What I talk about when I talk about running

This blog title has been borrowed from the book title by the writer Haruki Murakami and the main image is from the fan blog, http://www.haruki-murakami.com.

I have been toying with the idea of writing a blog post, inspired by the above mentioned book and my running habit. The book, a memoir, is a sort of autobiography which centers around the writer Haruki Murakami’s running habit.

Here is a small excerpt:

“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. ” – Haruki Murakami

Ever since I can remember, I have always been an avid runner, probably influenced by my father who at the age of sixty two still competes in marathons and runs on a regular basis. I keep track of his progress with my Runtastic App and can see exactly how many kilometers he has run for the month thus far.

I have fond memories of us running together, competing in races together and of him dragging me out of bed, telling (bamboozling) me, that we are only going for a quick jog around the block, which always ended up being a tough eight kilometers fast paced run around several blocks.

I don’t know why, but I always fell for his bamboozles.

Running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
One side of running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
Running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
The other side of running on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

Also, I have many memories of primary school, of waking up at the crack of dawn only to run the two or so kilometers to my school’s sports grounds, and then starting my official running training.

After high school I became a lazy student, who neglected health and fitness by citing academics as an excuse. Once I started working I did not get any better at all, I did a few fun runs here and there but nothing serious.

At the age of 26, I competed in a half marathon (The Two Oceans) with absolutely no prior training, just will and determination. It was a horrible idea. Once I passed the three kilometer mark, I dreaded every single meter thereafter. At times, I thought of flagging down the medical team and tapping out of the race, and at other times I contemplated just giving up.

Luckily I did neither, finished the race, and vowed that I would never run a half marathon again in my life…

The next year I ran the same race but this time, I had trained for about three weeks prior to it. As expected, it was yet again a horrible experience.

I remember how angry I was during the race. Angry that I had entered, and angry that I allowed others to influence me to enter.Not only did I vow to never enter a race again, but this time I told myself I was done with running. I actually think I bought a mountain bike a few weeks later.

The point of the stories above is that I do have a certain degree of natural fitness, a bit of crazy, strong will and determination and an affinity for running, which I have only embraced again recently.

I ran a couple of random races over the last couple of years but never in my life have I run like I run now. Every run is a small competition. A competition to try and beat myself, beat my time, beat my pace, and mostly: beat my mind.

Running to me has become an escape, and definitely a small addiction. Yes there is the physical element, where the brain releases endorphins, but there is a lot more to it.

I have grown to love the scientific and mental aspects of running as a sport, where I challenge every factor which could have had an influence on my performance for a specific run.

For example, on Monday, I will do a ten kilometer run at 6:00PM, my time will be approximately forty six minutes and seventeen seconds. Then on Wednesday I will run the exact same route, also at 6:00PM, but this time, my results will be approximately forty four minutes and twelve seconds. Which results in a difference of two minutes and five seconds.

Now this is where my mind starts working, I consider each factor: from what I had for breakfast to what time I went to bed. Then I also consider the mental state in which I was in when I started my run, and once I finished.

I weigh each factor and determine the influence that it may or may not have had, then I take note on how I might alter an element to improve my run.

The other day, I ran without drinking coffee, and I did exactly the same run after two flat whites. Needless to say, the post coffee run was way better than the no coffee run, this article explains more.

The above example is a little self explanatory, but there are more examples which are a little harder to explain, like the Kanye West vs Chance the Rapper phenomenon…

I have found that I run way better while listening to Kanye West than when I listen to Chance the Rapper. There could be several explanations for this, but my friend’s explanation still remains the best: “If I had to listen to Kanye West, I would also run for my life.”

Hilarious.

All jokes aside, Kanye’s earlier, pre-dark stuff is actually pretty uplifting and inspiring, I use it all the time for training.

So now you know what I talk about when I talk about running. As the title suggests, I do in fact talk about running.

This is not a topic which I can and will cover in one post, as I still have a lot that I could say when it comes to running. With that being said, I will end this with another timeless quote from the book title by the writer Haruki Murakami, one which has been a sort of a mantra for me.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.” – Haruki Murakami

Sunday bloody Sunday

I spent my Friday evening with some friends in a smoky bar, surrounding by people drinking and having a great time, I do not drink myself but have no problem hanging out in bars and around people drinking.

I actually sat at the table next to my ex girlfriend and her new husband but neither of us made any attempt to greet each other as we carried on as if our three years were together never actually happened, I am not really sure how I feel about that…

What did get to me, was the smoke, I spent around four hours in the bar and it was clouded with smoke! I must have smoked at least five cigarettes with all the second hand smoke that I inhaled.

At the time I did not realize the effect that it had on me but while driving home I could feel my throat aching, scratching and my sinuses starting to act up.

When I awoke Saturday morning, it felt like I had the flu, my head ached, my nasal cavities were all blocked up and I was in a down right foul mood. It felt like nothing could go right and everything just felt off, it was a sort of angsty depression, very strange sensation.

I can only deduct that this was caused by the smoke in the bar as no other external or internal factors changed except this. All my clothing from the night are still tainted with the smell of cigarette smoke.

I don’t judge people who smoke but I do hate smoking and as an ex smoker, I do believe that I have the right to hate smoking, as I know from personal experience the terrible health risks that smoking holds, it actually blows my mind that people still smoke but admittedly I was one of those people, not too long ago.

It seems that addiction trumps all sense of self preservation. Horrible really.

Saturday morning after finally getting put of bed, I had an insane training session, it was great, I trained in the sun, worked up a great sweat, followed it up with a cold shower and a great lunch but still I could not kick the dreaded feeling, the dreaded feeling followed me until I fell asleep and I finally managed to shake it the next day, which is today, but only after a yoga session, meditation and a run.

So the time is now 11:00AM on Sunday morning, it feels like my day can finish already as I have been so productive but alas, no rest for the wicked, I still have tons to do.

Once I finish the blog post, I have to pick up some ingredients for a herb, parmesan and steak carpaccio salad that I making for a lunch that I attending a bit later. Then I have some work to do afterwards and also some planning and decision making, I need to do, to ensure that this week and months goes as smooth as possible.

On a side note, I ran my fastest kilometer of my life today, with a flying speed of 3:35 for a kilometer, it was downhill but it was also on a trail, so I am sure that I can improve this on a tar road!

Its been a while…

Things have been extremely busy on my side…

For the first time in my life, I really know what it feels like, not to have any time and even when I do have time, there is always something that can and should be done.

It is not a bad place to be, as being busy… Keeps you busy and being in this situation has also forced me to revaluate what I spend my time on and also what my time is really worth.

The above actually has nothing to do with the infrequent blog updates. What has been a really tough mental barrier to break through has been the content of the blog and my subject matter.

How I feel about the content I write is also greatly influenced by whether I am inspired to write or not, and if I am not inspired, I feel that my writing has a very forced feel to it. I am not really comfortable to put out any content with which I am not entirely happy with.

I have also made peace with the fact that whilst traveling, the content came easy and I could write something everyday, as each day was filled with new adventures and exciting events which were in line with what my blog is about.

The subject matter, which I am referring to is my training and my travels. Currently my travels are non existent as I have been living in South Africa for the last couple of months and even though I have technically lived in four different towns since my arrival, I still do not consider this traveling and it would be a dreadful bore, typing out my daily routine of buying household cleaning products and hanging up laundry to dry.

Now as for the fitness, training and exercise part which in my opinion has always trumped the traveling, eating and adventure part. Although I have not been blogging about it does not mean it did not get a lot of attention.

Upon my return, my father said to me “The way you have been training is unsustainable, in a few weeks you will be unfit again.”, which naturally inspired me to train furiously with new inspiration.

Funnily enough, a sort of similar comment sparked the same reaction when I first left South Africa to travel abroad. A friend of mine said that I will not be able to train whilst traveling, too hell with that I decided.

This was before the idea of doing a Muay Thai camp even remotely crossed my mind. At that stage I did not even know that these existed. her comment also sparked a fever in me which drove me to seek out training places regardless of the 45 degree weather in Vietnam and the tropical rain falls in Cambodia, trained, I trained!

The above both led me to where I am right now as I am typing this and ironically I am now a lot fitter, stronger and leaner than I was while traveling, even though whilst traveling I did focus on exercise and diet, here at home I can be a lot more scientific and measure exactly what I put in my body and when.

I also have a routine, schedule and places to train. I think that this makes a massive difference as I have found that the most important aspect with exercise is definitely the consistency.

It is amazing that you do not realize any difference in your body until one day you just do. This does not happen overnight but rather over the course of several months or in my case, it took me well over a year to personally see any change although I knew that there was.

Today I feel like I can keep on writing and writing as I feel super inspired but I will have to cut it short as I have some work to do before going for running time trials in about an hour.

I have been running a lot lately. I actually have a goal to complete a 21km race with one and a half hours but this goal has changed to completing it in one hour and twenty minutes.

I will update with how it went and afterwards, I will be doing some calisthenics training.

Back in Africa!

I have been delaying writing this blog post for the last two months, which coincidentally is about the same amount of time that I have been back home in South Africa.

I started the blog whilst travelling and training in Thailand and the Philippines, in Thailand I spent a month doing Muai Thai training and in the Philippines, I did three weeks of Western boxing training.

Both were great and both were hard.

Since my return I have started doing gymnastics, I know, a bit of a change from the fight training but it has been great. Initially I thought of joining a boxing or Muai thai club again, which I still have not ruled out.

I chose gymnastics because over the last few months, I have been increasingly intrigued with callisthenics and body weight fitness and gymnastics seems to slot right into this.

I have been testing out a few different training routines and I have also incorporated some long distance running. Where I am staying at the moment, Fish Hoek, Western Cape, South Africa, I am surrounded by mountains, beaches and beautiful natural scenery. I am lucky to be able to walk out of my flat and in a few meters I am on the beach, which makes for great bare foot running.

Back to my point about the blog, I am not really sure how to pick it up again or what to really write about. SO I have decided to just take it as it comes.

Sunday a friend and I did a 16 kilometer hike up a very steep mountain, here are some pictures of the six hour adventure. img_1018

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And then we finished the day off with some lunch at the Waterfront.

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Phuket / Muay Thai Training Day Five Morning Session

I woke up with pain all over my body, at first I just lay completely still, contemplating what will be the most effective way to get out of bed without triggering any of the displeased muscles…

There was none.

I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for the morning run. It was hard but I did it. The run was great, I took some pictures on the way there and I finally got to measure the exact distance, which turned out to be 4.6km and not 6km.

Here are some pics from the morning run.

Notice the cows, peacefully grazing in the field.
Notice the cows, peacefully grazing in the field.
This is the final stretch before turning around, the water around you seems to renew your energy or it could be the view.
This is the final stretch before turning around, the water around you seems to renew your energy or it could be the view.
This is the from the end of the pier.
This is the from the end of the pier.
Here you can spot two other members, Nic and Nisha making their way towards the pier.
Here you can spot two other club members, Nic and Nisha making their way towards the pier.

I am lucky to have such a beautiful route, literally right outside the club. As the weeks go by, I will keep adding some distance to the route.

After the run, we did our morning stretch and I noticed something about the human psyche…

So there is one guy training with us, who has decided that he will not run, stretch or partake in any of the group exercises, he just spars with his coach. His reason is, he is saving his energy for the boxing, this means that while everyone else is stretching and doing some fitness exercises, he is off alone sparring with his coach in the ring next to us.

Today I notice that a whole lot of members were shooting him dark glances and some openly spoke about if you are here to train for Muay Thai, you should do the whole package, all while looking at him… Anyway is comes down to him ostracising himself from the group and people don’t tend to like it.

I cannot concern myself with the actions of others, although I do feel that it is kind of a waste to only spar for 30 minutes when there is an entire routine of +- 2 hours specifically created for trainees. Some of the more senior members feel that they should condemn and comment on his behaviour.

Play time is over…

I seem to have attracted the attention of two of the younger coaches who have made it their mission to summon me as soon as the stretching is over, they then proceed to unleash all their frustrations on me but in a good way.

Training is getting harder and harder each day and that is how it should be, I never want to feel complacent, I want to feel like I am going to die or vomit at least.

So this mornings training involved a combination of elbows, punches, knees and kicks, focusing on delivering several fast combinations of the above.

We ended the training with pull ups, push ups and  several rounds of air sparring. I did not have energy for handstands as I only got six hours of sleep, due to work, I can feel it is not nearly enough, I was very weak throughout the training.

Thats it for now, I have only had a banana after training, time to go and look for some food 🙂