I’ve not been well, you know. I’ll pause momentarily for sympathy… *deafening silence…tumbleweeds*… I’ve had a nasty cold. Which we won’t be referring to as ‘man-flu’ as, in these enlightened, post-modern times, it could be construed to be sexist. Thus leading to the downfall of patriarchal control in the Western World. And you don’t want that on your conscience. Well, you might. If you’re a radical feminist. Or perhaps even a moderate feminist. Hell, I’m not here to judge. You do what you want. All I know is that I’ve been full of cold.
Imagine, as a runner you’re playing poker against winter. Try and stay with me on this – it’s almost worth it. Inevitable seasonal sniffles represents just one card in winter’s hand – a veritable royal flush of crappiness. Alongside it is the ace of plummeting temperatures (Urgh!), the king of short days (Argh!), the queen of various forms of precipitation at differing stages of frozenness (Bleugh!), the jack of general malaise (Bah!) and the ten of the urge to climb into a pile of leaves and not come out until Easter (‘The Hedgehogs had the right idea’ is yet another possibility for my gravestone epitaph). Wait, that means winter has six cards. The cheating bastard. *Upturns table, starts saloon brawl*
If we swath through the unnecessarily abstract metaphor above and into an equally confusing simile, the point is that when winter arrives like a flaming bag of dog poo on your doorstep, it can be quite the challenge to overcome the temptation to think ‘fine, the universe clearly doesn’t want me to go running, and who am I to argue with all of time and space and its contents?’ Hmm, does the ‘flaming bag of dog poo’ prank thing actually exist outside of fictional popular culture? Not in England, I suspect. Half-arsed Internet research leads me to several underwhelming videos of Beavis and Butthead-a-likes, hiding in bushes whilst giggling and snorting as if indulging in a fumbled bout of self-pleasure, whilst a turd-filled bag was ignored on someone’s doorstep. Clearly, like jumping a ravine in your car, assuming a stranger’s passing glance is an indication of rabid sexual desire or ‘talking trash’ to a figure of authority – some things only work in the movies.
Where were we? Right, I remember: Winter = bad for running. And I was going to present my game plan (or indeed, my opposing poker hand…nah, lets abandon that nonsense while we’re ahead. Are we still ahead? Were we ever ahead?) when it comes to avoiding the winter running blues. Because there are things that can be done to avoid the worst of the seasonal drop-off when it comes to ‘getting out there’. In the cold. And snow. And driving winds. In the dark. Urgh, stupid running…
1) Buy a notebook.
What? You heard me. Well, read me. Nothing galvanises my spirit (spirits: calling out to be galvanised) better that a new notebook. It’s a sign of intention. A new beginning. It’s all clean and crisp and empty and full of potential and hope. This’ll be the one. By the end of that notebook – when its filled with perfect, mistake-free notes in my bestest handwriting and within somehow contains the key to continued happiness and health and perfect, omnipresent supergalactic oneness – I’ll be complete. Ahem. But, if we return to planet earth for the briefest of moments, it is a good way to plot out aims for the week. Not, I hasten to add, a detailed plan of ‘what I must do when’. Because that is where failure lies. Just a general idea of what I want to do across the course of a week or month. Tick ‘em off if I do. Don’t get hung up on it if I don’t. Through my experience, it’s only my own unnecessarily mental self-harshness that has me feeling bad if I miss a run or a workout. No strangers stop me in the street and say ‘No 4-mile run this morning Ben? Tosser.’ So I urge you too to utilise a notebook for good not for evil. Like The Force. Or a truncheon.
2) Punch the darkness in the face
Not the popular British rock band from Lowestoft, you understand. They’ve done nothing to deserve that, to the best of my knowledge. No, I am again talking bollocks metaphorically. If, like me, you find that 9 hours of daylight per 24 hours leaves you somewhat spiritually deflated, its time to fight back – not with nunchuks and broken Newcastle Brown Ale bottle, but by not letting darkness equal inactivity. Try getting up early. Earlier than you would even if it was midsummer’s day and you were off on an early flight to Benidorm. Get a run in before breakfast and the gloat over the cornflakes whilst shaking a fist at the gloom beyond the curtains and declaring ‘one nil to me, season!’ Even if you get up and don’t head out for a run, just make the most of the extra time in whatever way you like – possibly freeing up some time for a run later – and think ‘I could be in bed. Fate wants me to be in bed. But I’ve just smacked fate across the bottom and send him upstairs to think about what he’s done. I’m up! I will not go quietly into the night! I will not vanish without a fight! I’m going to live on! I’m going to survive!’ and so forth.
3) Get outside during the daytime
Given that I’ve already alluded to the likelihood that I’m something of a seasonal affective disorder sufferer, I try to ensure I get out for some light and fresh air of a lunchtime. If I’m not going for a run, I head out for a walk. Regardless of the weather. Well, unless it’s ridiculous. Even if I’ve been running first thing in the morning in the gloom, getting a bit of fresh-air during daylight hours is important. I reckon. And it’s my blog so I’ll reckon what I want.
4) Calm this shit down
It’s winter. We’re just ticking over. Coasting. Like a locomotive through a station. Or the peloton down the Champs Elysees. Or a former Premier League footballer seeing out his career in Qatar. Just getting out there and getting some miles/kilometres in the bank is all it’s about. PBs? Pushing it? Upping the pace? Pfft, that’s fair-weather talk. That’s for 2016 Ben to worry about. Or not. No athletes take one look at driving wind and snow and think ‘this is where I peak’. Well, maybe skiers. And biathletes. And those people who rocket down that icy tube on a tea tray thing. What’s that called? Corpse? Bones? It’s something like that…skeleton! That’s it. Anyway, I meant no runners take one look at driving wind and snow and think ‘this is where I peak’, alright? Runners. Christ, you’re so pedantic…
5) Buy! Buy! Buy!
New season? New wardrobe! The winter can bring its plummeting temperatures and its freezing rain – I’ll simply adorn myself in multiple layers of new kit. Mmm…stuff. At a low ebb the other day, I headed online and splashed the cyber cash. As I type I await the arrival of new long-sleeved/long-legged attire. However, the million-dollar question is: will the new running tights be too tight? Buying such things on the Internet is always a gamble. Lets hope for ample gusset room. No one wants a crotch-hugger, even under cover of darkness. As the saying goes.
So, as the nights draw in and the weather gets ridiculous, the patience of casual runners everywhere is tested. But if we’re determined enough without being too hard on ourselves, we can keep doing what we love. Well, like. Well, abide. Well, hate but keep doing anyway. Stupid running.