Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes...

o, it seems Janathon has had a positive benefit on my running. I guess you don't do anything for 30 days straight without it affecting you, for better or worse. But maybe you don't really notice it until other people get involved and tell you how it's changed you.

I've managed, to a degree, to keep up the running since January. Not as much, I admit, but regularly, a couple of times a week. Even paced, long-ish distances, and almost 100% off-road on familiar, fun trails. I'd noticed a few changes myself, mainly physical ones. I knew I wasn't getting those little 'niggles' that I'd suffered in the past: lower back pain when climbing; IT Band twinges on long descents; tight calves, well, pretty much permanently; the horrendous 'toxic ten' I always suffered trying to find a comfortable steady pace straight out of the box. Psychologically as well, the idea of going out for a run doesn't gall me like it used to do: I no longer shrink in fear and dive for my bike to travel mid-length distances; When a mate turns up at the door with trail shoes on his feet and a slightly mad grin on his face, I don't hide behind the sofa any more. I do make sure to pick up a headlamp, though. We may be some time...

But, like I say, it takes impartial observers to point out what's really changed. For me there's been three comments that stood out, all delivered very differently but all added to the mental portfolio of things to dwell on when I'm suffering up a hill:

1) "You've dropped some timber"
Half in surprise, I think, from a canoe club friend. I had to admit I haven't actually lost any weight, I've just moved it around - bigger legs, smaller beer gut. Then again, drysuits aren't what you'd call 'slimming'

2) "You're not running like a pregnant duck any more"
From a team-mate while out on an impromptu Meanwood Trail run one Saturday evening. I laughed so hard it nearly put me right off my new, improved, now less Frankensteinian stride.

3) "You've always had a distinctive gait, but now it's just your upper body that's distinctive."
From my mother, after seeing me at the Mighty Deerstalker trail race. I've no basis for comparison of what my upper half does. As long as it stays above my lower half then that's fine with me.

From these comments I have deduced the following:
1) People seem to have been deluded into thinking I'm thinner than I am.
2) Never expect a straight compliment from anyone from East Yorkshire.
3) My legs no longer stand out in a crowd, unlike the rest of me.
And, perhaps most importantly,
4) I have improved my running, in terms of style, comfort and speed, because of (or perhaps in spite of) all of the above.


All of them are brain food, in their own way. If people are noticing a change, then perhaps it's more real than I thought it was. If I look lighter on my feet, smoother, more comfortable, then that's no bad thing. If I'm aching less and getting held up by little niggles less, then that's good too.

I'm still not an out-and-out footslogger. I will always be a Multisporter, Adventure Racer, Kayaker, Mountain Biker. But I don't think I can leave Runner off that list any more. And those little comments, whether surprise-based, mock-insult-based, or hazily undefined but positively meant, are all fuel to the fires while I'm out being a Runner.