Sometimes targets seem so large they just appear unattainable. You look at them and think, “how can I ever achieve that?”. This week I hit eleven hundred running miles for 2019, a figure I felt was unimaginable, and I think, “how did I manage that?”. You know how? I kept turning up. Every step has counted along the way. Small things building to a grand total.
There is nothing special about me as a runner. I am very ordinary, not particularly quick, only took it up later in life and am never going to be anything other than a hobby runner. But I take it seriously – too seriously at times to be honest – and I do my best. And that is all that I can do.
For me, running has become about trying to be consistent; about making sure I get out when I can, regardless of where I am. The runs in the rain, the runs on my own, the runs with my daughter, the runs with my JogScotland group, the runs with friends from work, the races I have done. Everything has contributed and slowly, I have got to this point. This week has perhaps been a slightly extreme example of what I mean by this because I have been in Beijing, China, for work for the past six days.
It would be easy, when travelling, to give running a bit of a miss. Flights, work, jetlag, nice hotel, comfortable room. All of the things that could conspire into thinking of exercise as the last thing I would want to do. And I will be honest, I did think this for a long number of years when I started doing this job and my health suffered as a consequence.
But not now. Not since I have made the effort to change my lifestyle. While I still enjoy myself when I do go away, particularly, like this week, when I meet up with colleagues, this does not stand in the way of throwing on my trainers and getting a few miles in.
I am not saying this as some kind of humblebrag – and I apologise if it comes across like that – it just means that I retain a strong motivation, whether I am at home or I am away. Not every day, of course. There are some days where I really cannot be bothered and sack off running, but those days are few and far between. For me, they tend to coincide with the days after a big race where, having gone through that effort, there is a feeling of “what the hell is all this for?” when you look outside to a dark, rainy street or even when you are out running ON a dark, rainy street!!
The other thing about running when I am away – and I travel a lot – is that it is a great way to also do a bit of sightseeing and perhaps get to see things that you would not have the time to see otherwise. Jetlag is another great motivating factor – getting me up early enough in the morning to get a run in before going to work.
I am not a particular fan of running in the dark when I am away, so I tend to have a look at the weather app on my phone to see when it gets light, then head out shortly before then and that was the case this week.
One downside of being in Beijing is that Google Maps does not work. However, Apple Maps does, so I used it to look at the area around the hotel and then work out some routes. The routes I plan when I travel tend to be simple – I have got lost too many times when I have been away I can tell you, so at least I have learned from experience.
So this week I could see there was a park – The Temple of the Sun Park – relatively closeby, so I headed out down there. What I had not realised what that this was very close to a number of Embassy buildings, so had to run past loads of police and soldiers to get there! However, it was worth it for these beautiful views as the sun came up, people played table tennis, women danced to traditional music and others did Tai Chi in the park.
After my first couple of runs in Beijing, I realised that I was closing in on the eleven hundred mile mark, so I made up my mind that I would get over the line while I was there. But I also realised that I would probably need to do a longer run than my usual 5k to get to that mark. Looking at Apple Maps, I realised that if I extended out to 10km one morning that I could run from my hotel down to Tianenman Square and the edge of the Forbidden City.
Beijing is a huge place, and there are lots of Chinese people, nowhere more so than on this run. While this picture might may it look quite empty, the final few hundred metres being getting to this point was basically spent weaving between large tour groups visiting this area, and that was at seven o’clock in the morning! But I realise how fortunate I am to be able to run and see sights like this. This is the benefits of being motivated to run can bring.
By now I was about three miles away from the eleven hundred. Motivation, motivation, motivation. This is what targets keep giving me. So close now, but I needed a rest. I do not run every day – kudos to those who do – but I definitely find I need to take a break to let my body recover. Sometimes I do run up to six times a week, but having run four days on the trot I needed to ease off a bit.
Rest day done – it might be worth pointing out that I was doing work while I was here, which was the main purpose of my trip of course – I was then plotting another route. This time I had spotted that Beijing’s main train station was slightly more than two miles from the hotel, so a run down there and back would see my past the target mark.
I have been to Beijing before – on holiday last summer – and when I ran then it was meltingly hot and the humidity was terrible. This time, the weather was perfect for running. Cool and crisp mornings and very flat around the area where I was going. Perfect. And also Beijing’s legendary smog and poor air quality was held at bay so that also helped.
So on Friday morning, up I got at 6.05am, to get out, get ready, to leave the hotel in the dark just as the first hints of daylight were beginning to edge through at the bases of all the skyscrapers around me and I set off for those final few miles down towards the railway station. It was an unremarkable run. It was nothing special. But it got me over the line and what a great feeling that was. Another milestone passed. Another achievement attained. And once again I proved to myself I am more capable than I ever thought I could be. No need to prove it to anyone else. Only important to me.
Eleven hundred miles done. More than I could ever have imagined at the start of the year. More than I ever thought that I would run in a year. And still a month and a half to go until the end of 2019. So what next? Another target. Maybe twelve hundred? Maybe twelve hundred and fifty? Who knows? All I can say that is that I have got there by being consistent, by running regularly, by going out when I least fancied it, by going out when I really fancied it, by realising the benefits that running brings to my mental and physical well-being. Because of all of these things I plan to keep running for as long as I can and am well enough to do it.
This week? Another work trip away looms. More flights, more hotel rooms, more jet-lag, more work. And more running. Just keep turning up.