Monthly Archives: September 2015

Processing my Marathon Run

Last Sunday I completed the Rutland Marathon, a steep and tough course, probably the toughest one I have done so far. I had spent 3 months preparing for this experience, putting in regular miles each week. My training got me through to the finish line without injury, although every part of my body hurt like hell.

The Rutland Marathon was gruelling and it took me 4 hours and 28 minutes to complete, 28 minutes longer than any Marathon I had previously completed. What, if anything, did I gain from putting myself through this experience ? Did I learn anything new on this run ? Was the pain worth it ?

At mile 18 I ran past a young man who was walking because he was so tired. He told me he had no motivation to carry on. He tried running behind me and I could feel this man’s heaviness and lethargy, and somehow I had to make twice as big an effort just to carry on running myself. At mile 21 I ran past a runner who had 100 Marathons on their T-shirt, meaning they have completed at least 100 of these gruelling events. I overheard this runner say to her running partner, ‘I don’t really enjoy these Marathons anymore, I don’t know why I do them’.

Maybe I experienced three aspects to the race that I can take into my everyday life. Firstly, the value in having supportive people around you. The support I received from the crowds and from the race marshalls was amazing in terms of servings of lemon drizzle cake, chunks of banana, energy drinks, and water. At the last 300 metres of the race I remember a marshall saying to me,’you can smell the finish line’, which really helped spur me on. Secondly, the importance of self-compassion. I had to accept that my time was slower than any previous Marathon time I had done and not to judge myself through the narrow lens of timings and personal bests. Thirdly, I take from this race the importance of self-belief. I ran the race at my own pace, refusing to run too fast at the start, especially when I saw many others fellow runners dash off at the beginning at a pace that was unsustainable for me. I had to be true to my own inner pace, just like I have to be true to myself in life generally. I value running for the insights it brings that I can then apply to navigating through life.

 

 

Running and Therapy

Over the last forty years or so, running has increased in popularity in Britain, the US, Australia and other western societies. There is now a whole host of running events that people can take part in, like 5K and 10K races, half marathons, full marathons and even ultra marathons, which are anything over the 26 miles and 385 yards of a full marathon. Paralleling this rise in the general popularity of running is a growth in the number of books about running. The themes emerging from these texts include explorations of why it is that people run, what physical, psychological and emotional benefits they derive from running, and how running has helped them to cope with different life stresses such as bereavement, difficult family relationships, illness, drug addiction and so on.

In his book Eat & Run (2012), ultra marathon champion Scott Jurek tells us how long distance running helped him to cope with an upsetting upbringing as a result of his mother having multiple sclerosis. Billy Isherwood (2009), in Dead Man Running, writes about his struggles with alcoholism due to a brutal childhood at the hands of a violent father. Mark Rowlands (2013: xiv) testifies in his book Running with the Pack, ‘running is a way of understanding what is important or valuable in life’.

When I run this connects me with a deeper knowledge about life; about how to continue to live as well as possible while simultaneously experiencing the many and diverse challenges that life can throw at me and my loved ones.  Running allows me to reflect.  To reflect is to contemplate; to meditate. According to Haruki Murakami, an author and long distance runner, “If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog” (Murakami: 2009: 82-83).

References

Isherwood, B. (2009) Dead Man Running: from alcohol to Atacama   Kennoway: Spiderwize

Jurek, S. With Steve Friedman (2012) Eat & Run London: Bloomsbury

Murakami, H. (2009) What I Talk about when I Talk about Running London: Vintage Books

Rowlands, M. (2013)  Running with the Pack: thoughts from the road on meaning and mortality  London: Grants Publications Ltd

 

The Autumnal Equinox, Life’s Transitions and Coping.

The Autumnal Equinox is upon us. This means that there are equal amounts of light and dark hours today.  After today, the days will get shorter and the nights will get longer.  Transition is upon us.  This makes me think about transitions in our lives – school, perhaps university, work, maybe marriage or significant relationships – a whole series of events.  Sometimes, an event can happen that casts a shadow upon other experiences that we have.  Bereavement, trauma, separation, the list goes on.  It is important to connect with these difficult moments in our lives, to reflect upon what they meant to us when they happened and what they mean to us now.  We can then decide how we will move on, what we will process and put away so that we can experience life’s many surprises being as fully present in the moment as we can be, without regrets, shame, guilt, even anger.

Run & Reflect

Being outside and surrounded by beautiful scenery, this can help us gain perspective on an issue that may be troubling us. By being mindful of how it is that we observe the nature around us, we can learn to apply the same skills to observing our own lives and significant experiences that happen to us. We can also practise slowing things down. Nature has its own pace, its own flow, and if we can learn to experience this then we can take this knowledge into our everyday lives. We can learn to relax and to de-stress. We can also practise breathing and connecting with nature, and in doing so, connecting with ourselves.

Walk and talk, and run and reflect sessions, are a way of having therapy outdoors. Walking and talking, or running and reflecting, is a more dynamic way of processing and exploring issues in our lives than sitting face to face with a counsellor. Walking or running side by side with the counsellor can make us feel less inhibited, and somehow walking and running can help us to view something in a new way. It is a creative process.

Given that so many people live in cities and urbanised areas these days, it is important to take time out from these environments and to go and connect with nature. The walk and talk and run and reflect sessions that I hold are based at Rutland Water, a beautiful reservoir in the heart of England, with stunning views. I hold run and reflect sessions based on your pace. The therapeutic aspects of running are huge. Come and join me.

Walk & Talk

Being outside and surrounded by beautiful scenery, this can help us gain perspective on an issue that may be troubling us. By being mindful of how it is that we observe the nature around us, we can learn to apply the same skills to observing our own lives and significant experiences that happen to us. We can also practise slowing things down. Nature has its own pace, its own flow, and if we can learn to experience this then we can take this knowledge into our everyday lives. We can learn to relax and to de-stress. We can also practise breathing and connecting with nature, and in doing so, connecting with ourselves.

Walk and talk, and run and reflect sessions, are a way of having therapy outdoors. Walking and talking, or running and reflecting, is a more dynamic way of processing and exploring issues in our lives than sitting face to face with a counsellor. Walking or running side by side with the counsellor can make us feel less inhibited, and somehow walking and running can help us to view something in a new way. It is a creative process.

Given that so many people live in cities and urbanised areas these days, it is important to take time out from these environments and to go and connect with nature. The walk and talk and run and reflect sessions that I hold are based at Rutland Water, a beautiful reservoir in the heart of England, with stunning views. I invite you to join me.