It has been two years in a flash. Starting late in 2014, I ran to release steam, like from an overheated engine. Forex trading has its hectic and heart-rending moments as most beginner traders might testify to. Running was one form of release for me.
The distance I covered initially was a mere 3.5 km. 2015, I started to run races. After completing three 10 km races in 3 months, I thought I was ready for a half marathon and signed up for one. The half marathon took place in 5 months from my first race ! All I went on was just pure will power and the romantic notion of being a naive runner like the legendary but fictitious Forrest Gump. So I ran the Marina Half Marathon without knowing anything about replenishing glycogen and calories through energy gel, or even lubricants for chafing of the body parts. I learnt my lessons the hard way.
But that wasn’t the end. I decided that it was time for a full marathon. Another 5 months after, I completed my first full marathon and that PB remains my PB though I continued to run another 2 full marathons among other races.
At about the same time, I started to use Facebook regularly. My group of FB friends then were largely my ex-colleagues and after a few posts, it was obvious that they don’t share my new found hobby. Most were younger than me and had ‘better’ things to do. Mostly to do with work, food, travels and relationship, probably in that order too. I guess I am beyond that for various reasons.
Luckily I am self-driven so the lack of ‘likes’ or comments didn’t affect me. Rest of the family members thought I was wasting my time and energy (and money) with all the races. Only my younger son showed some passion for the active life. We ran one race and one vertical marathon. He had moved on to do gym fitness and weights. The only marathoner I knew then was my brother-in-law. I was encouraged by his accomplishment in completing a number of marathons by then, while he was still holding a busy career job and everything. He is my initial real life inspiration.
Back to the present, I started the year 2016 with some crazy goals. To do another full marathon in another 5 months despite the loss of toe nails and suffering from Plantar Fasciitis. To continue with Spartan Super although I had felt worn out after doing the Spartan Sprint. To complete two half marathons one after another weekend. To keep up with my 24 challenges of 2015. This meant on average 2 races per month. All, I did accomplish and a bit more.
By then too, I had two close, largely virtual, running pals: Francis and SY. They were faster runners than me so we may meet at beginning of the race and then finished off separately. There were also two young friends I made while volunteering, who also continued to give moral support for my running efforts. I started Kenjoe Running group although that has very limited success because my FB friends were still largely busy working who still have better things to do (… I think). I was reminded many times that I could promote the site if I pay for it. Erm…not necessary. I just want to write to myself oftentimes to remind and to track progress of my ‘training’. There is indeed a paradigm shift in thinking. It is not really exercises anymore. It is training. Gives it some focus, some meaning, to accomplish something in the future.
I continued with the ‘high’ volume of races and it came to 28 for the year 2016, surpassing last year’s, with the last virtual challenge done today – a short 5 km. This had been a mixed year, characterized by more injuries than anything else. Still there was a lot to be thankful for. Here are my rather random thoughts/reflection after running for over two years with some attempts at cycling and swimming.
- Running is good for health even when it doesn’t seem to be so at times. Running is good for the heart, muscles, brains and add years to your life. Search on the internet and you will be able to find something above. I want to share that running helps even your joints. Yes, I used to have knee pain some years ago. But I have not experienced knee pain since taking up running for over two years now. I know a lot of friends who said that they stopped running because of knee pain or even stopped exercising. I believe running actually helps to relieve the pain. And it does so by building up the muscles and ligaments supporting the movement. The key is consistency and pace. There is no need to run like an elite if your purpose is to maintain a level of fitness. But I believe it is a mistake to stop activity entirely because your knee hurts. It becomes a vicious cycle, not enough activity, weaker knee support and therefore more pain. (But if you have already worn out your cartilage, that’s a different matter altogether ! So you can still walk.) On another level, running regularly builds up your mental muscles and resolve. I dwelled a bit on that in previous blog so I’ll not do it here.
- Set your own expectation realistically. Don’t worry about how you do in comparison with others in terms of pace and mileage. Learn about yourself through running. You are responsible for yourself. Even if you were to beat someone, you are probably still going to be slower than another person. Even if you are number one today, you may not be number one tomorrow. You are your best competitor and you win when you beat yourself. Every individual is different. If you watch marathoners running in races, you will see all kinds of strides, forefoot, heels, mid-foot and some barefoot or even quirky struts. You just need to put your best foot forward each time.
- Adapt and Up the challenge. The body has a great ability to adapt. If you do the same thing over and over again, the body finds the most efficient way of doing it after some time. That is how you can hope to excel. But after a certain stretch, you may not find it challenging any more. Perhaps it is the diminishing returns effect. So you up the challenge or vary the challenge. Of course, you should also give yourself time and listen carefully to your body. Rest (and recovery) is also one discipline of training for improvement. I try to vary mine through the participation in swimming and cycling.
- Grit is everything (… almost). Grit is the power of passion and perseverance (quoted from Angela Lee Duckworth). With passion you can cultivate a talent. With perseverance you can continuously improve. You will encounter setback in your running. Setback is not a failure. Not picking yourself up after one is. The effort to get back requires some level of grittiness. You have to be willing to reset, relearn and start again. I don’t profess to have a lot of grit but I am reminded of two events in my life. When I was hired in my second career, almost every week for a year or more, folks would joke about when I would be packing my bag and leaving. Because my predecessors all lasted only a short time on the job due to the many challenges. When a year passed and I was still there, thriving (thanks to my boss and friends who helped too), nobody joked about it anymore. I stayed on for over 17 years. After I fell from my bike in November, I suffered a few fractures. My mobility and flexibility were affected in the immediate weeks. I haven’t swum nor cycled since. But I tried to recover back my running pace. I am slower and more careful. I ran the last race of the year with reasonable pace. Sure it hurts still. I still couldn’t do sit ups but I look forward to the day when I could do it again. Move on. Develop a growth mindset. Check out Duckworth’s introduction to Grit (source : Ted’s Talks) https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance
- Dream a bold dream and pursue it. Also have a few inspirational models to emulate. Not everyone will have a glamorous life or be an elite runner or elite triathlete. It doesn’t however mean that the ordinary Joe or Jane (locally Ah Beng or Ah Huay) should stop dreaming. “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” (German philosopher Goethe). Be the best you can be is a good motto. Having some real life figures and learning lessons from them could motivate and show you certain short cuts or lessons which you may not need to go through the hard way. Surround yourself with folks who are encouraging and positive. It’s better to be alone than to be in a group of naysayers (at least for me). Reflect. I love the internet for some of the inspirational sharing. If you have not achieved your resolution for whatever reason, see this for inspiration : how an 86-year-old nun could complete over 40 ironman:
- And lastly, be grateful too and celebrate your little wins and your friends‘ too. No personal win is too small. Don’t worry about someone laughing at your inflated feelings at completing a marathon in more than 6 hours for example. He/she doesn’t know what you went through to achieve that. Running does open another door socially and intellectually. I run enough to be able to blog regularly. I enjoy writing though as a blogger, I probably couldn’t make a living out of it as some might be able to. I made a few worthy friends and learnt a few worthy lessons from observing more established runners/ bloggers/ photographers. I enjoyed the regular ‘chats’ with my running buddies and volunteer friends. I’ll like to believe there are a few fans out there and continue to write. I have enjoyed blogging using JustRunLah’s platform and thankful for the opportunities given through some of the races.
It will not be always fair weather for running as I learnt this year, both literally and figuratively. It’s how you made lemonade out of lemons. It’s how you see a glass half full instead of half empty. So here’s to all runners and future runners : have another great year ahead. May the Running (force) be with you. As usual run happy and run safe. On a closing note, as running is always a good metaphor for living, replace some of the above with that word and you get life’s lessons too. Happy New Year 2017 too.
(Note: Photo Credits are due to Runcapture, Running Shots, HC Ang, Francis Tan, SY Chia, Chris Shaw and friends, and extracts from race websites (2XU) too.)