Saturday’s entry in my training log reads much like any other Saturday’s would, albeit with a bit more detail due to the fact that I was taking part in the Midland 12-stage relay:
Saturday: Midland 12 stage relay. Leg 1, 5.4 miles. 13th on leg, 22nd fastest of the day 28:14 (PB). Team 7th (11)
I was really happy with my race. Although it is not a common race distance, it is one I race every year when the road relays come around so I am happy to call it a PB. The time, set on a hilly course, is probably equaivalent to a mid to low 32 minute 10k. It’s just where I want to be at the moment. Just as a bad race provokes an athlete to reflect on what went wrong, it is also important to reflect on the good races. So that’s what I will try and do.
The conditions were good for road racing, still and cool, which made it easy to maintain a quick (by my standards) pace. I was also given leg one, traditionally the leg all teams put their fastest runner on. Having loads of fast people to pull me along made a huge difference. Oh yes, and I’ve been training a lot too. But I think the main reason was something else, something psychological and something not related to my training. Music.
I never listen to music when I’m out running. My twin passions never occur at the same time. I like to enjoy them separately and undiluted. But that’s just me. However, I do still like to get a good song stuck in my head just before a race. On Saturday it was Thursday. No, that’s not a typo. I mean the band Thursday, now sadly disbanded. I love getting pumped up before a race and for me there is nothing better to get me running fast than loud guitars and the words of the angry Geoff Rickly resonating in my head. ‘Counting 5-4-3-2-1’ was the last thing I listened to before embarking on leg 1, a song about wanting to get out of a city you’ve lived in all your life.
All his life he lived in this same house.
Same white fence surrounding him, he swore he would get out.
But he can’t cause his foot got caught in between the rails.
And all his friends were up ahead
They can’t hear him yelling, yelling for some help.
Other artists who get my legs turning are System of a Down, Thrice, Placebo and Alkaline Trio. In fact, anything with guitars and drums, catchy vocals and a fast tempo is enough to get me going.
After the race it is different though. Running, for me, is a form of release and relaxation. Before a run I feel wound up and tense; after it I usually feel calm. ‘Understanding in a Car Crash’ isn’t going to do it for me once I’ve finished pounding the tarmac. As I walked away from Sutton Park and back to the station on Saturday afternoon, my headphones started up again with the end of A City by the Light Divided playing. I pressed stop immediately and scrolled through my music library for something else. From T I went upwards, through the R’s (not in the mood for Rise Against), through the P’s (not today, Pearl Jam) and skipped the N’s altogether (No Use for a Name isn’t going to do it for me right now). I stopped at M. M for Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Now that’s what I want to hear. A nice big slice of Boston ska-punk, music with less hatred and more humour in its lyrics. As my train pulled away, my ears were graced with the sound of ‘All Things Considered,’ a song about an old man who has a habit of embellishing the truth.
The truth is what he used to and
What he’s had to do and
What he’s seen (and what he’s done)
All things considered, what he’s telling us
Isn’t hurting anyone
It is amazing what difference 28 minutes of running can make. This phenomenon does not just extend to music though; running has a profound effect on my state of mind. My wife will testify that during the short moments between me returning from work and pulling my trainers on I can be an absolutely hopeless human being. I can’t think straight, I am tense, wound up and frustrated and the only thing I can see with any clarity is the route I am going to take to the track. My ability to converse and think rationally disappear and there is only one way to get them back. Afterwards I am much more pleasant to be around; I calm down and can hold a proper conversation. I’m more Bosstones than Thursday. All things considered, running makes me a better person.
Now where are my trainers?