Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tell Me I’m Great And I’ll Run a Marathon For You

Recently I’ve been feeling a bit down. I’m not entirely sure why. It might be post-race blues (having just met my target for a half-marathon), maybe it is just this winter weather that just seems to be never ending. Whatever the cause the end result is I have found it hard to motivate myself to train and when I have been running I’ve been slower than usual and find I’m getting tired more quickly.

Knowing I’ve been a little down my wife texted me yesterday saying “I love ur running. It is actually v inspirational”.  

It might sound silly but knowing that something I do is “inspirational” is quite a compliment and an ego boost. I think we all want to be admired, especially when it’s by someone you love and respect.

So this morning as I laced up my running shoes I was still thinking about the text. I had in my mind I would run 13 miles which is two circuits of my normal running route. After one circuit I was tired and not feeling particularly motivated and I was going to call it a day and run home.

Then I thought about the text. I want to be inspirational and with that in my mind I pushed on and did the second lap. Not only did I do the second lap I completed the 13miles in 1 hour 28 minutes (a great time for me to complete a half marathon in – especially as there are a number of hills).

I think my ability to run the second lap, and to do it in a good time, is all due to yesterday’s text and the act of being praised. According to a recent study conducted at Imperial College London praise seems to increase testosterone levels. And the increased testosterone increases all manner of sporting abilities - including running.

The other thing about praise, and at first this might seem obvious, praise makes you feel better about yourself. Or to put it more scientifically; praise increases dopamine levels. Dopamine can act as the body’s own natural pain killer and when you are running a long distance and start to feel the burn every drop of dopamine helps.

So give me a little praise and I’ll run an extra lap. Tell me I’m great and I’ll run an entire marathon for you. 

(The picture today is of the the split times of the last 4kms of my run as the dopamine and testosterone were most needed)

Monday, 4 March 2013

My Biggest Achievement is Being Normal

Happiness is temporary, and that is the sign of real achievement.

Last week I ran a half marathon in Cannes. I told people I was hoping to run it in 1hour 27minutes. In the end I ran it in 1 hour 23 minutes 54 seconds. As I crossed the finish line I stopped my stopwatch and realised I’d dipped under 1 hour 24minutes I was ecstatic.

I was completely destroyed but you could not wipe the smile off my face. I had trained really hard. I had made sure I tapered in the week coming to the race. And on the race day I made sure I ran the race I was meant to run, I didn’t go off too fast and ran every kilometre in 4 minutes from start to finish.

I also had enough energy to sprint the last 200meters which I think made the crucial 6 seconds difference between a 1 hour 23minute time and a 1 hour 24 minute time.

I stayed “ecstatic” for the next 24 hours and then that sensation slowly slid into “happiness” in the following 48 hours. Now a week on from the race I am “satisfied” with how I did but I am eager to move on to my next challenge.

I used to think that this temporary happiness with my achievements, (invariably it’s not just running that makes me feel this way) was a flaw. Or at best I thought the temporary nature of happiness was in inbuilt part of the human condition that drives us on to achieve even greater things.

Now I think not being ecstatic about running a 1 hour 23minute half marathon seven days later is actually a bigger achievement than the race itself.

I think the biggest achievement one can aim for is to create a new “normal”.

Running a sub 1 hour 30minutes marathon is normal for me now, even in training.

Running 10km in less in less than 40 minutes is now standard.

And even though I have only ever run one marathon in less than 3 hours 15, I did it while I was injured and so I would like to think that is my new normal.

All those things a year ago were far from normal for me. They were extraordinary.

On race day I want to achieve something extraordinary for where I am physically. But after the race the biggest achievement is to make that your new normal. And the biggest achievement is not being ecstatic about being normal.

(The picture today is taken the day after the marathon of someone running in the south of France being very normal)