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

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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Boracay Paradise Island Training Day Three

I want to dedicate this post to Boracay and the Philippines. I have been traveling for the last six months, all across South East Asia, and to be honest, I was exhausted.

After I finished my time in Thailand at Suwit gym, I was ready to go back home, to the creature comforts that one is use to. Your own food, your own customs and cultures, and off course your family and friends.

But when I arrived in Philippines it awoke my sense of adventure and I currently feel like I can keep traveling for the next few months, especially Boracay island, it is truly one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited.

Below are some photos of the beach where we do our strength and conditioning class.

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I have been very lucky the last two days as the weather has been perfect. It is currently rainy season and apparently the days before I came, it rained none stop.

So this morning we kicked off training with a run through town, down to the beach, it was a short easy paced run followed by a quick dip in the ocean. Our dip was cut short when the trainer and the rest of the trainees arrived.

We were immediately summoned out of the ocean and instructed to go on another run along the ocean. This time the run was not easy but fast paced as the instructors edged us along.

After the run we did our warm up session followed by four sets of high intensity exercises on the beach. I counted at least five Chinese tourists taking our picture as we were frog hopping up and down on the sand. It was an intense workout but having the ocean right there is extremely rewarding, we spent at least twenty minutes afterwards just wading around in the water, allowing our muscles to relax.

Once we were done, we headed over to Melissa’s (our local breakfast hangout) for some fruit shakes and omelettes.

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After breakfast I was exhausted but had some work to do, so the rest of the day was spent banging away at my keyboard behind my computer screen. I was planning to go down to the beach for a swim again but I could feel that I had already sunburnt a little bit.

In all honesty, it was hard for me to go to the afternoon training, physically I had a lot of energy but mentally my mind was slowing me down. I think that because the training is so hard, my mind tried to convince me to rather stay behind the computer screen and work, just skip the training but I fought off the mental fatigue and at 4:00 PM I was back in the gym.

We did not do any radical fitness regime today, instead we just boxed. At Suwit gym the training was all about Muay Thai, at Legacy it is all about Western Boxing. Two completely different arts.

Each trainee was paired up with a sparring partner and had to do two rounds with them, before switching to the next partner, this cycle repeated itself five times making it a total of ten rounds in the ring.

Four out of my five sparring session were great fun, we took it easy, only exchanging the odd light blow here and there, as we do not spar with power, but then there was Phillip, the German, who has been training here for the last four years…

He decided to not take it easy and I ended up taking several hard punches to the face and one punch to the ribs which actually knocked my wind out. It was one of the hardest sparring sessions that I have ever had but I enjoyed it. When I touch my face I can feel exactly where all the punches hit and especially on my nose, it really hurts when I touch it but nothing permanent.

After training me and some of the guys went into town to get some dinner. We ended up having burgers and fruit shakes and for some desert we just got some sweet tea.

All in all a great day of training, my body and face is aching all over but luckily I have tonight to rest, the next session is only tomorrow morning 🙂