Thursday, 30 June 2011

My Names Ben and I am A ........... Runner.

As I set on what is going to be my toughest challenge it is one full of apprehension and fear; and for the first time in a long time this isn’t a physical challenge… it’s a challenge of the mind.

Most people who know me will know that I like a drink. What is not commonly known is just how much.  Now, before I get too deep into this I would like to point out I am not a raving piss-head. I am not one of those people who wake in the morning searching for the vodka bottle. The reality is that I only drink 4 cans a night which in alcohol terms is little more than a bottle of wine.  There are many people who drink this every day and, to be fair, my addiction does not adversely effect everyday life at all; this is the very reason why stopping is going to be the biggest challenge.

See the thing is that after 6+ years of drinking I had become completely reliant on it; what may have started as a means to calm the mind and an aid to relax after quitting smoking, has now become a habitual part of my life, to the extent were I felt lost without it. I’d wake up in the morning or drive to work thinking I will need to pop to the shops on my way back from work, I would look at the change in my wallet and work out if I had enough money to get a few tins in; often in lieu of the days food.

This is when you’re caught up in an addiction and sub-consciously or consciously you know that it’s got you.  Drinking/smoking doesn’t just sneak up on you; you see it coming a mile off, all the telltale signs are there because you start arguing with yourself. The days when you haven’t got money or the time you find yourself just cramming a drink in and because you normally have one, you don’t enjoy it.  My wife often said when I had been training and got back late ‘’you don’t need a beer; you will be off to bed in a hour’’, but I would still find myself drinking it for the sake of drinking it - and when you drink 2 litres of beer that fast it is impossible to enjoy it.

Now I realised dinking Beer was becoming a problem an addiction, because i started trying to control IT so I would tell myself  ‘be strong; don’t have a beer tonight’, I would tell myself  I will cut down I will only have it a few nights a week, just the weekends.  But just driving past the shop brings you out in cold sweats.  You play the coin game, heads = beer, tails = no beer, so when tails turns up you then add other rules, fate only works with a pound coin or best of three/five/seven or I have a pocket full of coins so most heads wins… that kind of thing.  Then even when they all come back saying no drinking today, you start manipulating the people around you, “Beck (my Wife) do we need anything from the shops?’’, ‘’have we got enough bread in?’’, ‘’do we need any milk?” all in a vain attempt to get her permission, because if she says yes then it’s alright.

Then, if none of these methods gave me the right answer, I would start to get agitated, not aggressive or nasty, just agitated; we all know what it like to have some one around in a bad mood, even when they’re quiet it puts the whole house on edge.  And that was me - just brooding in the corner, getting the mundane jobs done with my blood pressure rising and body temperature going through the roof. All up to the point were I get that permission and Beck says “oh just get yourself some then” and instantly I’m back to normal. 

These are the reasons that I have to stop.  It’s not fair on me, or anyone around me to be stuck in this cycle; it’s not helping anyone.

Maybe it was fate or something but just at the right time motivation came along; unfortunately I don’t see signs well, small hints don’t work, big hints rarely work  I have to be smacked in the face with the preverbal hammer before I take note of anything, and this came in the shape of my bank balance.  Between work drying up, a cock-up by the tax office and a bit over zealous spending during the holiday period we were suddenly left skint.  The first easy fix was to cut out the beer and for the first few days this was all the incentive I needed.  They say it takes three days for the alcohol fully to clear your body, and then the cravings really start to kick in; I can tell you this is true.

I assume as with everyone that this is the tough part, but for me it’s not so much the physical effects, more the mental ones.  I know what I am like I don’t like conflict, I don’t like it in any form; whether it be physical or verbal I cannot handle it.  What I also found out is that I couldn’t handle the conflict within myself, every time I thought about having a beer my inner self would start arguing; it was like having a bunch of five year olds in my head and logical reasoning seemed to go out the window leaving me more confused and agitated than before.  Unfortunately I don’t have many tools at my disposal to reign myself in when I get like that.  I find it very hard to put things back into proportion, but what I have found is that if I can break the cycle and distract myself enough, I can refocus on the important bits and forget the rest.

For me this is where running has come into its own, when your on the road its only you no one else is there. Within the first few miles all that nervous physical energy is gone and you have broken your body into the motion of running, it becomes that time when it’s all about you, your body starts to relax and you become in tune with the repetitive motion of running you start to get in to the flow, each thud on the ground as trainer hits tarmac is like the ticking of a clock. I personally find this is what I can only describe a very medative, I find my mind starts to clear and I can quickly to put problems in perspective the solutions quickly become clearer, they may still be difficult but never quite so bad. A friend of mine calls this Centring yourself a process were you bring everything back to the core “you” and look out again with fresh eyes.

Then there’s the fun part, the part when you have calmed you’re troubles put things back in perspective, put the world to rights as such, you can really let your imagination loose it’s like daydreaming with all the endless possibilities that your mind can conjure but with clarity of conscious thought it’s a truly beautiful place to be and one with endless possibilities.

To me this is the beauty of the art of running.  Its simplicity means that you don’t have to think about the 100 and 1 other things you could do, it becomes simply a means to get you where you’re going, whatever that goal shall be.

I now have a new goal (well to be truthful it’s not a new goal I always knew it was there), I want that sense of clarity and stillness I get on the road to transpose in to my everyday life.  It is the one thing I have been searching for all these years I have just been using the wrong means to find it.

The very fact that I am writing at 5:30 in the morning 30 days since I have stopped drinking shows me that my addiction still has a very strong hold it’s still one of the first things to enter my mind in the morning. But with the road by my side and the calmness and clarity running gives me I know I will get through it on step at a time.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Running in the rain

Over here in the UK we have had an unseasonably long dry spell in fact it’s been the driest spring on record, but to be fair pretty good conditions for running, with expectation of the odd days they haven’t been too warm  or too cold so it’s made training quite pleasant to be honest almost we have been a bit spoilt.

So when the heavens opened on Sunday I could easily have excused myself and missed the run out, but unfortunately I have had a low mileage week, this was for no particular reason other than I have just been doing other things the problem is I have signed up for the Mansfield Half Marathon which is only two weeks away.

And being the competitive person I am I want to put in a half decent time, I know I haven’t worked hard enough for a PB but somewhere around the 1:45 should be in my reach. Any way it meant I had to hit the road I had planned on a hilly eight miler, so I dug out the old road shoes and water proofs and off I went.

It didn’t start out bad for the first few miles it was that light drizzle that just hangs in the air, after 3 miles the wind starting to pick up and the rain was slowly getting heavier and by 5 it was absolutely bucketing it down, within seconds I was drenched to the skin a minute later my headphones gave up, I find it very hard to describe the sheer amount of rain that fell but for five minutes it was just a constant barrage of water, I could have hidden under a tree but I didn’t want to it was too much fun you couldn’t help smile, to me it was hilarious, you get to a point where your that wet your shoes are squelching with every step that its just funny, motorist driving past look at you gone out as who is this random nutter  plodding down the street with the worlds biggest grin. And when I get home the wife is stood there with a plastic bag and a towel just shaking her head and smiling at the same time, to me this is a brilliant way to spend an hour on Sunday.

Oh please don’t get me wrong I do prefer dry days but the odd drenched day will always make me smile.  

Monday, 6 June 2011

Joining a running club

That’s it I have finely done it I have gone a joined a running club, over the last 4 years I have considered joining a club but was to afraid to be to do so, I didn’t want to be the one holding people back, or not being able to keep up with real runners I was afraid not to fit in.

This was the biggest problem I didn’t consider myself a real runner, that was until a mate of mine asked a rather direct question  “other than work and family what’s the one thing you  do or read about every single day” and the answer as simple “running” to which he followed up with “if you think about or run every day how can you not be a Real runner”.

It still took a bit longer to get the confidence to go, but I have now joined a club with some very nice people there, of all ages and abilities, there is no you’re not good enough I was so worried about, just a bunch of people all doing a activity they enjoy.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Clearing the Fog

Clearing the Fog

If you’re like me then some days you just wake up and you’re just out of sorts not for any particular reason you just don’t feel yourself, things irritate you which you normally don’t get bothered about and the thought of doing anything is met with contempt and total lack of enthusiasm, it’s like having a blanket of fog cloud you mind and encase you’re body.

My wife has learnt to read the signs she can tell when I am having one of those days....

Yep I know I sound like a complete mentalist and on those days properly am, so what is great these are the days when she tells me to go out and run, she’s not very diplomatic in her approach either  basically I get thrown out of the house and told not to come back for an hour.

Now it’s these days when I realize how much running has become such an important part of my life, the cleansing act of the of putting one foot in front of the other over and over again is so powerful, don’t get me wrong you don’t put a pair shoes on and you suddenly feel better the first three miles are always hell, the process of warming the body up and adjusting you’re breathing is never easy it takes a certain amount of self discipline but the rewards are great, after  this “warm up period” you’re body temperature rises the endorphins begin to flow but most important the mind starts to clear all the silly little depressive thoughts get burned away, It like having a candle inside the further you go the brighter and hotter it burns until it’s that hot and that bright the fog is melted away.  

And now the run is over the day begins, I may have run a eight miler but now I am full of energy, the mind is cleared and centred ready for the trails and tribulations of the day with a spring in my step.

My wife knows this and I know this, clear the fog and light the fire and have a good day J