Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Going Places and a bit about why I love running

When I was at school I hated running. When I was at bigger school, I still hated running and when I was at University... Yep. Hated it.

So where has this love of running come from? 

Whenever I try and answer that question, I find myself having to revisit why I hated it in order to do some kind of comparison and I apologise if this is a story I've told you before.

When I was between 8 and 13 I went to a very small school near Salisbury which, if the weather was too awful to play rugby or football used to make us do cross-country running.

The whole school. In the worst weather. For hours.

I was always cold and miserable and found the whole thing utterly pointless when I could have been inside playing any number of childhood games or otherwise getting into mischief such as exploring the enormous walk in safe to which no one knew the combination, or collecting and then dismantling various different types of batteries as part of the "battery club" I founded...

I think the real reason I hated running was that I'm genuinely not very good at it. Even when I had to play rugby, they put me as a prop and I was always the last one to a ruck or scrum. When we discover a talent for hockey, I was centre forward, so got to "goal hang" rather than galavant up and down the pitch like the the others.

I'm just not very good at running. Or perhaps more accurately - I wasn't.

These days I'm still not very fast at it and I'm fairly sure that ill never post a sub 3hr marathon time but I'm ok with that. To be honest, I'm not too sure how much I enjoy long distance running, but that may be because I'm training at the moment so each distance is progressively longer and all of them hurt.

The "Ah-Ha" Moment

When I started training for my first running based event, Tough Mudder, there was one particularly good "ah-ha" moment which is when I discovered another reason to love running aside from the fact it makes me feel good.

The ability to go places. Without the use of any kind of transport other than my legs, under my own steam.

My daughter has swimming lessons at a small pool about 4 miles from where I live so one summer afternoon I decided to run up to the pool, watch her swimming lesson and then run home. It was a lot further than I was running at the time, but I figured that I'd have an hour's rest in the middle.

Sure enough I got there and surprised and impressed my 5yo daughter, which I must confess pleased me enormously, and then ran back home afterwards. Running back, her mum drove her car alongside me a little way so that my daughter could shout encouraging comments such as:

"Come on Daddy, run faster!"

It wasn't until I got home that the implications of what I'd just done sank in and I got a huge extra buzz from actually going somewhere specific beyond the intention of just going for a run!

Rochester Castle taken from the Strood-Rochester bridge on my 16 mile run

This week, I ran 16 miles as part of my training plan. This involved a there-and-back run from my house in Gravesend to Rochester where I took to the photo of Rochester Castle displayed on this post.

As I took the photo, I was struck by the thought and the buzz of what I was accomplishing here and I ran the next couple of miles with a big grin on my face and received a second wind which definitely made miles 10 to 14 much more enjoyable.

When I have finished training for the Sahara Marathon I hope I'll still have the desire to go places on foot and to take joy in the journey not just the getting-there.


  1. I find that I build in a "I've never done that" or "I wonder where that path goes" into my training plans. Even, "I've driven up and down that road a million times, I wonder what it would be like to run it".

    This weekend I deliberately ran up the side of a mountain to get to a point in the middle of nowhere. I was a point that I had wanted to get to though. The views were spectacular.

    1. Thanks Stephen. I do the same when I'm driving or riding my motorbike. The problem is that by the time I get somewhere I can write it down, I've forgotten!

  2. Hi Ben,

    Nice blog you have on this topic. I am also planning to run the Marathon in February, but have become scared about the hostage situation going on East in Algeria.

    I can see that most governments now are issuing warning against travels to Algeria. What are your thoughts about this?


    1. Hey Svein,

      Really glad you're enjoying the blog and great that you're running the marathon! See you there :)

      I'm also watching the developments in Algeria closely but the UK gov travel advice is still ok for Tindouf (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/algeria) so it should be ok.

      Also, Tindouf itself is a military zone so, while it will appear a bit intimidating with soldiers and guns etc., it will actually be pretty safe compared to the rest of the country.

      In summary: I'm keeping an eye on it but I'm not concerned at the moment.