Saturday, 20 February 2016

RUNNING TO FIND THE ZONE

Getting support for the charity
Joy in the Mall - London 2012
My first marathon - 05:40:55




I tell the story of how I came into running in my mid-thirties on my website. For thirty years it has been one of the great pleasures of my life - to have an identity, a persona, as an athlete is splendidly counter-intuitive. I was the child who couldn't run for toffee. And in 2012 I completed my first marathon in London in the year the Olympics came to Great Britain. How cool did that feel! I managed around 15 miles of steady running before I began to feel a little odd and decided to switch to speed walking and running for the last 11 miles. I wasn't going to run any risks. I had run further in training - the advised 20 miles - but the emotion of the day had caught up with me. We live out our days in our own bubbles and aim to feel in control. But after nearly three hours of running in a swaying sea of humanity and reading the personal and sometimes heart-breaking stories of why that runner ahead was pounding the pavements of London for twenty six miles to raise money in memory of a son or daughter or father or mother, all the time soaking up the cheers and encouragement of the tens of thousands watching from the street edges and calling out your name, the name on the front of your running vest, I had begun to feel a little queasy and rather out of control. The moment I stopped running and started speed-walking was most strange.  The body seemed to drift for a few seconds as I adjusted to the new motion.

That for me, I suspect, is part of the reason why I love running and am so intrigued by it. I want to unravel the mystery of the links between what is going on in my head and what my body is doing. I can't easily find another way of describing it although I fully appreciate and acknowledge the fallacy of a Cartesian separation of mind and body. I know we are talking about a symbiotic relationship and I believe we are all the more fulfilled when mind and body work as one. When we are in the 'zone'. Of course, when you're there, when you are in that personal zone, you are scarcely aware of it. Becoming aware takes you out of it, into the pain of running effort, in my limited experience as a novice athlete.  

And then six months ago, in mid-August, I stumbled when our beloved Bearded Collie, Ella, pulled on the dog-lead when I was walking her through a Cornish lane paved with Blue Elvan, a rock  that the toughest of Cornish miners used to curse for its unresisting qualities. The fleshy softness of the skin between sole and heel on my left foot took the impact through a pair of trainers as my body made impact with the edge of a piece of Blue Elvan. It was like a needle aimed into the spinal chord and missing. That stopped me running for a while. Six months in fact.

I had the good fortune to already know an excellent sports masseur and injury therapist, Ben Donaldson, here in St Ives who had helped me prepare for my second marathon in Edinburgh in 2014. His treatment has been critical in my recovery from a condition I learned to identify as plantar fasciitis. Anne-Marie Leddy and Tanya Read, practitioners at the Gilbert's Coombe Chiropractic, have also been very important in helping my return to full health. The fruits of their treatment were evident yesterday afternoon.

I set out on my first run - a return to my familiar local circuit and a steady hill ascent of 1.75 miles to the summit at Little Trevalgan and then the delicious descent back home. It was a remarkable experience at times. The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz comes to mind - without the oil-can, at least at first. I was only a minute or so slower than usual for the outward and upward first half but then it is a very steep hill and I am slow at the best of times. But getting to the top and turning around, my knees felt as if they had developed mud flaps. I took the descent really slowly, at least four minutes slower than my fastest time. So my local circuit was completed in 39 minutes rather than the usual 34 minutes. But I'm back, feeling great - and registered for the Oxford Half Marathon on October 9th, this year.

There is definitely more to life than politics - for today.