Doing the long session as part of your weekly training is what endurance is all about. I do love the long session. For me that’s generally a long run, but very soon will be a long bike ride, and a long swim too.
When it comes to running, the first step is the thing that makes it a great long run. Getting out of bed, putting on your trainers, and getting out the door.
Setting out on a long run can be a way to discover new places and can be a voyage of exploration on new paths, twists and turns. Yesterday we were checking out the route from Brighton to Eastbourne. The plan had been to run to Eastbourne and get the train home, but Storm Brian had meant the trains weren’t running so well. So instead, the plan was to run 10 miles out and 10 miles back.
I tripped on a very slight rise in the path on the prom just three miles into the 20-mile run. I whacked my shoulder and hip, but got up and was able to carry on. I felt good on the way out as the wind blew us along, along the undercliff path from the Marina in Brighton and then up to the top towards Peacehaven and a little beyond. It was, to coin a pahrase, a breeze. But the ease at which we were striding along the unknown path was an ominous warning of what was to come. And as expected the route back was tough, running 10 miles into a headwind, I have to confess I did get a bit grumpy as the jelly baby sugar rush dropped low, and I shouted out, ‘I’m not enjoying this anymore’.
The path on the way back changed, too. The tide had come in and so the undercliff path was flooded and the waves crashed over the wall. At first I was scared. Thoughts of that one freak wave flooded my imagination as I splashed through the watery path. There really would be no way to escape it, if it had come in. But soon I was invigorated again by the huge waves. Getting closer to the wall so I could get splashed like a child on a water coaster.
The bull in the field, or the cow with her heifers, the odd-looking lone man, border line hypothermia in snow and rain, punctures, crazy currents and waves. The endurance athlete’s weekly event of ‘going long’ is like a mini life story with all sorts of emotions, obstacles, and terrains to cross, and very often a range of feelings from exhiliaration to F**k this! Too much of the latter can lead to the whole thing being a negative experience, the long run being a drag, and in the long term damage gets done to our muscles and joints. It’s how we look at each long run we do that matters.
Yesterday, I pulled myself back together. And towards the end I was in the rhythm of the run, concentrating without thinking, in the flow, feeling tired, but knowing I could keep going. I also knew stopping was going to mean geting going was going to be hard work. Momentum mattered.
Going long is just a series of steps. At a very inspring talk set up by Virgin last week, the founder of the successful Conker Gin, Rupert Holloway said that business is just a series of decisions. There’s no big secret formula you need to discover to succeed. Take that next step or stop. Turn this way or that. Run up the hill or take the flat route today. Go out in the stormy weather, or stay in bed. Buy or sell, be kind or unkind, happy or unhappy.
We live in an era where many of us will be in it for the long run. As medicine has advanced to keep us alive, it’s important to make a decision to live well now, not just live long. Diana Gould, is a 105 and was featured on this morning’s BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She lives well and it’s clear that her secret to a long and healthy life comes from those minute by minute decisions, and how she looks at her age. “I’ve got a lot of years, but I’m not an old woman,” she says. She says she’s kept moving, she’s kept social, she’s kept her brain active, and she enjoys life and things she loves. She loves chocolate and makes the daily decision to keep it in the fridge, that way she has to walk to go and get it – and that little step, that small bit of daily exercise contributes to making her live well in this long life of hers.
Listen to Diana Gould: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b099v2py#play