By Guest Blogger, Lauren Shay
I’ve heard it said that if you start wondering whether you’re crazy, you’re probably not. As someone who frequently asks herself the question, “Have I actually gone insane this time?” – often aloud, scaring the people around me – I’m on the fence with this one.
You see, I like to run. Not in a graceful, barely-a-bead-of-sweat kind of way. Not in a fast 5km kind of way. Not even in a three-days-a-week-to-earn-my-wine kinda way (although there is nothing wrong with that!).
I’m talking about a slow, sickening train wreck kind of way: ultramarathons. I’m talking hours and hours and hours of running – at once. Three-figure distances. Think chafing in every imaginable place. Blisters on top of blisters on top of blisters. Carrying a pack full of gear that’s half your body weight. Eating the other half of your body weight in muesli bars, boiled potatoes and jelly snakes. Cumulative fatigue and pain sending body and mind into new, at times horrifying dimensions.
Sounds great, huh?
Actually, it is! I love running – trail running in particular – and here’s why: It reminds me I’m alive. I don’t want to get all Sound of Music on you, but running brings me back to nature. I forget all the issues that seem so overwhelming in everyday life. I’m forced to deal with the essentials only: how am I feeling, am I drinking enough water, how much further can I go at this pace, do I need to eat? It’s an intimate space where you must be selfish and think only of yourself. Goodness knows we parents don’t get much of that in everyday life!
I do all my training in and around Boonah in the Scenic Rim. It’s the perfect place to train for trail running events – there’s plenty of hills, quiet dirt roads and beautiful countryside. Sometimes I get to chat to a farmer on his tractor, other times I scream my guts out while running away from a herd of maniacal cows (yes, this has happened – more than once).
Now, I am not a “natural” runner – if there is such a thing. Growing up, I did all I could to get out of school sports carnivals. I’m sure most of my classmates would choke on their breakfast if they found out I now run 50km, 80km and 100km distances. So, if you think you are someone who can never be a runner, stop! Of course you can!
I don’t pretend to be an expert on running. I learn and re-learn all the time. But here I will share with you some things I have learnt over the years. What works for me may not work for you. Some things take a lot of trial and error. But hopefully some things may resonate and help you get your shoes on and start running!
Set a goal
If you’re just starting or have been running for a while, goals are what will get you out the door. Your goal may be to run 2km non-stop, it may be to run a 5km event or it may be a marathon … or ultramarathon! Once you’ve achieved that goal, set another one. And remember to be proud of your achievements!
Don’t be ruled by the numbers
It’s easy to get caught up in forever chasing that elusive PB (personal best). While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your time or increase your distance, I find being too focused on the numbers takes the joy out of running. Don’t beat yourself up for being slow, needing to take walking breaks or even dropping out of an event you trained hard for. Remember all the other great things about running – fresh air, being fit and healthy, getting a break from the kids!
I’m a mum and I also run a small business. I train any opportunity I get! Sometimes this means I head out the door just after 4am. Other times it means running mid-morning, late afternoon or at night. Often, I have to bring my five-year-old daughter with me to the gym while I hit the treadmill (she also does her “exercises” there!). If you can work out a general running schedule that fits in with your other commitments, that’s great. If you can’t, just do your best. Fit it in when you can – even if that means early in the morning when you are not usually a morning person!
Mix it up
I love trails, but there was a time when I refused to run on anything other than footpaths. This sounds crazy to me now! If you’re used to running on the road, give trails a try. Keep in mind you will be a lot slower on the trails due to the varying terrain. You could even try an obstacle course or rogaine event. Mixing things up prevents boredom and burnout, improves overall fitness and can help avoid overuse injuries.
Ignore the haters
There will always be someone who puts you down. It could be family, friends or complete strangers. From well-meaning people who tell me I’m ruining my knees to drivers giving me the finger out their window while I’m out on my run, I’ve had lots of put downs over the years. Every time someone has made me feel bad or embarrassed about running, I simply remind myself: “They are not part of my goal.” Don’t let other people’s agendas or insecurities distract you from achieving what you want to achieve.
Running is not always rainbows. Sometimes, it feels awful! There will be times your legs feel like lead, everything seems so hard and you’d rather be in bed. When I start to feel this way, I dance. Seriously. Do a little dance, remind yourself you’re not actually dying, and you will feel better. Promise.
[Lauren will be attempting her first 100 miler this weekend – 16th June 2018. To follow her antics, follow her Facebook Page – Trail and Error.]