My awkward running relationship with my left hand…

The worst time when I’m running is not the last stretch, the agonising last minutes when you dig deep for your remaining strength. No, instead I hate the first few awkward minutes.

Every time I go out it’s like learning how to run all over again. Is that really how legs move? Am I too bouncy? And most importantly and certainly most awkwardly…

What is my left hand doing?
What do I do with it?
How stupid does it look?
Mate.
Left hand.
Sort it out.

Right hand is doing a very honourable job holding my phone, source of both my music and my running app. Right hand is gripping. Right hand is being very useful. But left hand?

Damn, left hand is being a joke. My own self awareness makes the situation exponentially more dire and for the first lap I am consumed by the quandary that is my left hand.

I become Stewie Griffin of family guy singing ‘my left foot’. I feel a total buffoon all because I have no idea what to do with my stupid limb. 5 fingers debating how bent to be l. I review over and over, what do I normally do?

And this is the infuriating bit. The rest of the run everything is fine. I have no awareness of my hand outwith those first agonizing minutes. My hand is just an extension of my running self and works just fine… Or at least I assume it does as I have no recollection of thinking about it outside the first lap.

Damn you left hand.

You odd beast you.

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Failure and success (A lengthy personal post about returning home after a long time… and how running today made that ok)

It had been days, likely weeks since a decent run. Besides the odd 20 minute runs I had not been sticking to my 10K programme app.

I had malaise, I was a failure. Every passing day mounted that failure into sheer defeat. Defeat shifted into an acceptance and acceptance into new rationale. ‘I go home in 2 weeks, I can start running again then. It’s too hot here anyway. I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I’ve given up eating right because buying food here is so problematic.”

(That last one is true, food purchasing when I have little to no language skills relies a lot on guess work and in truth I had given up on trying to muddle through. I wanted home.)

The sheer weight of understanding I had nearly completed a year in Asia hit me like a wall. First elation, a weekend of excess in Guangzhou with a friend and partying until I couldn’t see. Secondly memories, feeling bad about leaving my shitty little part of the world and how quaint it actually can be now I was used to it. Thirdly and most upsetting, the wall of loneliness.

I had left my home for a year forsaking my then shitty relationship, my friends, my family and my life in order to go… well… do something and find something I guess. It was mostly running from things, but that can be a tale for another day.

In that year I had seen wonders; the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors, the Rice Terraces, the Asian cities, Hong Kong, Beijing, Hu tongs, transport, travel, tickets… I had managed lots in a short space of time. But I had been alone. Talking to a man in a bar in Beijing he hit me with a phrase I can’t shake:

‘well, no-one back home really gives a shit do they?’

No, I guess not was the answer I came up with. It was my experience and mine alone which was utterly invigorating and totally devastating. I don’t necessarily mean I needed I romantic partner, but the idea I couldn’t share it with my mum, my gran, my sister and the likes hurt me inside. I had trail blazed, who would follow? Would they even want to?

I felt a failure. A highly successful bucket listing failure.

I came in after a dinner alone in the village where I had chain-smoked several cigarettes, staining my hands with the scent. Smoking was something I associated with holiday and leisure, by engaging in it I guess I was trying to convince myself this wasn’t hard work despite coming home drained everyday. I sat on my bed to assume my youtube watching position as I had been doing for nights on nights on nights until…. GET THE FUCK UP.

Trainers. Socks. Shorts. Sports bra (was this tighter? Was I imagining it?). Phone. Headphones. Move.

Outside. Stairs. Hallway. Track.

I put on my phone and music. I went to my app.

‘Welcome to 10k trainer by Zen Labs. Start your warm up now.’

It was to be 5 mins then 10 mins run, 1 min walk repeated 4 times. I paused. Fuck it I’ll do 20 minutes. I went to go to set a timer. Did I really want to be out here for 1 hour?

FUCK THAT. MOVE. Hit start. Just go. Warm up. 10 mins. 1 min. 10 mins.

The stars were out. The sky was unusually unclouded and the night sky was littered with glittering stars. The north star looked oddly red. Was that a thing? Was that why it was a symbol? I thought it was a metaphor… but here it was.

By 20 mins in I bargained with myself. Do the 40 minutes and we get to lie in the middle of the track looking up.

In truth the bargain was not needed. I wasn’t exhausted. I kept going. 10 more. 1 min. Still ok. 10 more, that’s 5.5 laps of the track I still have no clue the distance of. 1 done. 2 done. 3 done. 4 done. 5 done. Check timer. 30 seconds to go. 20. 10. stop.

Done. Cool down. Headphones out.

In the first ten minutes I thought about this blog post. I had all sorts of dark ideas about failure and sadness. By the end I wasn’t elated but content I had finished. I had done it. I wasn’t a failure after all. I guess that was something good to take back home, I could run now. Likely further and longer than many of my friends.

Sad I had to think that, tragic I was trying to play this petty game of 1 up in my head to stroke some kind of ego, but in the year I was gone missed a wedding, various baby chat, a new relationship blooming and an engagement. I was genuinely happy for my mates. I was. I am. I love them and want them to be happy. But I felt left in the dust, my travelling hadn’t been life changing it had been like hitting a progress pause button as far as society was concerned. I had made some sort of error somewhere and this was where I had ended up. Here. On a track in China. At least I could run round said track. Make the most I guess.

I lay in the middle of the track for 30 minutes. The odd student came out to look at the mad teacher taking a moon-bath in the dark, staring up and occasionally using her pointed finger to follow a shooting star. I would have cared more, but I guess being caught in work out clothes doing something fairly wholesome isn’t a terrible way to be found.

At 21:30 I left the track and came home, where the full size of the moon could be appreciated from my 5th floor apartment. It was huge. I felt small. My achievements were small. But fuck it. So was everyone else’s.

I’d deal with that shit when I got back to Glasgow. You deal with running track one step at a time, one lap at a time, one interval at a time, one work out at a time. Why should life be any different?

Zen. Success. Calm.

I’m glad I went a run today.

Why running in China is awesome #4

The noises.

Recording them failed so I’m sorry I can’t share them fully. But I honestly haven’t experienced some of the noises I do here.

1- the daytime rattling bug thing…
If I’m running in the heat it sounds like rattlesnakes are coming after me. I have never really experienced grasshoppers never mind whatever this thing is. I was told it was locust bugs, but I’ve never met one of those either. The only reference I have for it is the day time outdoors noises in Anime, which I never really understood. Why bugs not birds? Guess now I know.

2- the nighttime wildlife…
The sun goes down and out come frogs, crickets, mice, bats and all sorts of odd noise making small animals. They take me by surprise. I’ll be running by and RIBBIT! Oh I’m sorry wee man, I’ll swerve I guess? Crickets compete to be the loudest, a string orchestra of legs. Again, besides the odd week in Spain I had never heard the likes of it! Lucky I run slow so to date there have been no underfoot casualties.

It was something I never even thought about until I could run more easily, being able to take in the surroundings instead of just trying to get through them.

What do you hear? Is it unique to your patch?

Why running in China is awesome #3

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Not many tracks have mini pagodas…

At my school track (falling apart by this time in the tern through use, heat and the odd monsoon) I am surrounded by ‘China’. What I mean is I have a mix of modern, bizarre and traditional features to enjoy as I watch the laps go by.

Modern
Just outside the school boundary we have power lines, huge power lines!  Running underneath them makes your hair rise and your arms prickle. I don’t know how healthy that is but hey, that’s life here.

Bizarre.
On the other side of the fence there is farm land. One of my favorite silent Chinese characters might walk by, an old thin man who has green in his beard and a round straw hat. He sometimes looks up at me disinterestedly, I look back blank but amused. Its an exchange that makes the run a strange one.

Traditional
There are various little wooden pagoda type structures around that are beautiful to look at. They remind me of where I am, which is this bizarre country called China. Why did I come to this odd place. Well that’s a story for another day.

In the mean time, I’m growing fond of my track. I’ll miss it when I leave at the end of the month.

The surprising benefit of running in the rain

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Yeah intro image I know, I know. That doesn’t make it fun though.

It gets in my eyes, I round my shoulders in protection but that ruins my breathing. I have to avoid puddles because I don’t want soaked socks. The whole experience is just bleh.

That said…

Have you ever not wanted to do something so you do it faster, getting it out the way?  Insert happy emojis here.

Today I ran 20 minutes, a comfy distance and enough to make me feel like putting on a sports bra was worth it but not so long I was going to be soaked through. I was genuinely worried about getting a cold, I have work to do and can’t afford time off.

In 20 mins I can normally run 10/ 10.5 laps of my track (the distance of which I still have no idea about) but today I ran 12. I surprised myself, unsure of I was getting fitter, faster, not trying to pace myself as much because it was a short run or if it was the rain. I’ll blame the rain, the rest seem too good to be true.

So thanks rain. You suck but like… Thanks? I guess?

😉

When Blisters became Callouses (AKA The Importance of Good Running Socks.)

When I first took up running in China I had little clue to what I was doing. Not saying I have much more clue now, but at least I’m getting better at avoiding injuries or blisters.

In my first 2 weeks of ‘proper’ running training (i.e. running everyday) I encountered a new problem; blisters on the arches of my feet.

They caused me pain, rubbed on socks and after lancing them to release the goo my feet had this strange rough patch on skin I had formerly never through much about before. I didn’t know how to get rid of them and worse I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong. I wasn’t sure if it was my shoes, my technique (for what it was) or just the fact it was a new repetitive action my body wasn’t used to.

I did the most logical thing I could think of. I ran through them.

Every day I went back out there, maybe with 2 pairs of socks on instead of 1, and went back at it. The foot pain only lasted a few minutes and at least if I felt it there I could say that it was because I was exercising. Weeks past and the hard skin formed, the pain lessened but the damage was done, the scar tissue was setting in. I didn’t even care.

While on Pinterest I read up on how to avoid blisters for the future. Socks! I needed better socks.

I changed trainers to ones with a lower instep and that particular section didn’t rub anymore, but if my feet got sweaty or wet (running through puddles etc) then my feet would rub and blisters form. I hadn’t even thought about it. Socks were socks in my book, but I was mistaken.

On my next trip to Guangzhou I made a point of buying socks. I went to Decathlon, which seems popular in China and stocks (ahem) ‘Western Sizes’.

socks
Who knew socks were this complex?

 

I bought some generic ‘sports socks’, ‘tube socks’ or whatever they are called and also tried out these; Kiprun Intensive Socks. They have more support round the middle section, which was giving me bother. I’ve ran in them plenty now and they are much better than the thin cottony efforts I was using before. They seem to absorb sweat (yum) and the extra elastic means they don’t move around as much, something I wasn’t even aware of until I tried better socks.

My advice to you, dear reader, is that if you want to be able to keep running without pesky blisters then invest in not just the shoes but the socks to go with them. The skin on your feet is delicate and it’s not worth the pain if it can be avoided so easily.

My own feet have since healed, the hard skin has gone but the areas the blisters were are still scarred, a noticeable difference from the rest of my foot. In truth, I don’t even mind. The red patches remind me that everyone can learn from their mistakes and not give up.

You can do it. 😉

 

Pintrest on Point #2

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I like this calm image. I like it because it reminds me that in the average 24 hours I have X number of tasks that I have to do. As long as I do them I’m golden, the world keeps turning and I can considering the day a success. Sometimes things get in the way of said success and can become awkward, making me feel deflated. I find this more in China where I often feel isolated, alone and small problems can seem huge without normal support networks (I work with some real idiots). I find that the more I run, the more I can understand ‘it’s ok. You still did this awesome thing. That’s good for you’. Everything can be put into perspective again. It’s all fine.