The onset of autumnal rains has severed any lingering connections to my sun-dappled travels from earlier in the year. The past few weeks of 10k preparation have taken place in light rain, heavy rain and all level of rain in between, and in various strengths of wind: the gusts, the continual breath, the cold and the pleasantly cooling. Like dwindling motivation and injuries, the wintry weather becomes a very real adversary.
My running commitment further suffered when I was invited to try a new sport: rock climbing. (Or, more specifically, bouldering, which is done at low heights above safety mats. No ropes.) It’s always exciting to begin something as a novice. I could rely on my latent strength, but without tactics and a newbies naivety I was otherwise adrift on the wall while people coolly and calmly traversed the different faces around me. People like my mate Josh who becomes a mountain goat on Cambridge’s climbing walls!
Climbing improves your strength, self-awareness and boosts confidence while giving those battered legs some respite. It’s the shoulders, arms, forearms and fingers that will hurt…a lot. All those muscle groups are tested to the max, and you can feel strength reserves fading as you make your way up the tougher routes. Despite the benefits, never had something left me so pained and depleted. Ninety minutes of climbing made lifting my post-climb pint a serious challenge. I was useless at work the following day (something I was continually reminded of), and I couldn’t strum the simplest of guitar chords without a deep ache in my left forearm.
My dalliance with climbing added another nuance to my training. Like yoga and squash it is a useful compliment to running. Anyone who is seeking to become a rounded athlete will understand why those disciplines can co-existent in the same training plan.
But just when I thought running had been relegated for a few weeks and months, I’ve had a few post-work runs that have reminded me how important, how integral running becomes once you move from doing the occasional run to the “how many runs can I squeeze into a week” mindset. With every bead of sweat and every footfall, more of the accumulated frustrations from the working day fell away. Life’s travails just become more manageable. It’s as simple as that.
An annual race I enjoy – the Bonfire Burn 10k – draws closer, and I’m determined to beat my 10k PB of 39:45. Kilometre intervals, hill sprints and interval sessions have made up the bulk of my training. (Kilometre intervals have become an integral part of my training, boosting my fitness dramatically. I’d recommend them to a seasoned runner who wants to improve their average pace. With a session or two of km splits a week, my average per-mile pace is dropping with each successive run.)
While the wet weather may act a hindrance, it’s good to be reminded that there is no replacement for clocking up the miles along the pavements, trails and parks. It’s the eternal lesson that, for whatever reason, needs to be repeated over and over again. The climbing wall may excite and tempt. But no run has ever left me unable to play the guitar or lift a pint, so for the foreseeable future running will remain number one whatever the weather.