Month: August 2014

Week 21: running, yoga and failure

Picture has nothing to do with the post, except that I saw these pigs while I was out running.

Picture has nothing to do with the post, except that I saw these pigs while I was out running.

I’m blogging about a similar topic to my last post – what it means to fail at running, but it’s also about yoga too.

Dingle Half Marathon is six days away now, and I’m going in underprepared and a bit bruised and battered. The last few weeks of training haven’t been ideal. I was really enjoying be able to go out on longer trail runs for the first time in months, but got a bit over-enthusiastic. I pushed too hard in terms of distance, and by the end of last week’s nine miler, my shins were starting to hurt again. I twisted my ankle a bit at Notting Hill Carnival too, so I’ve had to rest for most of this week.

It’s made me think about running and how I measure my success. I’m not just running so I can do this marathon next year – I love running, and I want to do it and enjoy it forever. Races, times, distances should be my secondary goals – running without pain or injury should be the primary one.

Yoga has given me a bit of a framework for thinking about this. In yoga, teachers often talk about Patangalis’s yamas (rules or commandments) and three in particular really resonate for me:

  1. Ahimsa – non-violence; inflicting no injury or harm to others or yourself in thought, word or action.
  2. Satya – non-illusion; being truthful in word and thought.
  3. Asteya – non-covetousness; not wanting something that isn’t yours.

In yoga and in running I’m always on the verge of breaking these three rules:

  1. Ahimsa – I either push myself too hard and end up hurting myself, or I don’t push hard enough and beat myself up for it mentally.
  2. Satya – I lie to myself about what I’m capable of, overestimating, leading to the physical aspect of number 1, or I underestimate, which leads to the mental aspect of number 1.
  3. Asteya – I see other people who run faster or further than me with less training and I’m jealous of their achievements.

Yoga and running look like opposites, but they feel very similar for me. Yoga should a moving meditation where you join your mind and your body through the breath. A lot of the time it feels like an epic battle between the two for me; either my mind is willing but my body won’t bend, or my body’s there in the room, but I can’t stop my mind flitting off elsewhere. Don’t even get me started on my breathing. Running is the same for me – you need your mind and body to work together to keep your pace up, or carry on on a long run, and the breath is often the connection between the two; if you’re breathing deeply and steadily you know you can probably keep your legs moving. (Although I have been known to try yelling at my legs when they’re tired and quitting on me. Doesn’t work.)

I’m trying to keep these things on my mind next week at Dingle, and throughout the rest of my running. I have an injury, I haven’t trained. It won’t be easy, but can do this without damaging myself, if I accept my limitations, find the level I’m capable of. The only way I will consider this a failure is if I push too hard, if i let my pride take over and forget my boundaries.


Week 18: ‘At Least He Never Walked’

“Someday if I have a gravestone and I’m able to pick out what’s carved on it, I’d like it to say this:

Haruki Murakami


Writer (and runner)

At Least He Never Walked”

– Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’m trying something a bit different on my ‘long’ slow runs – a run-walk approach a la Jeff Galloway. A couple of people suggested that it might be a way for me to be able to actually stand a chance of getting round Dingle Half in a few weeks time, bearing in mind that all those months of injury mean I’m nowhere near prepared.

The rationale behind run-walk is that continuous use of your running muscles results in quicker fatigue, so the longer you run, the more fatigued you get and the longer it takes to recover. By throwing in walking breaks, you conserve your energy, put less pressure on your muscles, get an opportunity to reduce core body temperature and recover quicker. From the little I’ve read, it seems like some people achieve pretty amazing marathon and half marathon results this way.

I gave it a try today, and picked an arbitrary pattern of running for nine minutes and walking for one. It worked out pretty nicely; my overall pace was only a slightly slower than it would normally be because I managed a marginally faster pace when I was running. Touch wood, I haven’t got any aches and pains now either, despite adding a mile and a half on to the distance I ran last week.

There’s a hitch though…

As I think the Haruki Murakami quote above neatly demonstrates, walking is taboo for runners: it’s seen as a mark of defeat. When I think about doing it during a race, all I can think about is the eyes of other runners boring into my back as I stop running and start walking nine minutes in, or the people watching and assuming I’ve given up.

It’s partly linked to the fact that I still don’t feel like a ‘real’ runner – I definitely don’t look like a runner, and walking just confirms it. If I can get away from my odd sense of shame about walking during a run, I think this approach will work for me for the Half in Dingle and Brighton Marathon too.