Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas break challenge

My Christmas Challenge
One of the blogs I follow is the well written Fiona Outdoors and she's recently mentioned her self imposed challenge to run every day during December.  That sounds a great thing to do as it's very easy to eat a few more calories at this time of year.  I take my hat off to her while I think of all that Scottish snow and ice as I hate running in those conditions. I could only do that by alternating short runs (3m) with longer runs (6-10m).

I only picked up on this a few days ago and so I can't match this, being this far into December but I can run or cycle every day during the Christmas holiday.  We're not going away this Christmas and so there's nothing to stop me from now until the 3rd January when I return to work.

Cycling home from work
Yesterday I cycled to work, first time this month as far as I remember.  It just seemed a nice way of rounding off the year and I planned to "knock off" early.  The office building itself was very quiet for the whole day, perhaps only 25% colleagues in anyway.  The route to work was 13 miles and it seemed strangely hard going and I knew I had lost a lot of my "cycling muscles" and form in just a few weeks.  The ride was uneventful.  Coming home in daylight for a change was great. Knowing that we'd just passed the winter solstice brought a strange beauty to the ride.    As I started the journey home there was some drizzle in the air which, before long, turned to rain and so I decided to take my favourite long way home!  This added on a few more miles and a good hill to climb (and whiz down on the other side).  It just felt so good, such a wonderful way of leaving my work-related thoughts and worries in the office.

The super veteran in the gym
The previous two days I had been to the gym and amongst other things, I ran 10k in a remarkably ordinary time. What was truly remarkable was getting chatting to a fellow runner on the treadmill alongside mine.  He had been running a few minutes before I started and was going well with a good running form.  In our conversation he disclosed he was 61.  I truly admire him.  In one sense, yes, he looked 61.  His hair was almost white and he had a few wrinkles but also had a good measure of experience, of wisdom and encouragement in his words.  However, he ran like a lean, fit athlete half his age.  Modestly he mentioned he was running the London Marathon again this year after he had asked about my planned marathon time.  I felt his modesty would have prevented him from telling me his time, which I knew would be impressive for anyone, let alone a 61 year old.

I asked if he'd always been a runner.  "Only from when I was in my 30s, when I gave up playing football.  I did have a break a while ago when I had a small Achilles heal operation".

We both acknowledged the benefits of running, both staying in good shape physically and mentally.  When I explained the driver for my running is to control stress levels, he knew what I meant.  We commented, briefly, on the sedentary lifestyle of many and how they're heading for early graves.  Even the men working with free weights in the gym who were building up impressive muscles and weightlifting strength are not necessarily heading the right way.  What's the point of being a weight lifter and getting an early heart attack?

I can only admire someone like that.  Someone with the discipline to run in all conditions, month by month, year by year.  It is my hope I can be in that good shape when I'm 61, God willing.  Finally back to my challenge.  Yes a good thing to do over the Christmas break.  Of course, I'll feel the benefit and enjoy it but it's not just the next 10 days I should be thinking of, the real challenge for me, is over the coming years.  To keep going, don't let-up for fear of it being too difficult to start again.  Rachel, my ever tolerant wife, was told by a Doctor it's important to hit 50 in good shape.  Otherwise those niggles or health issues won't go away, they'll just carry on creeping forward and dragging you down.  So, this is another reminder as I approach the big 50!

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