Five years ago when I was scouting around to join a running club I happened upon Stockport Harriers and Athletic Club. I was working nearby in Cheadle at the time and their training nights (Tuesday and Thursday) at Woodbank Park in Offerton suited me. I simply stayed behind at work an extra hour then headed off to training. It was also good because for at least two nights per week I escaped the God awful rush hour traffic on the M60.
Our group was led by a great coach called Gill (I still call her coach). She would put on a thirty minute warm up drill session prior to training called, rather unsurprisingly, ‘Gill’s Drills’. An hour long training session followed with the usual track training namely intervals, pyramids and speedwork but also complimented with off the track work like hill training (I still have nightmares about the New Zealand Rd lamppost endurance runs). Top sessions and I loved every one, afterwards.
Although Gill used to dish out wisdom-filled advice, principally about my hunched up shoulders, the thing that sticks in my mind most from my Stockport days came from one of my fellow trainees called Steve. One dark winter evening walking back through Woodbank Park to our cars we were chatting together. It was raining, there was a icy chill in the air and we’d just completed a particularly gruelling 10 x 400m session. As we walked we joked about what kind of eejits we were doing this whilst the majority of people were tucked up in their warm houses. It was then that Steve said the phrase that I continue to remember now.
“Think of a reason to go training rather than a reason not to go.”
It’s not a mantra, more of a ‘catch yerself on’ as they’d say in Belfast. I can be quite flaky if I allow it so it’s ideal for me. All to often I’d look for the reasons not to do something rather than to do it. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’ll be too difficult, I can’t be arsed, I won’t fit in, I’ll look a dick etc etc. The saying fully encapsulated everything I need. I go training because although it feels terrible at the time and my body is crying I know that it’s doing me good. The focus, that reason to go.
Anyway Gill left, I finished working in Stockport and continuing at the club was impractical in terms of travel so I joined my local running club Prestwich AC. I bumped into Steve a few months ago at the Hatters Half Marathon, it was one of Prestwich’s championship races. After exchanging pleasantries I reminded him about his saying that had stuck with me and how it had benefited my running. Steve was surprised but pleased.
I bloody hate alarm clocks, I wake early but I like to do it naturally, so I had to think really hard about ‘the reason to go’ this morning when it blasted me out of my slumber at 0545.
Over the past few months I’ve joined up with a fellow PAC Mike on his Tuesday morning training sessions. I love training sessions as opposed to just running routes which I generally find boring. Training hard with others gives you motivation and support as long as it’s focused.
Mike is faster than me, his 5k PB is 18:30 whilst mine is just under 20:00. However on short distance (max 1km) sessions the gap between him and I is such that he feels under pressure not to drop his pace even for a moment whilst I feel that he’s not too far away as to be unbeatable. A good combination that motivates us both. He also thinks up the sessions so all I need to do is just turn up. This morning’s planned session was a simple fartlek of 1 minute fast/1 minute slow finishing with a 2 minute sprint along a straight but undulating bit of quiet road.
When the alarm went off I just didn’t feel it. A wicked wind was whirling outside and I had a slight pain in the ball of my right foot. Mike wouldn’t think any less of me if I pulled out, the ‘injury’ is bonafide after all. I twice composed a ‘crying off’ message but I deleted them both. I then thought about Steve’s saying. It’s not about what Mike would think of me, it’s about what I would think of myself. My foot issue was more a feeling rather than a pain so if the feeling turns into a pain on the session then I can pull out but not before I’ve even pulled back the duvet.
Catch yerself on Mike! Get yourself out of bed and go you muppet!!!
So I did.
I met up with Mike at 0615 at the agreed rendezvous point and throughout the session I was as close to him as I had ever been. It did help that he’d done a hard 16 miler on Sunday and during it had been bitten by a dog but I’ll take my successes wherever I can get them. I felt great upon my return home and gobbled my post session blueberry pancakes with gusto. I’m glad I had Steve in my ear at 0545 this morning, not literally of course, to remind me to search for those reasons to go training.
Some people might quote from Sun Tzu’s Art of War or more latterly Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running when they need motivation whereas I quote Steve, from Stockport.