I love books. Every Christmas night, my Mum and Dad would put a much wanted book under our pillow along with new pyjamas (Thunderbird one year). That book was often my absolutely best Christmas present. I can still remember finding the Tales of Narnia and the thrill of reading that first page.
As the summer approaches, another book ritual kicks in - choosing the holiday reading. I love a treat and we've got a long trip this year so I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done.
Books and reading have been a constant pleasure throughout my life. A good book, a timely learned article or a zippy magazine piece provide insight, company, learning and great, great pleasure. I try to keep my book collection pared down and so the books that are with me have been life long friends and seen me through some tough times. Those books stay with me and tell the story of my life with remarkable accuracy. More recently I've added blogs and downloads and websites to my literary collection. My cup ranneth over when I first downloaded a book en route so I could read it there and then - wow!
So, it's not really surprising that I now have some running books in my book case. My running reading started with Women's Running Magazine and Runners World They broke me into the notion of reading about running. Then I was pointed in the direction of two of the great classics of running - Born to Run by Chris McDougall and Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and my running has been transformed by these books.
Some of it has been because I now have some knowledge about running, a bit of science. I now know about the importance of speed work and tempo runs; that you need to get carbs and protein in fairly quickly after a long run and certainly not after a shower, face pack, exfoliation and manicure! Useful stuff that helps you run better and stronger.
But the reading that really inspires my running and has changed me behind recognition isn't about facts and figures; it isn't about the calculations of pace and tempo. What really inspires me is runners talking about their running, their stories about how and why they run. Sure some of these can get quite technical, but the magic is when another runner lets you into what's going on in their head, sharing their experience of running.
There are times when reading the race report is like running alongside someone, without the pain and blisters. You can get a sense of what it's like to run very fast or very long; to run up hills, in the desert. You can run vicariously in every country in the world. You can learn how to run a great race and sadly too often what not to do.
It was reading runner's blogs that I understood that running a marathon isn't just about when you finish but crossing that line with a smile. I learnt that even the greatest runners have demons to face and their own challenges to beat. I have come to know that being able to run at all is a great privilege and one that we should never take for granted.
Something magic happens when all this running stuff gets into your brain. The other day I didn't leave enough time to get to a meeting. As I charged up the road I hurried quicker and quicker and then without thinking I leant forward, The I leant a bit more and then POW! I was running! Just like Danny says on the podcast, I was leaning like a Nordic skier! It felt remarkably good, despite (or maybe because of) the heels on my boots and a rucksack jumping about on my back.
Out of the blue the words 'born to run' came into my head. Of course! Suddenly it all made sense. Running to a meeting, even fully clothed, is a natural and obvious way to travel when a bit more speed is required (or just for fun). Usually when I've had to run in work gear it's felt very uncomfortable, not quite natural, but this time it felt just right. I ran and walked all the way and got there in good time, a bit flushed but feeling good. It's actually a bit easier falling forward in high heels and the rucksack holds my shoulders back. Not a marathon maybe but fine for a couple of miles.
Reading about running counts. It's sort of like our continuing professional development. If we want to be better runners then we have to learn. So yesterday when my train was delayed, instead of getting stressed, as befits my new laid back self (did I miss something? ed) I went with the flow and took the chance to catch up on my running reading. I read about Ethiopian runners in the Olympics. I saw a photo of Barefoot Ted and Christopher McDougall at the New York Barefoot Running Festival. I immersed myself in kit, supplements, the barefoot debate and runners. What a treat.
When the train started up again and the journey to work began again, I felt I'd been given a present - a little bit of the working day claimed back for reading about running. I smiled and that smile stayed with me all day.
So thank you to all your bloggers, runners, writers for sharing your stories, your wisdom and experiences. Thank you for letting me come with you as you train for your first marathon, do a park run or the West Highland Way. Thank you for helping me learn to be a runner.
Take care and happy running