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Running and inspiration

January 27, 2010

This probably sounds like a ‘why I run’ post. It’s not. Perhaps I should have picked a better title. Still, as I was pacing out around Abingdon thinking about what I was going to write, it struck me that ‘inspiration’ was the most apt word. I could have used ‘creativity’, but that carries all sorts of subconscious connotations. Not everyone thinks they’re creative (however untrue that might be), yet everyone is capable of being inspired. So, inspiration it is.

I sometimes – actually, at the moment ‘frequently’ might be a more apt word – slip my training into conversation. (Quickly followed, of course, by a mention of my JustGiving site. Did I mention that I’m running the Paris Marathon? For The Stroke Association? No? Sounds uncharacteristic…) When you tell a non-runner about putting aside two and a half hours on a Sunday morning to run 21 miles, their reaction tends to follow a two-step pattern:

  1. Wow, that’s a long way…
  2. … isn’t it boring?

On paper, it should be boring. In fact, some parts are quite dull (I’m specifically thinking of the rather more industrial stretch of my Sunday route that passes the ever delightful Didcot power station and the two-mile A road into Didcot).

Aerial view from Paramotor of Didcot Power Sta...
Didcot power station – not high on the inspirational stakes. Image via Wikipedia

However, the key to running long distances is to control your focus. Maintaining a consistent pace is important, but that doesn’t need to be your central focus. Get a feel for the right cadence and posture, and the rest more of less takes control of itself. In fact, the less you focus on the running aspect of your run, the less you notice the inevitable pain that kicks in around the 18 mile point.

I tend to find my mind wandering. I don’t run with music – which may seem strange to people who know me, since I listen to music through much of the rest of my life – so my mind is free to poke around at knotty problems and interesting ideas that I don’t normally have the time to explore in depth. I’ve found that my experience of running is similar to that articulated by Haruki Murakami in his excellent book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. If you’re preparing for a marathon and feel a little misunderstood, it’s well worth a read.

And so, on Sunday’s run, with my mind wandering, I came up with what I can only describe as a brilliant concept (whether that turns into a brilliant execution remains to be seen). You’ll hear more about this closer to the time, but there should be something pretty interesting happening here in April.

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