Does running make you feel good?

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A nice sign my wife made me

First of all let me say thanks for all the feedback on my Dunoon sporting blog!  I forgot to mention my unreasonably successful basketball exploits and some of the names that helped out at the sporting clubs, I may go back to that later.  Also thanks to everyone who has shared my blog, donated money or even sent a message to me.  All of these things are really important to me and keep my motivation up.

I made a good bit of progress today – I wasn’t having the greatest day in the world and my initial thought was “I can’t wait to get out a run tonight”.  For me, that is progress!  In the past I would have thought “I can’t wait to get to McDonalds for a Large Signature BBQ burger meal with chilli cheese bites and a strawberry milkshake” or “I can’t wait to go to KFC for a large Fillet Burger Box meal with a small popcorn chicken (with beans and a Pepsi) or “I can’t wait to go to Burger King for a large Whopper meal and 2 chicken strips”.  Ha, reading back there I see I think about that too much 🙂 Then, if Kirsty was working, I would get home, go to bed about 6, waken up around 9 and feel awful!  But today, today I decided to go for a run instead.

I can pretty much pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was a “bit of a worrier”.  In Primary 2 David Mitchell (who was in Primary 3, I was in a composite class) brought in a Dundee United pennant to school.  At the end of the day I held it aloft as if I were celebrating a win – but it broke.  I went home that night worried sick that I was going to get into trouble for breaking this pennant but the next day nothing was said about it.  I felt a little relief but then I realised I had forgotten my library book so I started to worry about that.  Then, and I remember this as clear as yesterday, I thought to myself “Hey, I am always worried about something” – for a 6 year old that is a pretty weird thought!

Fast forward 36 years and I still hold the same thought.  I know myself I need to make a real effort to calm myself down and to stop worrying but it isn’t as easy because, I will always find something else to occupy my mind negatively.  It could be a health thing, a work thing or something as trivial as someone not saying hello to me when they pass me, I will immediately go to the worst case scenario and let it play over and over.  These feelings get worse at times of high stress in my life, for example when my Mum wasn’t well.  It could also have played a part in what happened to my eye so I am trying lots of different things to help me out and prevent it happening again.  At a visit to the doctor I was told my blood pressure was too high and the thing that brought it down the best was relaxing (as well as losing weight, cutting down on the salt and the blood pressure pills!).  I wouldn’t say I suffered from anxiety, I have seen people have an awful time with that, I am definitely an anxious person though.  One aspect I am really lucky with and which helps me out a lot are my family, friends and colleagues, a more supportive bunch of people I couldn’t hope for.

1 thing that helps my state of mind most though is getting out a run.  I have a few ideas about why this may be, here they are:

  • Breathing – people say deep breathing helps you relax – when you are running you do a lot of deep breathing (too much if you are like me and not the fittest!)
  • Short term, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed goals.  Ha, it’s like a job interview here…On a treadmill you are constantly looking for when the kilometre is over, when the mile has passed, how long you have left etc.  When you meet each of these milestones you get a wee boost.  One wee 5k run sees you aim for the 1k, 2k, 3k, 4k, 5k, 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, quarter way, third way, halfway, 2 thirds way and 3 quarters way – that’s 13 mini targets in the space of about 26 minutes, one feeling of success every 2 minutes – you don’t get that success rate in too many places.  Your mind is also fixed on these goals, on your breathing and on putting one foot in front of the other, you don’t have time to think about anything else really.
  • You are listening to something you enjoy.  I have a few good podcasts that really make me laugh that I love to listen to – this in itself will put you at ease, never mind the fact that you are running about.
  • Endorphins – I don’t know too much about these but apparently they are things that make you feel good and are released when you exercise.  The so-called “runner’s high” can leave you feeling amazing after a run
  • The social aspect of running – this is something I really like.  When you are out running other runners will say hello to you!  It doesn’t seem much but everyone from the fastest Callum Hawkins to the slowest Stuart Taylor will give you  nod or a smile as they pass you by and that wee bit of sociability isn’t too present in many other areas of life nowadays – don’t get me started on the self-service scanners at the supermarket.
  • Being able to chart improvement – who doesn’t like getting better at things?  The more you run, the better you get.  That’s one of the things I love about parkrun, being able to chart your progress over the months – again, a feeling of satisfaction.
  • Increase in self-esteem and confidence – for many reasons running can boost confidence.  It may be that you can lose weight and fit into a jacket you haven’t been able to in a while or you may feel fitter when you don’t get out of puff going up the stairs – it all combines to boost the old self-image.
  • Being able to enter races like the London Marathon give you a target, something to look forward to, something to aim for and the chance to help a great charity like the RNIB.
  • Spending quality time with the wife!  Kirsty and I often head to the gym together, it’s something different than sitting on the couch watching Netflix.

Hopefully this blog is ok.  I know there is still a bit of a stigma talking about things like this but I reckon it is important.  I know I am very lucky and have a really good support system around me but other people aren’t so lucky.  I also know that some people may be reading this and thinking they need a lot more than just going out a run to help them and for those people, I really hope they get the help that they need, mental health services in the UK are brutally underfunded – although real progress is being made in this regard.

You can visit my justgiving page here if you would like to help me raise money for the RNIB or you can do the following:

Text SMTR76 £1 to 70070 to donate £1

Text SMTR76 £2 to 70070 to donate £2

Text SMTR76 £3 to 70070 to donate £3

Text SMTR76 £4 to 70070 to donate £4

Text SMTR76 £5 to 70070 to donate £5

Text SMTR76 £10 to 70070 to donate £10

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Parkruns are Gallus

Parkruns are amazing, they are great, they are fun and you never regret running them (although you will regret not running them). I would probably say they are the biggest and potentially most important thing to improve health in the UK since the smoking in public places ban. I am incorporating parkruns into my training for the 2019 London Marathon which I am running for the RNIB (text SMTR76 £1 to 70070 if you want to sponsor me a quid). This blog is about today’s parkrun at Strathclyde Park, a great parkrun, where else would you get views like this on a Saturday morning while keeping (or getting) fit?

I am not too sure of the history of parkrun, I know it began in London at Bushy parkrun and Leeds University played a big part in its growing popularity and now it is in many locations around the world. You could find out more at their UK site.

Parkrun is a free timed 5k race which happens all over the UK in various park at 9am (0930 in Scotland – we get a longer lie up here). They set you all off on your run and start a timer. As you cross the finish line you get a token which is then scanned with your own personal barcode and hey presto – later on that morning you get a text message telling you your time. Today’s parkrun seem to have been heavily supported by the CO-Op.

It was another crisp morning, not cold enough for frost and ice but cold enough! Classic anticyclone in winter weather (one for the geography geeks).

Here is where we got our goody boxes at the end, more of that later
Well branded by the CO-OP
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I liked these inspirational messages

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Always a welcome site at the end

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Dogs always welcome

Watch out, it will break your arm apparently!

Soon we got to the start of the event. I always like this bit. First of all everyone has to stand on the grass! We don’t have priority in the park and everyone has equal access etc. This is a decent moment because they wish people Happy Birthday, congratulate people on milestone parkruns and ask for volunteers. Parkrun couldn’t operate without the amazing volunteers and I really should make the effort to volunteer myself but I am always scared I will mess it up! I have volunteered at junior parkruns a few times but not at Strathclyde Park, that will change next month, I promise.

So, we set off. It is important to remember that parkrun is not a race, it is a run, you are running against yourself and your previous times or you are running for the fun of it. I realised this on my 2nd parkrun. I struggled round and was stuck for ages behind 2 younger children. In the last 200 metres I “sprinted” past them, feeling all smug and a little guilty, but mainly smug that I was defeating them. When they tore past me 100 metres later I came to the convenient realisation that it is not a race!

You very often see the same people at these runs. One of my favourites is the man with the pram who always effortlessly runs past me despite pushing his child in a pram. I also was running behind a lady in a New York City Marathon jacket, again making it look effortless whilst I struggled on! I couldn’t get past her at all! But she summed up parkrun for me by asking people who looked like they may be struggling if they were ok – all runners seem to be really nice.

The massed start

As we continued through the run I realised I wasn’t going to crack 25 minutes today. I came pretty close. My final time according to my Garmin watch was 25 minutes 11 seconds, my second best time I think.

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My splits show I could have probably pushed kilometres 2-4 a little more, but I am always scared of burning out, I need to trust the training! After the race was finished we got our little boxes from the CO-OP, it contained a healthy recipe book, a tin of chick peas, some tinned tomatoes (I love them) and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.

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So, there finished another parkrun. I can’t quite get over to you how much I enjoy these. They tick every box for what a good ethical organisation should be. They combat lots of problems we are facing at the moment. They benefit you physically, mentally and socially and if I were a doctor I would be prescribing them left right and centre.

Just as i was about to publish this my result came in. You get it sent as a text and you can also see it on the parkrun website along with your progress if you want. 295 runners today, brilliant!

Thanks to parkrun UK, the amazing volunteers (especially the wee girl with the cowbell at the turning point) and the CO-OP for today, that was great – again.

If you have managed to read this far and want to find out more about the work of the RNIB who I am running the London Marathon for you can check them out here and if you want to sponsor me you can do so here or text SMTR76 £1 to 70070. You can also donate 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 pounds that way too.

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My reward for finishing today