Now (well) into my 50th year, I celebrated with my first ever 50km (32 miles) run this week end, with a lovely 5 ½ hours spent traipsing through the Kings Forest in great Autumn weather and colours – the bad weather rolled in at tea time by which time I was back home.
This is part of a plan to complete various running milestones this year – a mid-life crisis? – and also pre-empted me to write further on what I think about when I’m ticking off the miles.
As ever I set off a bit fast, at a pace I couldn’t sustain throughout – experienced ultra runner sustain pace throughout – but was comfortable at half way, struggled through the 3rd quarter and just about survived the final hour, spending most of the time thinking ‘why do I put myself through this’ and ‘does this reflect how I handle most challenges in life – initial enthusiasm, consolidation, finally simply hanging in there’. Certainly, I’ve always been better at change than consolidation and I often take on challenges in thirds – start-up – consolidation and conclusion/evaluation.
I also think about ‘bonking’. No, not that sort. Bonking, in running parlance, is when your body stalls mid-run. Most people will know it referred to as ‘hitting the wall’.
Further demonstrating that vocations often have their own language – being part of the club or in the know.
Economic development has, management speak in spades and most sports including running have it. Sometimes it’s about technical information but often it’s about egos. Frequently, it’s people trying to pretend you know what you’re talking about when you really don’t.
But I do know a little about bonking, the collapse of a body, form, brain and perhaps most importantly, soul.
Most importantly, whilst I might be tired and my muscles might by glycogen starved after 4 hours of running – in the case of this weekend 5 ½ hours running, I think most of it is in the brain. Your brain tells your body how it is behaving – it monitors heart rate, blood flow, sweating, breathing – one of the reasons I never run listening to music is I like to ‘listen to my body’ – perhaps I am really a hippy.
However, I also think it’s about enjoying the moment. I run to enjoy the countryside and landscape – to immerse myself into it – not separate myself from it. Whether its running, walking, cycling or horse riding being out there is always great.
My response to bonking is to over hydrate – I’m actually a bit manic about it. I load fluids 2 or 3 days before a long run and in any event I never ignore a drinks station. At the weekend, at each drinks station – there were 4 in total – I would have 1 cup of coke, 2 of orange squash and 2, water. Even on shorter runs, I can have 2 or 3 cups I do or I will nearly always drink the whole bottle.
I don’t particularly enjoy running with a pack but will always plan a training run around access to water particularly to ensure my dog – my usual training partner at home – has similar access to fluids – at the end of a run I always give the dog fluids before myself.
I’m not one really one for gels or sports drinks, but the best events will always have a biscuits and sweets – jaffa cakes are almost perfect racing sustenance. If I can, at halfway I’ll eat a few peanuts to add salt and at each drink stations put a handful of midget gems in my pocket to eat over the next hour. Setting off again after a stop always takes 5 minutes to get back into a rhythm.
So to conclude, apparently you are most likely to bonk 2/3 of the way through a race. Avoid big energy spikes, run slow and strong – my mantra. Time is pretty irrelevant. Long runs are for fun and reflection – some would say run the second half faster than the first although I’ve never done this. And finally, try not to think about bonking – either sort.
David Ralph, Chief Executive, D2N2 LEP