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

Week Three – Wednesday Training

I missed the morning training session as I had an appointment with the hospital to get a follow up injection for my dog bite. I will have to get four more injections over the course of the next month.

I am on a Verorab course, which is an anti rabies vaccine, I am pretty sure that the dog does not have rabies as it is a domesticated animal but I would rather be safe than sorry.

The upside of the whole expedition was that I could explore Phuket a little outside of the gym and the running route. On the way back from the hospital the roads had been closed, due to construction, so I had to take a detour which took me to the wonderful “Old town”.

This changed my whole perception of Phuket as it is a little hidden gem which I would not have heard of or visited otherwise. It is littered with coffee shops, art galleries and beautiful graffiti, it really feels like a different world. Here are a few pictures from the visit, also it has the best coffee that I have had in Phuket.

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Like I said, really cool place, I wish that I could have spent some more time there but my visit was cut short as I had to get back to the training.

Training has once again fallen into a rhythm or rather a routine, which it does deviate from, but the majority of the days are the same.

I started off with stretches and immediately afterwards taped my hands, normally I would do some skipping and other exercises before taping up my hands, but today I really wanted to get into the fighting. This was mainly due to a conversation which I had with my father, where he said, “Fight as much as possible, you can always still exercise but the fighting experience is invaluable.”, which makes sense and are some wise words coming from my old man.

So after taping up my hands I proceed to pound on the boxing bag for five minutes, this was followed by fifty sit ups, twenty push ups and the routine was repeated twice before I got called to the ring by my coach.

The more I fight, the more fun it gets, today we extended my repertoire by including some low kicks, up elbows and backwards elbows into the mix. As I have mentioned in previous posts, as soon as you master one fighting skill, the coach adds another ten to the table.

What I really enjoy about broadening the moves that you know, is that all of it can be combined, for example, you can do a one punch – two punch- low kick – elbow – uppercut… These get hard to remember but if I am ever to compete in a Muay Thai fight they should come in handy 🙂

After the session with the coach, me and some of the other trainees had an impromptu fitness class, doing several exercises including squats, pushups, plank, squats, lunges and wrist mobility exercises. This was followed up with some pull ups and diamond pushups.

Overall a great training session, as I type this I can feel my muscles aching which is always a good feeling.

After training, some of us went for a quick dinner and afterwards everybody went for an ice bath. You lay in an ice bath for a few minutes and then follow it up with a sauna, apparently it is great for the muscles. I had to decline as I had some work to do but it is definitely on my to do list.

The food below is a salted egg spicy papaya salad. It is the first time that I have a salted egg, apparently it is called the thousand year old egg, which I would assume is because of the grainy texture that the yolk assumes. A really strange texture but delicious non the less.

Below the salad is a bowl of noodles with an assortment of additions, which I am not sure what they all were, I could make out egg, prawns, pork, squid, sausage and there were several more, also really tasty.

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That is it for tonight, I have decided to do the progress pics in the morning, so I will upload them first thing tomorrow. Peace.

Week Three – Tuesday Training

Let me start off with the dog bite, since I have been bitten, I have found out that the dog, that bit me, is a regular menace and has bitten several trainees. Apparently I am lucky as a few months ago, one of the trainees bent down to pet the dog and it bit her right in the face. She had to get several stitches.

Yesterday, I attended the training but took it easy on the boxing as my hand was a little sore. The dog bite is really small, I actually think that the five injections around the wound caused more hurt than the bite itself. I was still able to do a hardcore fitness regime, which was good.

Today I got taped up and was ready for action, the hand is still a little sensitive but not enough to stop me from fighting. I had two great training sessions, doing everything from skipping to handstands to some floor work with my coaches.

I was matched with two different coaches one in the morning session and one in the evening session, which is good as they both have very different techniques and you get to find out what really works for you.

In my last post I mentioned that I could feel that my kicks and punches have improved but today I realised that literally all of my exercises have improved.

I can now hold a handstand indefinitely which was definitely not the case when I started training here, I can even hold a one arm handstand but just for a few seconds. Pushups and sit ups have become a breeze and they basically act as a filler between each exercise. My skipping capacity has doubled, pull ups are almost muscle ups and my flexibility is off the scale.

It is really awesome to be able to sit here, two weeks into my training and feel a real difference. I spoke to a lot of the guys training with me and they all  feel the same, people have become fit, lost weight and learnt to fight in a mere two weeks.

The one thing that has worried me over the last two weeks is the uncertainty of once I am done here, how will I maintain this? Well the solution was actually easy, just go to another gym/training camp… I am only heading back home on the 18th of August, so I can easily squeeze in another two weeks but I have to be out of Thailand by the end of the month due to visa restrictions.

The world works in mysterious ways… When I started this blog, Micah, a fellow blogger from https://micahdoes.wordpress.com/ told me about a gym in The Philippines, Legacy Gym Boracay and I thought maybe on my next visit I will go there but I have decided to go at the end of the month. Another trainee, Tim is going and we have became good mates over the last two weeks, so it will be great to carry on my training over there with him! So Micah, I will see Legacy Gym Boracay sooner than we thought!

To finish off, here is the latest in my diet, ALI’s BBQ, great salad and BBQ.

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Weekend Update: Small fights, late nights and hospital visits.

I don’t even know where to begin because so much happened over the weekend… Lets start with Friday, Friday was fight night which was a little boring this time as there were no big fights, knock outs or fights where the contenders really went at it, overall it felt more “showy” than real fights but it is still great to see some live Muay Thai.

My favourite part of the evening was probably the four year old friends (maybe brothers) fighting. Before the fight they could be seen running around playing and just having a good time but when they were in the ring… Just kidding, they played more than they fought and at the end, both were winners.

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The children fight was a real crowd pleaser. There were several more serious fights, the one being two Muay Thai veterans, where both were showing off and taunting one another but I think both underestimated each one another. The fight ended up going all seven rounds without a knock out but it came close. The guy with the blue gloves had an insane kick, if he was to connect, he would literally have taken the other guys head off.

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After the fight, everyone just went to bed as Saturday morning we had another training day. Saturday morning I was still not 100%, I had a great training session but I could feel that the virus was still sapping away at my energy, nether-less I still gave it 100% and had a great session.

The rest of Saturday was spent doing some shopping, eating and just taking it easy as Saturday afternoon we had another training session. I actually took a nap right before the session and woke feeling fresh and ready for action.

I eat a lot of grilled chicken and salad, it has became my go to dish here in Thailand, although I love the noodle soups, the fried rice and the Pad Thai, the grilled chicken with salad is delicious and definitely the healthy choice and no, not I did not indulge in the below donuts but it was a close call. The below is grilled chicken, roast pork, jalapeno peppers and rice, so good and I also had a papaya salad with it.

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After the nap, I felt ready for the training and met up with everyone at 16:00. After the stretches the coach told me to warm up so long, while he spends some time with another trainee, Marcelle.

I did some skipping, sit ups, push ups and bag punches, then the coach called me for our one on one session. I can feel that my technique has improved as I have pretty much nailed the basics, like punches and kicks but he one thing with Muay Thai is that as soon as you master one technique and feel like you are making progress, there are ten new moves to learn.

The best is to take it one day at a time.

After the one on one session with the coach, I had a sparring session with Marcelle again, he has been doing kick boxing for a few years, so his punches hits hard and fast but I have learnt to dodge, block and counter. Sparring is great fun and an awesome adrenaline rush, I will miss it the most when training ends.

Below are some photos of the guys in action at the gym. Photo one, you can see Alex, the Australian, ready for action, never to be caught off guard, even if it is just a photo 🙂

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After the sparring session, we did some more fitness exercises and a few of us hung around and played on the pull up bars. I have decided that I will train to do a muscle up, I was very close to it but could just not get myself all the way up. I watched some videos on technique, so hopefully today will be the day.

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The above photo is post ABS workout, notice “Pando” on my left, he is finished 🙂

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I managed to hold the one arm handstand for a few seconds, another move on my to do list.

After training we all went to the pool, which is about 500 meters from where I stay for a team BBQ. Everyone was there and it was an amazing night. We had some beers, BBQ, there was singing and swimming, a very good night.

On the way back to my room from the BBQ I got bitten by a little dog. Just a small bite but the dog did manage to rip the skin and I knew I had to go to the hospital. Long story short, two hours, eight injections, scheduled return visits, a course of antibiotics, 32 000 Baht (R13 000 / $900) and peace of mind, I was back in bed, no worse than before.

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Sunday was spent moping and feeling sorry for myself but today everything is good again!

Week Two – Friday Training

I missed both my progress pics and update post yesterday but for a pretty valid reason. I woke in the morning feeling completely drained and totally out of it.

I wrote it off as fatigue, from lack of sleep, and went to the training anyway. As we started with the stretches, I knew something was wrong, normally with these I would shake off any fatigue and warm up to the training, but not yesterday morning.

I finished the stretches and could barely get off from the floor. Something was very wrong… I excused myself and went to lie down a bit. “Maybe I should eat something”, I thought, so I dragged myself through the shower and made my way to a restaurant.

After eating a lunch of BBQ chicken, brown rice and salad, I felt even worse. When I got back to the gym, I just got in bed and slept. I never nap and never sleep during the day but yesterday, I was could barely keep my eyes open.

I am sure that I caught some kind of bug at the night market, the previous night, I ate a curry which I tasted a little dodgy but it did not upset my stomach.

So I ended up skipping the morning and afternoon training sessions, as I slept through them, thankfully one of my fellow trainees brought me some medicine, food and honey with hot water, and after eating I immediately fell asleep.

This morning I woke up still feeling very much out of it, even after 20+ hours of sleep, so I took it very easy today but forced myself to go to the evening training session.

I did not want to over exert myself, so I skipped all the cardio and just did my full bodyweight fitness routine, which can be found here. It is not an easy routine and it still took me two hours to do. I could feel that I am not 100% yet, I was lacking a lot of stamina and power.

Now after the training I feel ok, still a bit fatigued but I can feel that most of the virus has left my body.

So tonight is fight night again, we are all heading to the stadium to see some Muay Thai.

Week Two – Wednesday Training

Wednesday already, time is flying by! I cannot believe that I have been training for ten days. It really feels like I arrived yesterday but I guess when you are training for +- 6 hours a day, time escapes you.

The training has seemed to take a routine, usually I was paired with different coaches, did different exercises and generally mixed things up a lot but now it seems that one coach has made it his mission to train me and a guy called Marcelle from the Netherlands. It is the coach from this post that likes his hammock naps 😉

Both sessions today were pretty much identical, I started off with some skipping, then stretching followed by some free time in which I did some bodyweight fitness and some punching bag work, then the coach called me over to practice some technics, then some fitness with the coach and then I finish up my bodyweight fitness routine.

But in session two I did something different… Let me rewind, earlier the day I showed one of my fellow trainees the protein supplement that I am using. He remarked, “Oh it has creatine in too”, I was surprised, “Not that I know off.”, “Yes, right here on the label, 3g creatine.”, “Oh”, I said…

I had absolutely no idea that  I was using creatine, I have nothing against it and I have used it before but it was just a huge surprise. I actually considered buying some the other day but decided against it.

So in the afternoon session, I was exhausted from the get go, everything felt a little lackluster, then just before the session with my coach, I ran to my room and had a quick protein/creatine shake.

The effect was immediate.

I had a sudden jolt of energy, I had more power and I suddenly had stamina, which a few minutes ago I could only have wished for. Seeing that I thought that it is only a protein shake, I would normally have only taken it after training.

From now on, I will definitely take this right before training. The exact contents of the supplement are as follows:

  • 30g Protein
  • 1g Sugar
  • 3g Creatine
  • 6.9g BCAAs
  • 5.3g Glutamine & Precursor
  • 3.2g Leucine

The only reason I bought this specific brand of protein powder was because I knew I had to take some form of protein supplement, as the Thai diet is very light in protein, so when I went to the nutrition store, I overheard an elderly Japanese lady saying to her daughter, “This one is number one”, so I thought, sure why not, it was a little more expensive than the rest but I mean, the Japanese lady did say it is the best.

I think taking this before exercise will greatly boost my performance, I am really excited to test this theory because it might just all be in my head.

I also noticed for the first time, the label says to drink 8 – 10 glasses of water per day whilst using the protein supplement, I am currently averaging 4.5 litres a day minimum, so I guess I am good.

My injuries are starting to interfere, not just with my training but my daily life, I am limping around like someone who just had a car accident. I am not going to post photos of the injuries/wounds as they are a little graphic.

But the full list of my injuries are blisters on my hands from pull ups, wounds on my knuckles from punches, blisters on both knees from kneeing the punching bag, my shins are blue from kicks and blocking kicks, my feet have wounds on them from the sandals and lastly my head has a few bumps from taking some punches.

It is like Nic, my fellow trainee says “There is always something.” So the only option is to push through and keep going.

The day was also filled with delicious food. I found this little local spot and had some delicious noodles.

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For dinner, we went to a little night market and had an assortment of foods.

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Week Two – Tuesday Training

Last night was horrible, I could not close an eye. I was kept up by pain, noise and then some more pain.

Friday I bought some new sandals, they were a little small but the lady assured me that it is leather and it will stretch. Which I am sure it will but not before it takes my feet with it.

I did not realise as I wore the sandals on Friday night, they tore into my feet, making rather large gashes above my feet and also below my feet. So yesterdays run, aggravated the wounds and by the time I went to bed my feet were swollen like watermelons and it they were on fire.

I treated it with some Betadine which may have contributed to the burning but that will at least that will stop any infection. The last time I rolled around, last night to check the time it was 4:30 AM, so when my alarm went off for the morning training at 6:00 AM, I did not even hit the snooze button, I just turned it off.

I woke up at about 10:00Am, feeling very irritated and groggy due to the lack of sleep but at least my feet were not hurting anymore. So for now, I will refrain from any running until my feet are completely healed, luckily I can still skip to my hearts content.

Currently my workload is very intense so after training I dived right in and got really productive. At around 13:00 is slipped out for lunch and had some amazing noodles.

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I saw the above BBQ, when I went for the noodles this afternoon, so I went back for it this evening. BBQ chicken and spicy papaya salad.

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Training tonight was one of the hardest training sessions yet. We were once again surprised by a few new faces who had joined the club and I saw that my trainer was busy helping someone else, which meant that I had to train myself.

Seeing that I missed the morning session , I went extra hard and kicked off the training with some skipping and then 5 minutes of punching and 50 sit ups, I repeated the punching and sit ups two more times.

I followed this up with kneeing the punching bag and then another 50 sit ups, which I also repeated twice. So basically three sets of each, then as soon as I finished the third set my trainer spotted me and called me over for some actual Muay Thai training.

We did the usual routine of kicks, punches, elbows and knees but by this time, I was exhausted. Just when I thought that we were finished, he called one of the new guys to spar with me, it went really well, we went about three rounds before both of us were exhausted.

“Finally, we are done.”, I thought… Then for the first time ever, after the training the coach called us for some more fitness, he normally just lets us go but today we followed up the sparring with some sit ups, knees and kicks to the punching bag, pretty much a repeat of how I started.

At this stage I was finished. I attempted some more core exercises just to finish everything up but my body literally could not hold itself. Oh I later found out that the coach also missed the morning training so he probably tried to make up for it!