Dear Running, It’s Not You. It’s Me.

Recently I’ve been in the most fortunate position to be introspective. I hate introspection. Introspection for me is always the question, “Why did I react so strongly to that.” All of the reasons for my current instrospections are the same. I hate being labelled. Which, when one does the full Ishikawa diagram leads to “Labelling me takes away my freedom to change.” If you tell me I’m a girl, you take away my freedom to leave my washing lying all over the floor and not giving a shit about the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. If you tell me I’m skinny, you take away my freedom to lose weight or to put on weight. If you tell me I’m a runner, you take away my freedom to become a pole dancer. If you label me a project manager, you take away my freedom to become a singer. You get my drift, right. So I really hate labels. Not because I hate labels, but because I love my freedom to change.

I love love affairs. I love intense, passionate, SHORT love affairs. Commitment has always been a problem for me. So much so that the one time when I bothered to place myself in a committed relationship, I ended up with depression and a subsequent eating disorder. Commitment is another way in which one’s freedom can be eroded. And relationships are sneaky in that you’re filled with euphoric endorphins which make you think that you’re having a good time, when in fact, your freedom is slowly being usurped by this entity called a relationship.

And so I find myself re-evaluating this love affair I’ve been having with running. This label “runner” that I’ve been wearing.

I like running. I really do. We have fun. Sometimes. Running has been good to me. I have great friends because of running. There are a few special friends who have been able to transcend talk about running and Tim Noakes to be more than “running friends”. Running has made me healthier. Running has shrunk me a dress size or two. But running requires commitment. And I just don’t know if I have that commitment in me. I keep telling myself that running is good for me. That running will teach me commitment. That running will give me a goal. That running is the reason. I’m just not so sure any more. But I’m addicted to running now and being fit and healthy and fitting into size 8s instead of size 12s and challenging myself to run every race a little faster than the last time.

So essentially, I’m screwed! I’m in this relationship with an entity I’m not sure I even like any more, never mind love. I’m suffering abuse (the recent 15 day lay off due to a stupid injury that no other working women get from work shoes, only running women, being case in point) at the hands of my lover. Running makes me cry at least once a week. The relationship is now a stale and routine and somewhat less than passionate love affair. But I’m stuck with it!

Oh my word! I’m married to running! How did this happen? I didn’t even get a fucking diamond ring. I feel like someone married me without my permission. And I didn’t get the diamond ring or the sex!

So now I have to do what every married couple has to do at some point in their marriage, I have to either get divorced. I’ve had my eye on pole dancing for a while now. Or I have to find the love I once had and rekindle the fire. I’ll start where I started 3 years ago this month, not injured, but by getting up early and doing my glute and hamstring exercises. (Minus the scoffing a tray of caramel horns. Hey, I’ve learned something from this abusive relationship.) And then I’ll look at running again on Wednesday and see how I feel. I might try out the pole dancing too, just to be sure.

Yours in the love of the slow burning passion of commitment to running. Blech!


The Reason

What does this mean? What does any of this really mean?

What does this mean? What does any of this really mean?

Our Running Junkies coach, Ringmaster Dave, has a new white board. He thinks he’s very snazzy with his white board. He has the same affliction as me in that his handwriting is illegible. I’ve typed it up very nicely for you up there, but it didn’t look like that when I returned from the warm up which felt more like a sprint to the finish. This is what I imagined in my head:

Each type of running junkie would get either 1. , 2. or 3. as their session which they would have to do 3 times. I figured, ag, I’m a SlowCoach, but there’s that whole Comrades Marathon runner thing which immediately puts me in a different league to other idiots who arrive at track sessions. So I reckoned I’d get the 3 x 300m which I could manage. Turns out I didn’t understand quite correctly.  Turns out that 1., 2. and 3. are the 3 sets. I was going to have to do all of those.

Dave asked, merely to hear the sound of his own voice, if we knew what “R pace”, “I pace” and “F pace” are. He started by describing R pace which is “a relaxed fast pace”. So the Illuminati would be running the 300s at 38km per hour and I would be running them at 4.6km per hour.  Dave told us to focus on our form during the 300s. I did for the first 300m and then I focussed on not dying and not vomiting up my own aorta. I had left my watch at home today which always puts me in an instant bad mood. So I found myself running with a B-teamer Suzanne. She was hellishly fast over the 300s and I clung on by freshly clipped toenails so that I would have a proper 2 minute break. Oh mein God! Just three three hundred metres. It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Those three three hundred metres may as well have been a marathon. Then we had to jog. Slow jog. Its tough to slow jog with vomit blocking your wind pipe. And then we started the two hundreds.

I just couldn’t come up with a good enough reason tonight. Why the fuck was I doing this? Suzanne asked me if I was going to run another Comrades. I laughed. I told her she should have asked me that 5 minutes before I started the warm up. As I stood there at the end of the third 200m, I just didn’t know. I didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing this to myself. And it’s so weird because it’s not like my legs get sore. It’s not like my chest gets sore. It’s some stupid emotional response I have to lactic acid build up. I just want to give up. I just want to stop and trudge to my car with my middle finger in the air to everyone at track. They’re all such fantastic athletes and I just suck




It’s kinda like the mining strikes. Why should I work as hard as the CEO if I only end up with a fraction of the salary? Okay, the miners have a different view: Why should I only get a fraction of the CEO’s salary if I perceive myself to be working as hard as him/her?

I really couldn’t think of a good enough reason for me to carry on….and yet I carried on. I must be a very stupid person. Thankfully, Suzanne has a reasonably near-term goal. She wants to run Kaapsehoop. I told her not to read my blog about Kaapsehoop before she runs it but to take recovery shakes for 3 weeks before and to beware of the last 3 kilometres and the road camber. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth about my Kaapsehoop or the aftermath. She was also struggling tonight and so we muddled along together. I didn’t give up tonight partly because I knew that my misery had company and I knew that Suzanne has a goal. I have a goal but it’s only a year away and it’s just another Comrades Marathon so what’s the big deal?

At the end of the two hundreds, Suzanne and I embarked on our 4 minute slow jog which started as a slow amble but then Ringmaster Dave made us run. So we jogged. It was not unlike trudging through a Cambodian rice paddy, but it must have looked like a jog because Dave stopped stalking us.

What is “F pace”? I asked, not really wanting to know the answer. “Fucking fast!” said Suzanne. Dave tempered it with, “It’s almost almost flat out pace.” I think he only said that because with Illuminati and the SlowCoach in front of him, it was difficult to define it as fast or slow. There is such a vast cavernous divide between Illuminati fast and my fast. As far as Suzanne and I were concerned, we knew we had to run the one hundreds fucking fast. “How fast is fucking fast for a one hundred metre by a SlowCoach?” You might be asking. I think at our best, Suzanne and I managed about 21 seconds. That is more than double the time the Olympic champions take. The would run 100m, turn around and come back and we’d finish at the same time. How humiliating. But I swear, I felt like I was running Olympic times on some of those 100m sprints. I nearly vomited twice. I had an asthma attack once (it felt like an asthma attack). I had angina at least twice.

And then right at the end, the Ringmaster barked at us to do push ups immediately. His exact words were, “You can catch your breath later, right now do push ups immediately!” He tried to make it better by telling Suzanne and I that we had done very well and it was an excellent session. But then he proceeded to make me cry. Admittedly, I had been on the verge of tears since three hundred metres back, but Dave just opened the tap up. He told Suzanne and I that the only thing that would come between us and our being great is ….well….us, of course.

I cried because I know this all too well. It is very difficult to every single day fight the demon inside me, that saboteur of saboteurs. “Give up!” it shouts. “You’ll never be good enough! You’re a failure! You will always suck at this so you may as well just give up!” And the saboteur doesn’t only shout that about running. It’s everything.  There’s stuff that I’m very good at, but the saboteur finds shitty stuff to say to me even about the stuff that I’m very good at. “Give up! You’re a failure! You’re lazy! You’re just wasting your life here! Go back to bed.” And the saboteur is very clever. “Give up! You’re too clever for this gig! Time to move on because you’re bored, frustrated. You deserve better than this! JUST! GIVE! UP!”  Sometimes its quite difficult to fight that saboteur because its often a very persistant and very persuasive and very pervasive voice in my head. But tonight I did. Mostly. I didn’t do the cool down run, but I don’t care. I did those three fucking terrible sets and I did so mostly without losing my sense of humour.

Am I going to run Comrades next year? Ask me tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll have the reason.

Yours in not giving up.


A One-Legged Santa Passed Me On The Way…

Running is the ultimate leveller. When you’re on the road, there are no CEOs, there are no housekeepers, there are no housewives, there are no gardeners, there are no managers. There are just a whole lot of people on the same road experiencing the same pain and the same sense of achievement. Even those that are winning the race are experiencing the same pains and same worries and same fears. It’s such a beautiful metaphor for life. I really love that about running.

On Sunday I ran the Wits Kudus 21km. I think its the most difficult 21.1km on the Joburg running calendar. I’m led to believe by those who see more than the tarmac under their feet when they’re running that it’s a very pretty run. I’ll take their word for it! I was lucky to meet up with Jean at the start of the race. Jean and I met the week before at the Old Eds 21.1km and we’d run together for a short while. So this time, we started at a pace which we both found comfortable. Along the way, Jean met a client of hers who, as it turns out, is also a client of mine. Very strange, I know. The client, who shall henceforth be known as “The Client” Lyndon because he’s a Pinnock lawyer and well….you know lawyers…., ran with us the whole way and it was while we were discussing that we love running because it is, indeed, the great leveller, that The Client told me this story:

The Client has run several Comrades Marathons and it was on one Comrades marathon at a time when he was really struggling up a dreadful hill that he was passed by someone. That someone was not only dressed in a Santa suit, but that Santa had only one leg. Well, I never! A one-legged Santa? A one-legged Father Christmas passed me on a hill at Comrades!

I laughed so hard, I had to stop running. The Client told me he wanted me to go away. I wasn’t making fun of him. I was just astounded at the magnitude of the analogy for running being the great equaliser. What a surreal moment that must have been for him. What an incredible runner that one legged Santa must have been. The Client is no running slouch at all and that one-legged Santa passed him.

Thank you The Client. When I was crying behind my glasses at my usual 18km misery mark (he and Jean couldn’t see), I simply pictured the one-legged Santa passing The Client on the way to the Comrades finish line and I was smiling behind my glasses again.

I love that running is the great equaliser. I wish life was more like running. I love that there is no status on the road. Even the top runners know the suffering of the bottom feeders like me. Life is like that. We’re all muddling along in this life, but somehow in life, unlike running, we place some value on status and wealth or power or coming first. If only life were more like running. We’d meet people on our journey and make friends. We’d help those people we saw suffering either with an encouraging word or with a helping hand. We’d be grateful. We’d be patient. We’d win sometimes and other times we’d lose and we’d go and do it all again no matter what. Wouldn’t it be great if life was like running?

Yours in the love of running and life.
The Slow….slow Coach

One Ninth of a Comrades

I don’t usually write about my home training runs because, essentially, they’re boring. Don’t get me wrong. I learn something about myself and my running on every home training run, but mostly, they’re rather mundane. Today was different. When I left the house, I had no idea where I was going to go. I didn’t feel like doing my usual 5km or 10km run because well, they’re boring. So I went right instead of left and headed out towards the hills. The big hills of Northcliff. I live in Northcliff on the southern side of the hill and so heading west or north from my house, there are huge hills.

As I headed out from home, I decided I’d run to the top of Northcliff Hill and back. In the car, the hill seems about 3km away which meant that I would have a 6km run for the day which was good enough. On my feet the distance appeared and was further than 3km. In fact, it was exactly 5km away from my home. How fortuitous. From my house to the top of Northcliff hill is 5km and it’s not all uphill. From the top of Northcliff hill to my house is 5km and it’s not all downhill, as I was about to find out.
One 9th of a Comrades Marathon lurks outside my front door

I ran all the way to the top of Northcliff Hill. All the way. It’s hellishly steep for 2 long kilometres and there are other 200 or 300 metre ridiculously steep hills. The run home is much more difficult, however. The downhill 2km from the water tower to Frederick drive was hell on my knees and quads and the steep hills on the way home were way steeper than those on the way to the top of the hill. At one hill, on the way home, the hill was so steep, a car stalled as it stammered past me on the hill! That’s how steep it was. My average pace was 8:34 minutes per kilometre and at some points in my run, I was running at 5:36 minutes per kilometre. Lol! I know exactly where I was when I looked down at my watch and I was running at 11:34 per kilometre! I laughed out loud, because everything about my body was telling me I was running, but my watch told me I may as well have been strolling up that hill.

I imagine that my run today was a small taste of Comrades. The hills were preposterously steep, up and down and were merciless on every part of my legs.

I’ll add today’s route to my usual training routes because it’s just slightly over 10km which makes for an excellent run. Let me know when you want to join me on a one ninth Comrades training run.

Click on the link to learn more about this beautiful landmark

Lillyloompa has some interesting facts about the Northcliff Hill landmark