Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Obligatory "Why I Run" Blog

I started writing my blog purely to document my first ever ultra attempt - running home straight after the London Marathon in 2011. It was mainly for the benefit of my wife and family, so that they could see my progress and check that I wasn't lying dead in a ditch somewhere (you bet I would have blogged about that). This wasn't just my first ultra, it was my first marathon. So at the time I had no idea whether I could actually do it, and entirely expected to end up collapsing somewhere along the way.

My blog has evolved over the last few years into what I hope is an interesting and informative set of rambling diatribes into various aspects of running which have caught my attention over the years. And yet at no point have I covered that age old question - "why do I run"?

Or, more precisely, why do I run so far?

I'll say this first of all; up until a few years ago, I hated running. I did it sometimes in order to try and keep fit, but I didn't really enjoy it. My sport of choice at University was Tae Kwon Do, where I helped out as an instructor whilst finishing my PhD. Whilst I didn't enjoy running, I did enjoy dragging the more committed members of the club out on an early morning beast of a run every week. We would intersperse interval training and hill work with hardcore exercises like knuckle press-ups on the gravel (all in the age before Tough Mudder). By the end we were normally utterly destroyed. I loved that feeling! I was still pretty fit back then, although was a lot bigger than I am now - pure muscle of course...

Fast-forward a few years and we had moved to a new city for me to (finally) start a job. But my PhD had taken its toll somewhat as I was looking pretty chunky. I don't think I'll get away with saying this was muscle. Spending my life sat trying to write a thesis, with virtually no exercise, snack food rather than meals (my wife, Jen, used to have to "remind" me to eat when it got to midnight), and no sleep will do that. When we first moved to Cambridge I was working long days in my new high-profile post-doctoral position at the Sanger Institute (home of the Human Genome Project), then coming home and having to write my thesis until 3am to try and finish it. Man that sucked, although never getting out of that studenty lack of sleep mentality proved to be quite useful for both running and having children.