I’ve been running a regular route through the Porter Valley and up to the Oxstones on the boundary of the Peaks for the best part of ten years, and this last weekend, I ran a PB on it. At least, I think I did. I’m fairly sure I’d never dipped under thirty one minutes before until Saturday’s 30:15 effort. I don’t write this stuff down.
Of course, I could go back through my training ‘log’, but that’s just an accumulation of numbers made up from three or four different watches over a period of several years, with few (if any) reference notes added in above and beyond the occasional ‘felt alright’ or ‘bit windy today’. It doesn’t go into route specifics. I’m easily bored with the mechanical function of logging miles for the sake of it, the aimless anticipation of somebody potentially needing that data to refer to at some point. Spoiler: nobody ever has. Including me. So I record it, but never do anything with it. Instead I keep a running total in my head of the mileage I’m turning out every week and it works just fine.
You’ll understand then that I am not on Strava. I’m tech-savvy, but also a bit tech-sick.
There is confidence to be taken from routine, and merit in committing to and then following through with a regular training plan. Recording that is common sense. But joy in running, real joy, comes from the act itself. And in carrying out that act being present in the moment.
The sunrise above Wheelstones on a Derwent Valley Skyline round with Glen in April 2011. The magnitude of the Bossons Glacier & Mont Blanc whilst descending Brevent in Chamonix with Paul in 2013. Running the river path with Nic on a Summer’s evening near our first house together. Hallucinating with dehydration by an undrinkable lochan somewhere in Glentrool. Laying in a raging torrent on a flank of Flegere mid-race. These are all fresh in my mind as if they happened this morning. This is the gift of running. Snapshots, moments, experiences, memories, emotions. There isn’t a watch in the world that can record those. Couldn’t tell you what my heart rate was at any of those points. No idea what my pace was either, other than when I was laying in the river. So how can I make the intangible, tangible? Or at least more so? How can I record and convey these experiences in a meaningful way?
In February, we had our first child. Finlay is now five months old. His presence in our world has motivated me in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and that includes my running. I want to set him an example. I want him to see that hard work gets results. I want him to share in the joy that I find when I lace up and head out. I want him to see the same incredible things that running has enabled me to get to. I want him to find joy, and peace, and understanding in nature. So I’m working really hard at my craft, putting in the miles and trying to improve. Which in itself makes no sense, because he’s five months old and he doesn’t have a clue.
And so I’ve resolved to write these things down. On paper. Absolutely not a training log, and not so much a diary either. More an occasional record of what I’m up to in a way that makes sense to me. Drawings, notes, ideas, hopes. A journal to record the gifts of running, something that will hopefully make more sense one day to Finlay in respect of who his Dad is, rather than a spreadsheet with my mile PBs arranged in date order. I attribute value to this process and to these meanderings, where there is little value at the moment other than in my own mind. In making the intangible tangible.
Its early days, but in doing this I’ve also found a renewed sense of purpose. A desire to push new routes and break new ground, to race in different places, a duty of sorts to report back on the world and open up the possibilities on our doorstep. To instil a sense of adventure and escape. It has re-lit a fire inside of me that I didn’t even realise had been waning. To use a skill I have to maybe make things a bit better in some small way. I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again for the record: running is powerful. Get out there, get it done, and please. Write it down. Let me know what you get up to.