England coach Gareth Southgate last week summed up perfectly what running means to many of us.
Unfortunately Gareth’s morning 10k in the Russian forests didn’t go quite to plan when he tripped over a step and dislocated his right shoulder.
As the current incumbent of the so-called ‘Impossible Job’, Gareth Southgate’s mishap is the only time he has put a foot wrong so far in the tournament – not that it did the team any harm after Sunday’s 6-1 thrashing of Panama.
But speaking to journalists he explained how running helps him cope with the demands of such a high-pressure role – and, like a true runner, he admitted he was ‘gutted’ because he was on for PB (40 odd minutes apparently though we don’t know for sure).
“Running is, as a manager, where you get time to think, time on your own,” he says, “and I will have to find a replacement for that because I don’t think I’ll be on the running machine any time soon in the next couple of months.”
It’s hard not to disagree with that. Fortunately I’ve never had a major lay off through injury, though recently I took a couple of weeks off running when my legs felt like they were seizing up – something to do with the added mileage and faster sessions, I’m guessing.
What does running mean for you?
For me running offers a place where I can just clear the mind, take in the view (when I go off road that is), and just forget everything.
It depends on the type of run, of course. Now that I’m marathon training I find myself thinking a lot more about the technical side of things and my ‘form’ more than I did when it was just a case of going out for a run.
But then often something else happens too while I’m out running – really good ideas start to pop in to my head. Typically, they’re work or writing related, and usually I just want to write them straight down when I get back home before they disappear from my mind or I get sucked in to day-to-day matters around the house.
So mentally it’s both a time of clarity and creativity – and that’s why I love it so much.
More of a team game than I thought
Of course, unlike football, running isn’t really a team sport. Except for me increasingly I’m finding that it is – or there is certainly a running community, you only have to head to your nearest parkrun every Saturday to see that.
In fact, it was one of the reasons I originally set up this blog as I wanted to create a ‘club’ or ‘community’ for people who couldn’t join a running club.
But how wrong, could I be? You only have to look at Facebook or Twitter to see what a massive community there is out there to tap into.
When it came to running I would either run alone or hook up with a running buddy or two on an adhoc basis.
However, I started to feel like it was getting a bit stale, and I couldn’t see any improvements in my running, in fact I was going backwards and getting slower.
Longdale Striders – the missing piece of the puzzle
Recently I’ve been running on a Tuesday night with the Longdale Striders in Taverham. I love these sessions, because for the first time since I really took up running as an adult, I’m actually focusing on running faster – which fits nicely into a goal of mine for this year.
Also there is a sense of camaraderie during training, and of people spurring you on when you start to fade.
For me the issue was always about whether I had the time to commit to a club, given my work schedules etc, but the sessions are very flexible, you pay as you go and turn up as and when you can.
And on the running side, I feel as though I’ve found a missing piece of the puzzle.
So yes, while like Gareth Southgate, I still love that feeling of getting out there on my own to get some headspace, and I don’t know what I would do with myself if I picked up the sort of injury that he has.
But I’m also realising that running is more of a team sport than I thought.