotten there and done what had to be done, I wandered along the lakeshore for a little way, went out on a small jetty and generally smelled the roses. Then I ran back home.

    I would normally probably have called this a "failed" training run -- my intention to run a final 10K as part of my HM taper was kind of thwarted - but I realised after that I had enjoyed the walk alongside the lake which I probably wouldn't have done if nature hadn't called so loudly! :) and the run interrupted.

  • Absolutely - I think the point is to listen to you body. Often our thoughts that we can't do it, are in our head only. If nature calls or your body tells you that something isn't right, then that's a different thing.

    The important thing is not to beat yourself up if you can't continue, don#t manage what you had set out to do etc, but to pick yourself back up just as we expect kids to do when they learn to ride their bikes. And that's when it so important to have a support network.

    Glad you had a lovely walk :-)

  • As (nearly) always, I agree with you, Bazza, but the little voice popped up on the third kilometre of my run at a point when I still had plenty of oomph left, so it really was wasting its time. I often tell people to run for fun, including stopping to admire the view.

  • Coincidentally I was having similar thoughts - about what if learning to run properly was as 'normal' a part of society as, say, learning to ride a bicycle - this very evening. I did my first ever 'run commute' home, just over five miles (I'm currently freelancing in an office that made this possible). It actually took less time than getting the train... as well as saving me the price of an overpriced artisan flat white, which I will enjoy tomorrow without guilt. So it got me thinking, imagine if more people did this, just a couple of times a week? In my case running TO work is a no-no as there are no showers (like most workplaces), and I have had to leave my civvy clothes in the office overnight, which I will pick up on my return tomorrow, so there are some practical drawbacks (I guess this is why people cycle). But it is definitely a very good thing.

  • Excellent, well done! I have a drawer full of stuff at work these days, towel and shower gel, spare shoes, a couple of cardigans, so I don't need to take too many clothes with me in my small backpack when I run to work. I also have a spare coat there, which comes in handy when I either run or cycle (at this time of year now it's only once or twice a week). Good job I have a spare drawer :-)

  • I wish I could run to work, but with no shower and no public transport it is virtually impossible. I am always struck that when there is a TV news report from a city street, it is increasingly rare for there not to be somebody jogging by in the background, and if it is in a park, then runners seem to outnumber the muggles by a long chalk. Keep going TT.

  • I agree with you totally, in only three generations my family has gone from farming to sedentary work. When motivation is a bit lacking I remind of that to quiet my gremlins and hope one day they able as tame as your's!

    I am on week nine and (although recently changed job which has had a big impact) have noticed a massive improvement in my mood. Basically I feel healthier and happier, why wouldn't I run?

  • You have discovered, already, the wonderful mood enhancing effects of running and once you are a fully addicted junkie you will do anything for the fix. Good luck with graduation.

  • A lovely post IT - deep and philosophical and certainly food for thought. I think you've described the reason why many people run. To escape everyday "stuff" and have the time to really get to know ourselves. And to wonder, amazed, at what we can actually achieve if we want to. Thanks for posting. It's set me up for the day!

  • Thanks, O'HRH. It does make me realise that music is a distraction to logical thought processes. Of course, if I didn't have this forum on which to air my thoughts, then they might not have coalesced quite so clearly. I am so glad to have set you up for the day!!

  • Lovely post. I spend a lot of time thinking about running these days, from going through all the posts to my own journey. I love the way I think of us as the quiet movement getting the world fit. I love listening to confidence come through the posts as people learn what their bodies are capable of and I also love the life lessons we learn as we push our bodies until we find that strange comfort that comes from going to the tip of our own personal limits. Just with a run. Wonderful.

  • That is a wonderful poetic and obviously deeply felt response, RFC. Thanks.

  • Great post, and a lot of food for thought (so that's entertainment for my weekend run sorted, cheers).

    You are absolutely right that we as a society have progressed from the stage where inventing tools to reduce our manual effort has gone from being great for us to now being a curse in disguise.

    We were born to run (as Bruce Springsteen and others have told us in numerous songs). We have springs in our feet to absorb impact and great movement in our hips so we can really stride out. We have even been blessed by being able to sweat, so we can continue running for very long time without gasping for air, thus making it possible for us to catch prey simply by tiring them out until they become easy to kill and eat. We were meant to be physically active.

    Not sure I agree on the exponential growth of this forum. Rather than it being an indication of more and more people joining us lycra clad crazies, I think it might simply highlight the fact that the people maintaining the platform never cull the user registrations. Or maybe it's a combination (sometimes I get too cynical). But I most definitely agree that by re-normalising exercise, we are helping to promote a healthier lifestyle. Come to think of it, they should give VAT excemption for runnig related gear ;)

  • Thanks Tomas. I think your last statement would get you elected.

  • Great post ! I do find I think better when I run. It must be increased oxygen to the brain or just because for once I'm taking the time to do something for myself. I have to admit that running alone is great and I wouldn't have it any other way. I get support fom this forum and of course my husband who is much faster than me.

    I like the idea that it's like learning to ride a bike. have we forgotten what our bodies are made for ?

  • I occasionally run with my wife or other members of my family, but my longer weekend runs are pure indulgence and preferably run on my own at my own pace, with the route flexible according to whim. We are the lucky ones.

  • I think we're all lucky 🍀 running and enjoying running and getting from it whatever it means to each of us (which will massively differ) is simply amazing.

    Isn't it strange that many of us were having similar thoughts today.. I do run with music - I love Music - but most of my run is filled with my empty mind thinking of just all sorts.. Literally.

    This morning during those thinking moments, I thought about how great it was to be out running at 5.30am, what I was achieving by being out there, what a great start to the working day this was.

    I will echo Ian, keep running, keep smiling ☺

  • This is exactly what I needed to see today as I'm feeling a little discouraged about how utterly hard this still is after months of trying.  "Keep on running." I will. Thanks :-)

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