I wrote this sometime ago, but I don’t think it ever saw the light of day.
I must be getting old because it took two tree-related incidents to fire up my imagination to come up with the theme for this blog post; fun! Newton just sat under one tree, had an apple fall on his head, and hey presto he’d thought up the whole law of gravity thing.
I was running along a route which passes under a group of trees with widespread branches and noticed that a massive flock of starlings were resting there. The white patches underneath indicated this was not the place to hang around. I sprinted through that section as fast as I could and escaped without any blemishes. I was quite impressed with my speed. A few days later I passed by a very old and twisted oak tree and remembered passing it a few years earlier running with two ladies who insisted on climbing it. They were both in their sixties, but had not lost their youthful enthusiasm for climbing. It was then I had my eureka moment (I know different scientist) connecting the two tree incidents – a lot of the time we’ve lost the child-like fun of running. Running books talk about ‘Fartlek’, a Swedish word for “speed play”, but unfortunately it has become just another interval session; we’ve hammered the joy out of it.
When I thought about the fun times I’ve had running I realised that many have come about by accident, but I am now more alert to the opportunities. The first that springs to mind was a rather incongruous event that happened in the middle of a 40-mile training run in preparation for the Comrades Marathon. I was about halfway into the run when I meet some young children on a farm track. One of them asked where I had come from, when I explained he didn’t know where I meant until his sister said, “It’s near where we stop for McDonald’s when we visit Nan.” “Cor that’s miles away” he said “you must be knackered. Do you want to race me on my bike?” I’ve never understood why he thought I would want to, but I took up the challenge. He pedalled furiously, and I ran as fast as I could. Fortunately, the track was muddy, making cycling hard and I just managed to beat him to the gate at the end of the track. The children went off for their tea and I had the prospect of 20 miles more running after exhausting myself in a pointless race. I chuckled to myself most of the way back at the stupidity of it, but it had been fun.
The next fun bit was post-Comrades, on a recovery run. I was jogging along at a comfortable pace, on a narrow path in a wood, when I disturbed a pheasant. He decided to run away from me by running straight ahead along the path, rather than dodging to the side into the wood. I sped up to see how fast he was, he sped up, I sped up some more. He was more than a match for me. I tried even harder and he resolutely refused to fly or escape to the side. I was determined to beat him. Then there was a sudden urgency as I realised that we would soon reach a busy road and I was probably chasing him to his death. I put in a lung-bursting effort and started gaining on him before he casually flew off to the side and into the woods. What a great speed session that was.
Since then I have chased deer, kingfishers, hares, herons, outrun lippy kids on housing estates, played aeroplanes running down hills, raced cars (not that difficult in London), run to beat the breaking waves on Hastings seafront and on one occasion chased a shoal of fish up a stream.
Release your inner child, have fun and at the same time get some speed work in.