The unexpected intimacy of exercise

So, I have something to confess: I’ve got a bit of a crush.

It all started with running. We both like to run. We are actually both training for a marathon and as a result we understand each other’s desire to talk about training a lot of the time, and about food, rest and recovery the rest. We have a similar outlook on life and are both outdoorsy. We share an interest diet and nutrition and we like the same recipes. We read the same books, share reader recommendations and take inspiration from the same people.

The only stumbling block is, we’ve never actually met.

This crush, you see, is really a cluster of crushes and has developed solely through the medium of the written word.

Training for a big sporting event can be quite lonely. It means saying ‘no’ a lot to nice social occasions, (even when you actually really want to go), and having to prioritise training over other things, which can feel quite selfish.

People might not understand why you would rather have an early night so you can spend your Sundays doing long runs, rather than go out partying until the early hours and then for brunch the next day, lazing the way through your Sunday afternoons.

The thing is, I would like to do these things too, but I just want to run that little bit more.

And of course you can’t just run a marathon on lazy Sunday afternoons. It doesn’t work like that. You have to gradually build up your mileage, stay healthy and injury free so you don’t have to miss and training runs. You have to cross train, take rest days and make sure you are eating and drinking the right things so you are hydrated, (but not overly so), well fuelled (but not over-full and stodgy) and feeling strong.

While this is hard in itself, it is that little bit harder when people tell you how tiring and difficult it all sounds and when they try to dissuade you from lacing up for a run.

So, in recent weeks I have been consciously surrounding myself with things that normalise training.

Luckily I have my water polo and Tough Mudder teammates close at hand, who are always up for a run, swim, country walk, climb, or all of the above at the drop of a hat. I am so grateful that I can suggest a post-work 9 mile run and a gossip and I know at least one person who will also see this as a good idea (Louise).

But the other place that I’ve been finding a lot of comfort and support is in books and blogs.

As regular readers may have noticed, since Christmas I’ve churned through three running books already and have another on hand to start this weekend.

By reading about other people’s running escapades – their training, their successes and failures – I feel involved in their lives, comforted that ‘off’ days and bad races are not just the preserve of amateur runner, and in a strange way I feel that I actually know them, although sadly, deep down I know that neither Haruki nor Scott nor Alex (as I fondly refer to them when I’m quoting from them to my friends – which I know is unhealthily often) don’t even know I exist.

And then there is the blogosphere.

Just over a year ago I’d not really read many blogs and I’d not started to write my own. Yet now I have a cluster of blogs that I love to visit. I love to hear what the writers are up to, what they’ve read that has inspired them, how they’ve managed their bad days, and injuries and food blow-outs. I want to know more about them, their training, their targets and achievements.

I always worry when writing a post about what it might offer to a reader: can I recommend a particular book, share a good recipe, or cite some interesting research. But when I read other people’s blogs I actually find that whether I learn something or not, just knowing that someone else is going through similar ups and downs as me is really reassuring and helpful.

I often forget that anyone reads this and am surprised when they ask how a particular run went or talk to me about an injury or illness I’ve mentioned here. But I hope in the same way I feel like I know the writers of the blogs I read (slightly weird as that may be) that my readers feel the same about me.

Happy reading!

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