I seem to have become somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde runner, a split personality with 2 conflicting sides trying to dominate the choice of training and racing. 2 different approaches to running that have little in common with each other beyond putting one foot in front of the other.
The Hyde runner
This is my natural side; the trail runner, happiest when out on the trails breathing in the fresh air and basking in the glory of the British countryside. A place where pacing, PB’s and 400m reps are irrelevant, where the wildlife you see is as important as the kilometres you cover. It feels like home as you watch the seasons pass over a runners year. The smell of rapeseed in bright yellow fields during the first hot days of the year, the crunch of your feet on grass frozen solid on early January mornings, spotting deer in the dawn light as they munch on the first spring shoots.
I like the escapism of trail running, of getting away from the busyness of modern life and finding some peace. It becomes a form of meditation, albeit one where you puff and pant your way up a hill. I don’t run anywhere particularly tough or high very often but it’s enough of an adventure to make me feel alive.
The Jekyll runner
But for all that Karma seeking running that Hyde represents there is always part of me drawn to the pure brutal simplicity of a hard and fast road race. Scenery and nature are irrelevant in the pursuit of a PB, of finally cracking 3.20 for a marathon or 19 minutes for a 5km. The never ending search for the fastest course, the best trainers and the perfect training plan. I even took on the challenge of running 4 marathons in 4 days around a lake in Milton Keynes, if that’s not the Jekyll coming out I don’t know what is!
It quickly becomes very obsessive, so focused on the outcome and hitting the sessions you quickly forget about the why you run. Triathlon is just the natural extension of this, the triumphant combination of 3 sports brings all manner of stats that can be measured (transition time PB’s anyone?) and ‘stuff’ purchased to make you faster. I see very little discussion amongst triathletes about scenic courses or enjoying a day out in the fresh air. I’ve done 2 triathlons now (technically one was a DNF) and am already lusting after a TT bike and wondering whether to try to build on my current triathlon fitness to take on the beautifully flat Cotswold Classic triathlon again to smash out a fast time.
Head vs. Heart
Yet in this head vs. heart competition it’s always going to be my heart that wins, I’ve loved doing triathlon but mainly because it’s introduced me to open water swimming and rekindled my love of cycling and not because it’s an excuse to find the perfect combination of lycra and carbon. I will continue in my quest for a marathon PB but my long runs will be on trail (much like the Kenyans do) and I’ll of course stop on runs to watch a kestrel hunting or take a photo of the misty dawn.
I think I’ll always find myself torn between these 2 competing running personalities and with so many amazing races to do never short of inspiration. It brings the risk of being distracted and not doing anything to your full ability, which is why I try to take some time in planning my goals for the year so that the race choices support them. There’s always next year to do that must do race after all right?