Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Realities of a Running Streak (if you have one too many kids)

Bottom of the barrel

I first got the idea of a run streak during the dark days of the holidays. I'd come across it before, but when rock bottom hits you'll try most things. This idea was spawned through the social loins of either Twitter or Facebook, and made me resent the idea even more. The problem with both of these forms of media is that everyone purports to live a better version of the life they live, and of course, yours. Photographs of better food, better holidays, parties, friends and better sleep. If you are a new-ish parent unfortunately all those things are true and you have long given up wondering whether the streaks upon your trousers, sofas, walls are mucous or food based. Standards are variable, food and the rigidity of the 5 second rule depends if anyone is watching.

I needed something to get me moving again. The secrets of how a run streak will propel you to a new PB marathon or discovering something zen.... are not here. Neither did I inadvertently unlock 5 secrets to successfully juggle a busy life and run fast, nor any particularly useful time management tips. Triathletes are probably the worst at telling you how the key to it all is the simple art of time management. "I have like, three sports, a job to juggle, a social life where I talk about bikes mostly, and the shredded remains of a largely ignored relationship." I know, I used to be one. Now there is no time for much of any framework, even the best laid plans fall to nappy mechanicals, disturbed sleep and the whims of a poorly child. One of my offspring seems to feel passionately against sleeping for any prolonged period of time at all, even more so during the night. No time management plan, should you be so delusional, should be to leave your partner of long suffering to pick up any more slack so you can pop out for a run. Its the quickest way for a toothbrush to be shaped into a shiv. About the best tip I can pass on, apart from the avoidance of a punctured kidney, is having the coffee brew on a timer and a hidden stash of chocolate digestives.

The reality is that a good proportion of your runs will be running when tired. I used to call them junk miles when I had time (i.e. I was juggling nothing other than self gratification sprinkled with Shimano or Campy). The idea of following a programme usually goes out the window. You run when you can. You try do hill repeats or a tempo run after you have had to Jedi-like will your child to sleep after the third bed time story. You get stronger, almost surprisingly. Some runs will feel great, but not many. But you are at least moving.

When the end is near

Eventually it will all end, usually without rainbows and fanfare. The problem with ending a run streak is that it is a little like self-checking out of the Priory. You are, I imagine, not sure if you could do with a bit longer or if the time is right. My run streak ended with a bender of a weekend with pizza, chocolate and red wine and no more running.  It was too soon. I might need to check back in.

The agony and the ecstasy tediousness of a streak

1 (29/1) Relief. Just feel relieved at having started. I am moving again.

2 (30/12) Now wondering if this is a good idea all. Running every other seems like a far more sensible approach. But Run Streak Every Other Day just doesn't sound like it'll catch on.

3 (31/12) It snowed - felt hardcore. Also managed to escape a family lunch early and not even a blizzard would have stopped me today.

4 (1/1) Misery breeds satisfaction. Awful weather really made the run feel like an accomplishment.

5 (2/1) Oddly beginning to feel some sort of commitment to the idea. Although 25 more days seems like to much to think about.

6 (3/1) Not feeling it. The sofa seems to have its own gravitational pull. Last day of holidays, tomorrow is when it starts getting tough.

7 (4/1) School term started. Little dears have sucked the life blood out of me and its only day one.

8 (5/1) Took kids on double buggy. Had better ideas before, but it was one way to see the kids and get the run it. Felt like doing the run in an ironman, where your  body feels like isn't your friend any more. Tougher workout than I thought. There is no flat where we live, like I said, better ideas and this wasn't one of them.

9 (6/1) Trail run. Tired. Began weighing up pros and cons of rolling my ankle on purpose to stop the streak.

10 (7/1) Third of the way. Feels good even though legs don't. Getting tired of washing the running kit. The wife is annoyed at the kit on the radiators. Kit is now being worn multiple times. It's okay, I run alone and in the dark.

11 (8/1) Last thing I possibly wanted in a Friday. Usually it's takeaway and beer after the kids are down to celebrate the end of the week. I almost jumped several motorbike delivery men as they were on their way to happy people. But I decided to stop whingeing and went for a long run.

12 (9/1) Woke up and resolved to start thinking about doing some stretching. Stiff and sore. Decided to drive to the flattest place I could find an just run laps. It rained. Yay.

13 (10/1) Muscles are sore but thankfully nothing else more serious seems to be amiss. First solid feelings in the legs for a long time. Began thinking about racing again. Idiot.

14 (11/1) Decided I needed some accountability and so told my class. Made a competition where the pupil that predicted the closed total mileage would win some sort of prize. Gave them my average running speed and amount of time I would likely run. Estimates go in a jar to be opened at the end of 30 days.  One kid guessed 900 kilometres. Bless, but it make me worry about my teaching ability. I'll probably give him the prize for having the most misguided faith in me. Ran home. Picked up a small cold. It's a miracle I lasted this long. Children are highly efficient germ carriers. Schools are like the germ Death Star and I happen to work in one. Little darlings.

15 (12/1) Run to school. Imagined that this is like a marriage that has gone on too long, just going through the motions.

16 (13/1) Ran cross country with the school kids and then football club training in the afternoon. Ran home. Kept looking for wild dogs that would hopefully savage me so I wouldn't have to continue running.

17 (14/1) No sleep and one the contents of one nappy was breached the walls. Enough fossil fuel on everything to run a small household for a week. Much cursing and cleaning. Run pushed to this evening. Ended up running after bed time stories. Felt like I was dragging a dead mule.

18 (15/1). Can't quite believe I have run 18 days in a row. Although distance wise I have achieved nothing spectacular. Combined a run with an outing with the kids. Two birds one stone makes for an unfocused run, but a stone is a stone.

19 (16/1).  Weekends are easier and managed to fit a longer run in. Looking forward to finally have the time to do a long run in the trails.

20 (17/1).  Even the best laid plans don't always work out with babies, toddlers and tired parents. Resorted to another 'notch' run. Next weekend perhaps.

21 (18/1).  Sleet. Wind. Sleet. Cold. But fun.

22 (19/1).  Today's run was 30 mins and it felt like 30 mins too long. Squeezed in between bedtime stories and changing the flat tyre on the wife's car. Fairly sure my running kit has stopped smelling. Probably I have gotten used to it. Can't ask the wife to verify. Child no 3 might need to wait until after the streak.

23 (20/1) Mix of road and trail. Managed to run the entire length of an uphill, something I have never been able to do, even when fitter. Something might indeed be happening.

24 (21/1) wanting to go for longer runs although time isn't permitting. So that's positive.

25 (22/1) ran to work today. Quite enjoyable, usually I feel it throughout the day, so getting better.

26 (23/1) Snowed overnight, drove to the local mountain. Slow paced climbing, scrambling. Fun day out. Felt good not to 'run'.

27 (25/1) Knackered. A long day that began with one kid gleefully taking the largest dump that streaked down to the very bottom of his pyjamas. No sure how he did it so quietly either. Little bastard looked happy as anything. Rubbish day at work and the last thing I felt like is saving a streak. Ironically, I did hill repeats because I just couldn't face running a route that I have done multiple times. But I got outside and the glass of wine won't even touch the sides of my conscience. Dry Mondays are for wimps.

28 (26/1).  Energy levels are low. Wasn't looking forward to the run and it didn't improve as I went. I couldn't wrench my mind away for the images of red wine an pizza. Just general tiredness.  

29 (27/1) No unicorns sighted on my penultimate run. Rather disappointed. Running home after school football practice is always like running with someone else's legs.

30 (28/1) Last run. Would have been nice to do something interesting to mark the achievement, but I had to squeeze in a short run before I have the kids this evening.

The end, finally.
Run streaks. Are they a good idea. The honest answer is yes, probably. For me it is not possible to fit in the kind of running that I used to do.  I often skipped a run if it felt like it wasn't going to be worth it. Mostly I was tired. A streak was good for me in that it forced me outside. I had to work it around family life, the mileage has been low but I am out there. I am stringer and fitter that before I started it (duh) but compared to other times in my life, not a chance, but I am moving.

Top Tips

1) Bedtime stories and keeping the wife happy come first.
2) Coffee on a timer and carefully hidden digestives.
3) Much like the old army saying of sleep when you can, it is run when you can.
4) Accept that many of your runs will be a slog.
5) Accept that the run is often the least important thing of your day, keep it in perspective.
6) Alternate running shoes.
7) Accept that most of the time you will run alone, so its okay to wear your work socks. The more colourful the better.

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