Why do you run?

The more I run during lunch breaks etc, the more my work colleagues ask me that question – “Why do you run?” Everyone has their own reasons for running. Some people want to get in shape. Or to get fit. Or to compete in races. Or to escape their demons… For every runner you ask, all will probably have a slightly different reason. And some will probably lie about their real reason. Really I think it will always be a fluid combination of reasons.

For me personally, it is definitely a mix of the following:

I am quite solitary by nature, and running alone gives me some time and space to myself. I do not enjoy group runs, or big fun-run events. But running for an hour solo allows me the choice of whether to think of everything or nothing, to either take in my surroundings or block them out entirely – it is up to me. And I love it. I cherish those times.

I love the freedom running gives me to explore new roads/routes. Sometimes these are spectacular vistas at the top of a hill run, whereas other times they can be someting that anyone else might look at and think “meh”. Yesterday, for example, I reached an intersection of two quiet country roads – nothing spectacular. But for some reason it seemed to have an amazing calming effect – it was a spot I had never been to, the air was still, there were no cars or people, and the light was golden. I stopped in the middle of the road and took a drink from my water bottle, and took a moment to take in my surroundings. Without wishing to sound pretentious, it reminded me of one of my favourite quotes:

‘And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” ‘ – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. A Man Without a Country

Related to this having the ability to reach places that not everyone can or will. For example, there is a route behind where my parents have a holiday house. It is a steep unsealed road for 7km rising to about 750m, then 10km winding around some peaks and back in a loop to the start. It is one of my favourite runs. However, my mum and dad will never see the views from there and that makes me sad. There are countless routes out there to be run, and I want to delay for as long as possible the moment when they ar closed to me as well.

Another attraction for me is the fact that it is somewhat empowering to know that I can cover a lot of ground in a relatively short space of time. This may sound slightly weird. But hear me out – if my car breaks down on the 20km country road between home and work (there are no buses), I am not stuck there helpless, I don’t have to call someone for help, nor do I have a very long walk. Instead, in less than an hour I can happily trot along back to work or to home (i.e. at most 10km) and get things sorted out. It is that feeling of ‘strength’ that is empowering.

And finally, perhaps there is a part that is an ego boost. The longer my Sunday runs are becoming fo my marathon training, I have to admit to feeling slightly superior to people around me. This is a very internal thing – I don’t tell people about my running (running stories are boring!), but quietly keep it to myself. It is a somewhat smug attitude that I am not proud of, but it is there in the mix.

That is not to say that every run is a pleasure. Some of them are a hard slog, where either the weather is terrible, or my body is lethargic, I am just waiting for the run to end so I can stop. But after every run, there is always some pleasure I can take from it. A quote I saw somewhere (I cannot recall where) summed it up for me:

I don’t run to add days to my life, I run to add life to my days.

Yeah, pretty cheesy, but I like it!

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1000 mile shoes!

In early 2012 I was running in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. I had no other running shoes, and had previously had no spare money to get anything else. The VFFs were great, but after a steep downhill which injured my achilles, and a trail run across some very stony ground which brusied my feet, I realised that I wanted to wear shoes again. For weeks I obsessively trawled the ‘net, lapping up reviews on sites such as runblogger.com, making and updating charts comparing the features of an evergrowing shortlist of shoes, and checking stores/distributors for local availability (many shoe models aren’t available where I live). My main criteria were that they had to be light, durable, and hopefully not too expensive.

So one day, with money in hand, I went to the speciality running store to buy a pair of the Nike Free 3.0. They were more expensive than what I had in mind, but they ticked the other boxes. Unfortunately, the fit was too narrow. Dejected I went across to the big sports store where it turned out they had a half price sale on Nike Free Run+ v.2. They had a larger drop than what I wanted, but they were still nice and light, and more importantly they fit. I wasn’t too happy with the colour, but it was all they had left.I was all-in-all pretty excited.

That feeling turned to utter disappointment when the first couple of runs resulted in incredible cramp-like pain along the soles of my feet. But due to being on a budget, I had to keep using them. Thankfully I persisted, and the pain vanished, and the shoes soon became unnoticeable on my feet.

Now, I am a bit of a geek when it comes to stats/record keeping etc and have been logging all my runs in Excel, including distance, time, run type and shoe type (I now have a pair of New Balance trail shoes in the mix). Last Sunday I logged a pretty nice 21km training run which it turns out clicked the odometer over the 1000 mile mark! I don’t have a new pair to compare them to, but to me, they still seem in pretty good condition.

Nike Free Run after 1000 miles

Nike Free Run after 1000 miles

Soles after 1000 miles

Soles after 1000 miles

The right shoe still has it’s carbon rubber patches on he heel, however I wore through the ones on the heel a while back, and since then have it has suffered a bit of heel wear on the outside edge.

Hel wear on left shoe.

Heel wear on left shoe.

Both shoes have little holes where my big toes have scratched their way through (a symptom of all my shoes), but there has been no stitching come loose or rips etc.

Little hole where my big toe nail has scratched through.

Little hole where my big toe nail has scratched through.

They have a had a little bit of trail work, but nothing gnarly enough to destroy them. And aside from the early foot cramps, I have had no shoe related injuries. In fact the only injury I have had is some ITB pain a while back that was apparently caused by my hip being weak and during a long run it would get fatigued and allow my knee to bend inwards slightly.

This has been a great shoe for me. I’m on the look out for a replacement pair . Although if I didn’t have that heel wear, I think I would keep on running in these.

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Marathon training

I am currently training to run my first marathon, around the harbour in Dunedin, New Zealand. It is on Sept 8th, giving me about 10 more weeks. I had up until now been running about 30-40km per week, with a 14km run on Sundays. The plan was to increase slowly, mainly by adding 2km to my long run each week until I reach  32km a couple of weeks before hand. Last Sunday was meant to be a 16km run, but a week of snow, flooding and gastro bug threw those plans out the window. I got somewhat back on track with an 8km and 11km run on Tues/Wed respectively, but a big workload meant skipping my Friday 8km. Yesterday was my scheduled 18km. (Jeepers these Sundays roll around fast!).

I headed out in 0 degC weather at a pretty cruisy 5min/km pace. The sky was clear and the sun was glowing off the Southern Alps in the distance (I really need to take my camera in future…). I few frosty/slippy patches through the township, but then out onto the country roads which were pretty clear. I maintained that same 5min/km pace solidly throughout, stopping for a little breather at 9km (not that I was puffing, but just thought I’d rest the legs/hips for 30sec). The last 2kms however were a taste of torture. My right ankle felt very stiff and sore, especially on the uneven surface of the grass/mud verge. I made it home and immediately became worried that my stubborness in refusing to walk the last stretch home was going to have a lasting consequence. However, after a warm bath and a bit of walking around, it feels back to normal now (the next day). Although ‘normal’ does not mean pain free – but at least that stiffness/soreness has crawled back under its rock – I can still sense it is there though!

Work is (hopefully) a bit quieter this week, so I’ll try and make my target 45km week (last week was 37, with a missed run), in preparation for the 20km Sunday…

PS. My 1500km annual goal is not really on target. On track for 1220km, although the next two-three months do have bigger mileage lurking within them.

progress_June

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Motivation (or lack of)

I am in a bit of a slump. For the past few months I have run about 3-4 times a week for at least 9km a time, slightly longer on Sundays. But this month (Feburary) the wheels have fallen off. I have had only four runs this month, and although today is a another beautiful late Summer/early Autumn day, I just do not feel like going out. I shouldn’t be too hard on myself – I had an ankle injuryI was nursing in the first part of the month, and last week had a 24hr vomiting bug which left me pretty weak for a few days. But now I feel fine, yet I cannot be bothered. Perhaps it is the timing. During the week I run in my lunch break. I can comfortably fit the run in, but then I have to work at my desk in my sweaty running gear, whilst cooling down enough to be able to take a shower. At the moment it all just seems like too much hassle. Ideally I would run early in the morning but getting family ready for school etc puts a stop to that. I have a new pair of shoes which I thought would help with the motivation, but I couldn’t care less about them at the moment. I think I need to sign up for an event which might force me to get out on these low days. I have my eye on my first marathon, however it is not until September and that just seems too far away to worry about. I did set myself a ‘goal’ on my runkeeper of 1500km this year in order to keep motivated. However, I am well behind (9% done after about 15% of the year gone), but I’ve got plenty of time to catch up, right?

 

My 2013 Distance Goal

My 2013 Distance Goal

 

 

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New Balance MT310

My new shoes arrived! The New Balance MT310. I ordered them online for only $49.95 (+$7 postage).

MyMT310

They look great out of the box. Very light, and no apparent quality/construction issues. Well, except that the sole is marked with the words “ROCKSTOP(TM)”, however the yellow in the holes looks just like regular EVA to me – I have heard this in a forum on runblogger as well. So it appears that they are using the same mold for the sole as the MT101, but not the materials. Makes me wonder whether the sole material itself is some cheaper version. It will be interesting to see what the durability is like…

Unfortunately, the fit is a little tight for the size – I am a US 12, but have had to go to a 13!. I initially tried to loosen the laces and keep them tight around the collar using that loop-lacing technique, but they were just too narrow, and my toes were tickling the ends. As I will be using these for hilly trail running, I want a bit of room up front for those toe scrunching downhills. So I sent them back and exchanged for a the size 13 – add another $9 to the total bill so far = $65.95…

My first run was a flat 10km on a gravel road. I took it pretty easy (5min/km) and these felt pretty good. A little long, but that is due to my having to go up a ful size (a 12.5 would have been ideal). Still not sure about the RockStop – I felt quite a few stones. One thing I did notice was the strain on my lower calves towards the end. I am not sure whether this is because of it being my first run in 10 days (nursing a ankle strain) or the 4mm drop (which is lower than what I am used it), or probably some combination of both.

The next outing was a 9km hill run two days later, which gets to about 250m over 4km – with some pretty steep parts. Traction-wise, these were great. Could bomb the downhill without feeling as though I would slip. However, the issue I still have is feeling the rocks in the midfoot. I am convinced there is no RockStop. I will try and replace the cheap thing foam insole for something a bit more substantial – maybe use my Free insole for both shoes.

Still, all-in-all a great buy. Just got to be careful where I tread!

Edit

Just had a reply from NB as to the presence/absence of RockStop:

The 310s do feature a Rockstop ‘plate’ but they use a firmer density foam instead of a layer of TPU as with the MT101. So technically there is a Rockstop plate in the MT310BY but it won’t work as well as that on other more expensive shoes.

So basically the ‘RockStop plate’, is not the TPU RockStop material. Maybe it is firmer than the midsole EVA, but I doubt that…

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Walking access

A great resource I have recently discovered here in New Zealand is the walking access map from the Walking Access commission. This gives all the public access areas in New Zealand, including what are termed unformed legal roads (ULR). These can be ‘roads’ in the paper sense only – they may consist of 4WD tracks, or just right-of-ways that have never been formed, and therefore are not marked at all. They often run across farms & other private property etc. However, because they are designated as public roads, the general public has, in theory, access to them. They are no different in law from formed roads. But in practice that is not always the case…

I used the wams map and found a great looking run only 5-10 mins from work. It is a hilly looking course, about 5-6km each way, climbing to c.350m. It started off fine, up a shingle road, with some houses along the way. At a levelling off at near 200m, it went through a couple of unlocked farm gates (with signs just reminding people to close the gates due to stock). So far so good. The road then turns into a 4WD track, pretty rutted and probably only used by the farmer. But still publically accessible.

However after about 3.5km, I was met with a closed gate with a No Trespassing sign on it. I was a little unsure of myself so turned around and headed back down. Later on, I checked the website, and saw from my GPS (runkeeper on my phone), that I had been blocked from accessing the road.

I emailed the wams people and got a call back saying to contact the local authority/council. He said unfortunately many landowners put up No Trespass signs like this, but they are not allowed to. The problem of course is that because the track/road is not really formed, it can be debatable where the actual right of way is!
I returned today, and at the shut gate, I saw a little track to the right that went into a forest block. Is this the ‘road’? I ran along for about another 500m and reached a fence line. Because I was out of time I’ll return next week with my GPS and see exactly where I ended up in relation to the road…

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New trail shoes

For the past year I have been running in a pair of Nike Free Run+ (ver.2) They have been great on a mix of asphalt and gravel. I have clocked up over 1200 km with no real issues. The shoes are still in great condition, with some small tears beginning where my big toe curls upwards (I always get this problem with shoes). Their main negative is that I do get slightly sick of picking out stones from the grooves before, during and after a run! And they are not really suitable for running wet, muddy trails – on a recent couple of trail runs, where the ground was very slippery, I slid and rolled an ankle more than once.

NikeFreeRun2

Nike Free Run+ ver.2

So with that in mind I have just ordered a pair of trail shoes, the New Balance MT310. Now these aren’t top of the line trail shoes, (no expensive Inov8 or Salomon shoes for me), but they are from New Balance, have a sole identical to the famed MT101, are aligned with the Minimus line of shoes¬† (but apparently made from cheaper materials), and are pretty lightweight. And whatismore, the price is currently amazing – $49! So I wait, and hope, that these will suit the task.

MT310BYside

New Balance MT310 Black/Yellow

Recently I have running a hilly 9km run at lunch times (mostly gravel road into 4WD track). I cannot wait to see how these perform on this, especially as things get wetter when autumn and winter roll in. My long-term aim is to run the Bedrock 50k next year (2014). I’ll be 40 by then so just starting to peak :)

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