Running, not my first addiction, but I hope the one that lasts. Those that know me now as the lumbering heavyweight of a runner that struggles to break 70 minutes for 10km, can’t take my dedication to running seriously, but it has a long history.
Back 12 years ago, I was preparing for yet another outing on the stage with my school summer play. Having been an ever present in the rugby team that year, and with the season finishing I decided to pick up trainers and do what I had known my Dad to always do…. Go for a run. How hard could it be I thought? I mean I can go 60 minutes on the rugby pitch, and could spend two hours having a kick about in the park with the guys.
How wrong could I be? What a nightmare that first run was. I was reminded of just how horrible by a colleague the other day- she asked me if the chest pains ever went away! On that first run I made it less than 8 minutes. The high impact nature of running and the constant movement is quite strenuous. But it didn’t take long after that first fleeting attempt to get well and truly bitten.
I went out running typically in the evenings, and even quite late at night, always lodging the house key under my foot in my shoe (a painful experience that eventually led me to get a proper clip). When I think about how much technology and planning goes into my runs now I am amazed that I ever got started. Back in Brighton, I just set off, with a general, if vague, idea of where I was heading, not sure if it would take me 30 minutes or 1hr 30mins. Up hills, along the seafront, round parks etc, I didn’t really matter.
These days running is a bit more (if you’ll excuse the pun) pedestrian. Having moved to the UAE after my first (and so far only) half marathon, I initially struggled to adapt to the suffocating atmosphere of running in 37 degree heat with 70% humidity. Despite the fitness levels I had built up I had to satisfy myself with 2 mile runs on the treadmill to start off with, before braving the intensity of the Dubai summer. I went out with a couple of guys from work that had a keen interest in running. This was the first time since school that I had gone out running with someone else. In those days it was Critch and Sheriff waiting for me to catch them up whilst ambling around Hove Park, with rules on the amount of clothing that could be worn in the deepest of winters (no jumpers, two shirts, no trousers, and absolutely no gloves, but a hat was ok).
In Dubai I was confronted with a whole new set of challenges; no open areas to go running (although I did run the coast road once), the heat, and the local diet. It was the final challenge that defeated me. I actually enjoyed the challenge of running in extreme heat, it gave you the satisfaction of having really sweated out a good run. Often the guys and I would get back to the office building (opposite Safa Park, which had a spongy distance marked running track) looking like we’d jumped in the lake! However the local diet, or more to the point my lack of discipline over what I ate, was debilitating. I put on 4 stone from first day to last day, and have been struggling to lose it ever since!
However one other thing I can be grateful to Dubai for is discovering Yoga. Which I credit for my best ever 10km (56 minutes) and for my recovery from injury.