After plodding along pretty steadily and mostly pretty happily for the last couple of years, I finally made a big decision on the morning of Day 2 of the Saltmarsh 75.
It was shortly before I took this photo. This is looking out along the Blackwater Estuary towards Bradwell power station, which you can just see on the horizon.
It was a beautiful day, in an incredible part of the country. I had run a long way the day before in some pretty tough conditions. I’d been looking forward to and training hard for this event for a whole year, but I was about to pull out of the race. I’d just had enough, and nothing was going to change my mind about carrying on.
I decided that I really needed to start thinking about running a bit more quickly.
In theory this should be easy. To run a bit faster, you just… ermm… run a bit faster right?
There’s a great quote I read in a motorbike magazine a few years ago. Something along the lines of:
“All you have to do is lean a little further, get on the gas a little earlier, brake a little later and then you’ll win the race”
But to lean, you have to understand how and why and when to lean. You have to learn when a little further is a little too far.
You have to learn how much gas/throttle is too much. You have to learn how early is too early.
Learning to go fast on a motorbike can be dangerous, even assuming you are in the relatively controlled environment that is a road racing circuit. It hurts when you fall off, and you can break yourself and your bike. If you are anything like most bike racers, you will cry far more about the latter.
I guess I’m trying to say there are always barriers when you learn something new, or try to improve something you can do already. There is a reason why you do things the way you do them. Mostly it’s easy, or comfortable, or you like doing it that way. And you are scared of the unknown.
The main thing that stops me pushing my running speed is my asthma. I had a bad run last night where it wasn’t settling as it should and it really started to hurt. I know enough about managing it to realise when to stop, so backed off and went home.
But once I start to learn how to go faster, I’m frightened my breathing will get out of control and I won’t be able to calm it down. This can be due to a variety of factors, and a damp Scottish winter is a fairly big one.
So what can I do about this?
I have to know why I want to do it.
I have to find a starting point.
I have to understand what I am going to do and how I am going to try and do it.
I have to be sure I want to do it, so that when it gets hard, I don’t give up.
I have to practice it. Lots.
I have to appreciate it might not work, and I might have to change my approach several times before I find a way.
Reading through this list, I realise how much of this applies to music and learning a big new piece, and how my time at the RCS changed how I approach things.
I also think back to some of the incredible things I’ve done this year, and how I never thought I’d be able to do them.
But I did.
So there’s no reason I can’t learn to run faster. I have an inhaler, I know when too far is really too far, I know that there might have to be some considerable discomfort and I know it will be worth it.