On the treadmill

or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the grind.

(Our sponsors would like to apologise in advance for the slightly more personal and self-indulgent nature of this post. Thank you for your custom.)

To achieve competence in sport necessitates training. Training involves doing the same thing over and over and over and over again: to build up strength, endurance and capability; to learn about your team-mates in co-operative games; to learn the rules; to perfect your technique.

If you want to run a marathon, you don’t just turn up on the day and do it. You train for it. You go out running. You start small; 5km, then 10, 15, up to half-marathon, work your way up to 20 miles and then you’re probably ready. You go out, 3 to 5 times a week, trudging around the same routes that were stunning and interesting at first but soon lost their charm after the 18th time, or, when the weathers bad and you’re a fair-weather runner, in the gym, pounding away mindlessly on the treadmill, getting the miles into your feet, conditioning your body and your mind ready for the challenge. There will be times when it will hurt, times when you don’t enjoy it and times when it goes badly and all these times will make you question why you’re doing it to yourself. And you won’t have a good answer.

Of course, you can cheat in a marathon but apart from those with good arguments to do so, what will you, the amateur runner, gain by doing so? The kudos? The prestige? The respect? When you’re finished – even without cheating – and you’ve got your finisher’s medal on display, people will congratulate you and say well done but it won’t mean anything to them. And that shiny piece of loot-onna-rope is just a symbol of the amount of time you spent grinding out the miles before the race.

What do you do then? You’ve done your marathon and that’s it. Maybe you didn’t enjoy it and stick to smaller distances or hang up your running shoes all together. That’s fine. It’s not for you and that’s okay. But maybe you’ll want to do it again and try to do it faster or find a more challenging course. Maybe this is just the beginning of a new hobby, a new pastime that will find you running the same courses over and over and over again, all just to feel that kick of adrenaline and pure rush of an endorphin high; all just to sate your achiever tendencies. And I happen to know for a fact that all that training will give you a lot of time to think about all sorts of things – especially about rubbish like this.

In two days time, I’ll be running an 85 mile ultramarathon along an old Roman trail through the middle of England. The finishers medal – if there is one – is likely to be nothing more than a cheap bit of bronze coloured tin.

This race is my Naxxramas; that medal is my Epic drop.

6 thoughts on “On the treadmill”

  1. To me, your ultramarathon sounds like it rewards you with an achievement, rather than loot :P One of those ones that takes ages and one only a few people do. You’d get real loot (better running shoes with a shiny logo on or something) if you were a pro runner (but of course you’d have to have no life to do that ;) Of course, it’s the achievements that take time that I want to gratz people for, not the [you got a profession/5 gold/a real job] spam.

  2. Dude, good luck there. Is there anywhere online to check pictures of the trail? Sounds like it’s amazing scenery to look at while you’re coughing up a lung and a half, 10 miles in.

    Best of lucks and don’t get injured.

    1. We’re doing the Ridgeway and the route is here. These pictures are in the first ten miles and the first half is pretty much like that for most of it.

      Later on, we’ll be passing Uffington castle and the nearby white horse (which, appropriately, is on Dragon Hill) as well as Wayland Smithy barrow (all can be seen here). Unfortunately, it’s likely to be 3am-4am when I get to that part so may not get to see much.

      We finish in the village of Avebury which is, apparently, the site of the largest stone ring in the world (and is supposedly older than nearby Stonehenge).

Comments are closed.