Another year done and thus marks the passage of time.
Right now the afternoons are dark and damp, the trainers lie forgotten and muddy in the corner. Trainers ruefully awaiting the spring and beyond the spring, the warm summer filled with daylight, perfect running conditions and plenty of races. It’s time to start training hard again and if you’re thinking of starting a gym membership you’re not alone. Google searches for ‘gym membership’ are doubled in January compared to any other time of the year – partly thanks to people trying to keep their new year’s resolutions.
I prefer not to have a New Year resolution, but instead find it a good time to look back on the year and see where things went right and where they didn’t to learn:
1. I didn’t get injured, not properly.
A few niggles, a few aches at times but nothing that made me miss more than a single run. It may be I made the right sacrifice to the gods or it could be something to do with the rabbit’s foot I keep with my garmin. All my training runs are off-road, I cycle often and have been working on my core; all of which hopefully contributed to my lucky year. But what perhaps helped most was my flexible training plan. When I wanted to run, I ran. When I didn’t, I stayed at home. A few intense weeks in the mountains of Wales and the Jurassic coast, were followed by easy weeks with a race thrown in for good measure. Always listen to your body.
2. Kit failed on me and I learnt the power of the warranty.
A much loved Christmas present that I saved till the spring, North face shoes, looked the part and were branded as ‘ultra’ shoes. Yet after playing a culpable part in ridding me of four toenails, they began to disintegrate after only 250 miles of trails. Unhappy, I returned them as North Face products come with a two year warranty. I didn’t have my receipt and was ready to argue my case with the manager but within a minute of seeing the shoes he agreed to send some new ones (of a better model) my way. If you pay for good kit, make sure to get your rightful miles.
3. Cycle lots and then cycle some more.
I have cycled a lot this year and I’ll make no apology for it. I’m sure I can’t be the only one with college work demanding more and more time, and sometimes my training suffers as a result. I’ve cycled to Oxford, Cambridge, and even done a midnight jaunt to the Suffolk coast, but I’ve never done a training run longer than 12 miles despite training for ultramarathons. I’m currently trying to improve my swimming, but that’s a slow process. Diversify your investments and you can reap the rewards.
4. I cut down on the drink.
I was never a heavy drinker, certainly not by student standards and probably not even by normal measurements, but I did like my ales. Now I still like my ales, but during the week most days are dry. Has this improved my running? Let’s hope.
5. I learnt to use Strava better.
Well, you could say that’s subjective, but the founders say they always wanted it to be a Facebook for the fit and active, an online social space made for sharing, not just competing. It’s easy when you first get Strava to be caught up in the competition, to hunt down juicy KOMs and taste your virtual victory. It’s great for motivation and a bit of competition can be healthy. But after a while you reach a plateau; you’ve achieved all the easy goals and there are more that you know you can’t get. Targets where you’ll need the best weather conditions, the best kit and the fastest form you’ll ever have; and even then it may not be enough. Instead, use Strava to find new routes, explore areas while travelling, keep in touch with friends and draw funny patterns. Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run, summed it up well; “The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other… but to be with each other,” and with Strava, we can always be with each other.