Thursday 17 April 2014

Be thankful for the benefits of running

woman runner training for marathon. Female runner in sporty pink tank top jogging on mountain road. Beautiful young mixed race Asian Caucasian female fitness model outside.
woman runner training for marathon. Female runner in sporty pink tank top jogging on mountain road. Beautiful young mixed race Asian Caucasian female fitness model outside.

I know, I know – I'm going all, like, American after a few months over here in California. I have occasionally started shouting "Awesome!" in response to good news, and say "Good job!" chirpily when supporting at races.

In true American fashion, I celebrated Thanksgiving last week. Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving is detached from the smorgasbord of gift shopping, and is more about spending time with family and friends. And, as it was the first time I celebrated the holiday here, it made me think a little about its meaning.

It's fair to say that taking up running and triathlon has transformed my world in many ways, from my health and diet to my social circle and my confidence to deal with discomfort and problems.

I am thankful for the journey that has taken me here, from a winded jogger to a competent marathoner (and Ironman) – something I could not have predicted all those years ago.

The off-season is a nice time to reconnect with the reasons I run, separated from the pressure to run fast or knock out PBs.

I am thankful for long workouts on Saturday mornings with friends, reconnecting with people of the same mindset who love to run or cycle.

I am thankful too for long runs alone – often with just the sound of my own feet for company, working out solutions to problems, venting fury or thinking out stories to tell you.

I'm happy to be hungry when I'm done, to have earned my dinner and to fall into my bed after a hard workout.

I spent some time recently talking to a running friend who competes at a very high level, and, to my surprise, her motivations for running are not primarily competitive. In fact, our outlook is remarkably similar as she talked about how running changed her social group, how it gave her a sense of purpose and how the sport brought out the best in people.

I was in Arizona for Thanksgiving and I managed to plan a Turkey Trot last Thursday, along with my friend Paula, a reluctant runner who braved 5k while I attacked a loop of downtown Phoenix over 10k. Sightseeing while working up an appetite for pumpkin pie proved a failsafe way to spend a morning.

So, here's some homework. If you're on a downswing in the love-hate relationship with your runners, do yourself a favour and get out this week, find an accomplice and just run for company, for fresh air and for sunshine (okay, and rain). Take the dog, or the buggy. And be thankful.

This week...

My trailblazing friend Pam came to visit, so we arranged some running and cycling adventures with our ultra-running friend Helen.

Saturday morning dawned crisp and surprisingly cold as we took Helen's ecstatic huskies on a challenging two-hour trail run around Soquel Demo Forest Park near Santa Cruz. My legs felt heavy and unco-operative, but the girls, with their years of trailrunning chops, sailed powerfully up each hill.

Frustrated for a while by what felt like a "bad" run as I struggled to keep up, my attitude was changed by a mountain biker who chatted to us admiringly at a rest stop about our ability to cover 12 or so miles of gnarly trail.

As the sun warmed us up, a downhill reprieve was replaced by an uphill slog for the last two miles. Digging deep to push my wobbly legs up the last slope, I was thankful for the perfect morning running in sunshine with good friends, having enough fitness to complete the tough run, the anticipated lunch afterwards and the gleefully exhausted dogs.

Sometimes it takes a bad run to make you grateful for the good things.

Irish Independent

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