Learning to move slower, silent discos in my head and re-framing ‘long’ Written May 17th, by Mark

So it’s properly out there now. 100 miles across England. In 3 months times…f*&k.

My turn to share some of our training musings.

Learning to slow down

Most of my sporting background has consisted of rugby & competing in CrossFit. The majority of my training has been strength, power, all-out style stuff. Someone at my old rugby club once commented on my style “you’re either 0 or 100%, there’s no in-between with you is there”. For the past 6 months, alongside trying to do a bit more running, I’ve taken up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Something completely new to me and pretty foreign.

And the memory from my old rugby club re-surfaced recently when my Jiu-Jitsu teacher suggested that I actually needed to learn to move slower. Sorry what? Something that initially struck me as a weird comment. But the more he explained, and the more I subsequently pondered it, it made sense. And the same is having to be applied to my running training. I’m pretty competitive and with the ever-watching, judging eyes of the Strava community there is pressure to be running PB’s and super quick times.

But running quick is not the name of the game when it comes to ultra running. Rob’s Dad Chris, who himself has completed some pretty awesome ultras, gave some great advice ahead of our first marathon; “When it comes to ultra running there’s an old saying ‘run to complete, not compete’”. Time to check the ego. I’ve had to learn to slow down the pace of my running to something that is much slower than I’m used to, but a pace that is far more sustainable as we get into the dizzying heights of miles we are going to be running. It’s taken some getting used to, and something we are still playing around with as to whether it’s too fast or too slow. Time will tell I guess.

Silent Discos in my head

I know a lot of people plug in a podcast or some tunes for their runs, either to motivate or just get them through it. It is something I’ve done in the past and it certainly distracts my mind for periods as well as give me a bit of a boost when Lizzo’s “Juice” comes on (banger if you haven’t heard it). But for the vast majority of my longer runs I’ve been going headphone-less. Instead opting to carry a boom box on my shoulder for the bigger beatz. I am joking of course.

It initially started when I was training for the OMM and my headphones would simply run out half way through runs. Then I just stopped using them all together and found 2 things. Firstly it actually allowed me to concentrate wholly on how my body was feeling, what my cadence was like, how hard was I working, was that sweat or had my chafe taken a bad turn?! The important stuff. Things that can be easily lost when listening to the ‘A Star is Born’ soundtrack on repeat (again).

The other surprising thing I found was it actually gave me time to think, with no distractions. No technology, nothing to side-track or drag my attention away. Just me and my weird little mind with hours to run through ideas, work through things that have been playing on my mind or just to daydream. The only other time I’ve found I can do this is when I swim. So what started out as an annoying reason to leave the headphones at home has actually turned into a mild form of meditation/mindfulness for me.

How long is long?!

The final thing I’m finding from the training at the moment is re-defining exactly what ‘long’ is. Up until probably 18 months ago I considered anything beyond a 10km as a) horrendously long and back-cripplingly painful and b) terrifying. Long distance, endurance training, as I’ve eluded to earlier on, is completely out of my comfort zone and not a particular strength of mine to date.

But actually the more miles I clock up, the more I steadily creep up the volume, and the more I get out of my perceived comfort zone, the bigger my shift in what is actually possible and what actually is a ‘long’ run. Another thing I have found actually quite helpful is to run for time rather than distance. By running for a set time block it allows me to actually see how I feel on the day and pace myself accordingly, just clocking up the distance my body deems appropriate on that day, rather than having to hit a set distance each and every time.  

There are A LOT of miles of training still to do and lots of prep, stretching, experimentation & fine-tuning exactly how we’re going to do this. This is possibly the biggest undertaking either of us have ever thought about. I’d be lying if there weren’t a few butterflies just thinking about it as I’m writing this, but equally I’m so excited to crack on with something that a few years ago I would not have even considered. In the meantime if anyone wants to do some long, silent and really slow runs give me a shout.

As Rob mentioned in his first post we're going to be raising money for Bowel Cancer UK, a charity that means a lot to us both having been affected by it in recent times. We'd like to raise a good bit of cash so if you're feeling generous please head over to our JustGiving page. Thanks!

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