< Blog Home

How you feel about running

12/05/2014

A few months back, I asked you for some help with my second novel, The End of the World Running Club, which is published next month.  I wanted to know about your experiences running - especially from those of you who run long distances.  I wanted to know how you feel about it, what moves you to run and what pushes you through that extra mile when the going gets tough.

I was really pleased with the reaction, so thank-you to everyone who shared their stories!  All of you will receive a free copy of The End of the World Running Club in the format of their choice when it's released.

Below are some of your excellent responses...but first, here's my favourite story that somebody sent me...this is what it's all about.  Thanks again, and if you haven't already supported my Thunderclap for the book's release, I'd be really grateful if you did so here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/11552-end-of-the-world-running-club

We were working in Shetland last year when one of my electricians made a remark that he could run a marathon no bother! Needless to say I challenged him to run to work the following day, which was 28.7 miles door to door. At this point we were enjoying a pint in the local pub. He duly accepted the challenge and headed off to the local shop to buy a few mars bars and energy drinks. I was still unsure as to whether he'd actually go through with it but got up at 5am anyway to see him off. He completed the distance in 6 3/4 hrs, which for someone who has never exercised in his life is pretty impressive. Even more impressive was the fact that he was wearing board shorts, boat shoes (he's an avid sailor) and a polo shirt. Just goes to show that if you have that mental grit & determination about you, you can achieve anything, regardless of your physical shape.

 

Can you give an account of the longest distance you've ever run in a single session and/or over consecutive days? What physical and psychological effects did you experience?

...12km. Sad I know but true. It was the longest distance I ever ran. I felt amazing after it...

35m, along the sandstone trail...I’d been promised 32m...I mostly cried over the last 3 miles.

...London to Brighton 60 miles in one day.  State of mind?  Acceptance. You have to do it....

...it felt like you could actually feel the ball of the thigh bone rubbing around the socket of the hip. I seemed to become much more aware of the mechanics of the body as they gradually got worn down..

...wet feet. Think of your feet after getting out of a hot bath and triple it. White, wrinkled and very soft. I jumped off a gate with sodden feet and felt the skin shear on the ball of my foot when I landed...

...It's much harder in the dark...

...3 marathons in 3 days north cornwall coast...Pain wasn't enough to stop...If I didn't finish it would be like an itch I couldn't scratch and would have to have another go...

How does your mental/emotional state change over long distance? I'm interested to know what happens to your thought processes and feelings when you push yourself out of your comfort zone.

...I have little discipline...personally I think its my stubborn nature that works against me sometimes because halfway through a run I think – oh what the f.. I have no reason to be here this is silly…

...little voices in my head saying "you know you don't have to do this, you can stop" but the other voice saying "come on you've come this far, it just hurts a bit, just get on with it and finish"

What state of mind do you find to be the most conducive to running extreme distances? Can you control this?

...always remain focussed on the end and do not deviate from it...not finishing has never been an option yet...

...zone out of everything apart from the race/run and focus on nothing but finishing...

...you can do this whatever happens. Other people have done it, there is no reason why you can't...

Have you ever hallucinated whilst running?

...one time by left eye went a bit blurry and I couldn't see straight...

...I did feel what i can only describe as the madness people have described having in the desert...

Have you ever broken through multiple walls whilst running a long distance? What gets you through them?

...not sure I've ever really hit a wall. I tend to gradually slide, rather than slam...

...say to myself man up and keep moving and get it done. Then rest and drink beer...

...sheer pig headedness/stupidity...

...the need to not be beaten. I can't let my body win, or the distance win...

If you were facing a month of running a marathon or more every day, what would you see as the single biggest obstacle? How would you counter this?

...I ran a half marathon every day for the first week....the biggest obstacle I found was not physical but mental

...your body is under so much more stress than it is used to and some things will break down. Pain then starts messing with your head and doubts creep in. If your head isn't focused then I think you're stuffed...

...Chafing. I hate chafing. I have a very carefully organised system of lubrication...

Do you run better on your own or in company?

...my own company bores me silly. I end up talking to birds, trees, singing rhythmic songs in my head, then that makes me cross too. I need to be distracted from the repetitiveness. If I don’t, I dream of the repetitive action of running and then struggle to sleep because I’m maintaining my pace then too...

...if I’m running with other people, I really rely on them to keep my emotional balance. Otherwise my inner couch potato starts screaming and the urge to stop and lie down is overwhelming...

...longer runs or races I want to go at my own pace, overcome my own problems, and not be disrupted by someone else's needs...

If you had to prepare a man who hated running/exercise for the above, what would you tell him?

...I’d tell him very little of my experiences. I’d tell him to lubricate well, drink plenty, never use energy gels which are the consistency of sperm when nicely warmed in your running belt, wear leggings if you’re running along verges so the nettles don’t get you...

...choose the right socks...

...focus on the end goal and why you are doing what you are doing and be prepared to MTFU...

...think 'I can' not 'I can't'...

Do you believe that anyone can run long distances? If so, what quality do you think we possess as humans which allows us to do this?

...Yes. Mental determination above everything else...

...Yes. As the girl who never ran the cross country at school, or indeed ran for anything, I absolutely think that running is mind over matter. But that mind set is a killer. It’s the difference between doing 10 minutes and coming home or running for hours...

...Yes. If some people can then there's no reason why others can't – we are all made the same way...

...I think we have the physiology to do it but more importantly you have to want to do it. The body is really clever and changes and adapts but the mind needs a certain setting. Maybe those that are predisposed to be stubborn, determined, goal orientated etc are naturally more likely to take on the challenge than others...

...of course. All you need is the determination to do it and the ability will come. The biggest hurdle is realising that you CAN do things rather than always assuming that you can't...

...regardless of what we've done to our bodies over the years, they are strong and they adapt quickly. The biggest hurdle we have is our minds which don't adapt as fast. We need to believe we can do things and if we can achieve that we'll quickly find actually DOING wasn't the hard part...

Why do you run? And why do you run so far...?

...unlike gym bunnies or tennis partners – runners aren’t judgemental. Everyone is accepted, because every runner knows that one day you can run 10k in under an hour the next your like a beginner...

...because I can run and one day I won’t be able to...because lots of people can’t or won’t and I like that I can.

...because I can eat cake afterwards and not feel guilty...because it impresses my children...because sometimes they give you shiny medals...because my bum gets too wobbly if I don’t.

...when I am out, running, no one can get to me, or ask me to do anything, or to find anything, or to get them anything. I am just me.

...I began to run to get fitter and found I love it. I now run and run so far to push myself to my limits whatever they are...I enjoy the satisfaction of giving my everything and pushing myself as hard as I can...

...for me running is not just about fitness, it's my time to get away from the phone ringing and emails coming through continuously. It's my time to think and plan and get away from it all. Trying to think about things whether it's work stuff or personal is a good way of switching off from what you are actually doing and those tired aching legs tend to be forgotten about for a while.

...I like the solitude – it gives me time to think...

...initially it was to improve my health, and to get away from my demons. Now I run to stretch what I can do, to strive for something bigger, better or just more crazy. And to get to the singular, relaxed state that I feel when I'm running a long way...