Like I am most other Sunday mornings, I was out running yesterday. Richmond Park had the pleasant hum of cyclists and runners out in number enjoying the sunshine, the open space and the chance to get some play-time in before getting on with whatever else Sunday held.
I am back in training after a break following the Hastings Half-Marathon in March and I am relishing the sense of grounding I have found in getting clear in my head what I like, and don't like, about running and setting myself realistic goals for the year. This is week three of the schedule that worked so well for me earlier this year and it's an easy week - it says, quite clearly, 90 mins (easy) - but I just couldn't do it. I pushed the pace, ran hard up the hills and, having added a there-and-back section to the beginning of the circuit to take up the distance, challenged myself to complete the course I'd set in an hour-and-a-half, despite having slightly over-estimated it. I could have just stopped at the 90 minute mark, but no, I ran hard to try to beat the time and then carried on for the extra five minutes it took to reach the end.
Why? It won't make me fitter: the running plan is well designed and easy weeks are essential to rest the body. No-one else cares how fast or far I run: it is something I do entirely for myself. But there is a habit in always pushing, running too hard to think properly, running away from the stuff that bothers me. If I go slow I don't feel as if I'm achieving anything and that subtly transforms into not being worth anything. I am trying to learn that I am just as much loved and valued if I am lying in the sun dozing, and that when I am rested and relaxed and I am nicer person to be around, truer to myself and maybe that, in itself, is the real achievement.