What makes us do the things we do and why do we do them?
The post title, although stolen from Iron Maiden’s classic track on the Number of the Beast album, is kind of apt.
The actual record is about people who are under attack that escape to the hills and hide, kind of how families were moved to the countryside during the war. Conversely, for us runners, we go to the hills to give ourselves a real good thrashing, but this can also be an escape, of sorts. Except we are escaping daily life, whether that’s work, stress, the other half, or just somewhere where we can find some peace. To be in the beautiful countryside and fresh air. Although in the case of Thursday Night Hill sessions, there’s no peace.
We force ourselves up ridiculously steep hills in the name of fitness, whilst our hearts, lungs and legs are screaming at us to stop! And we don’t just do this once in the 11 kilometres of the run. We keep on doing it. Are we stupid? Possibly. Are we striving for glory to be the first up the 25%+ silliness of said hills? It’s good to be first, right? Or are we doing it out of sheer enjoyment, knowing that we’ll be running laps around the rest of the population, sensibly sat at home watching the TV whilst we gain hopefully uber-levels of fitness in the process?
I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Enjoy it? Er, well let’s perhaps use another word. How about ‘tolerate’? Or even ‘torture’?
Some of the guys can carry on talking whilst they run up these hills, whilst I follow up hanging out of my arse with my heart and lungs threatening to evacuate onto the road. This better get easier, I tell myself. It turns us inside out. It hurts. It’s very uncomfortable. I feel every damn kilogram of my Christmas excess.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no slouch and usually finish in the top 10% at races and with an acceptable 4:02 Snowdonia Marathon time and sub-5 hour Pedol Peris (one of our local nasties). My 10k is 40 minutes. But I can’t stand running fast, I’m more about endurance.
Running up these buggers certainly isn’t what I would class as fun and is surely akin to sticking red-hot pins in one’s eyes. Nice thought.
But, we still do it. Like some insane quest for glory, no matter how much it hurts.
Take last night’s session, for example. I sat in my car as the clock showed 19:15 and there was only one other runner there. It was 2c outside and there was snow on the ground and I’d put on the wrong shoes, as I imagined trying to run up the hills in my Saucony Kinvara 4s would be somewhat impossible.
But then, everybody else started to turn up until there were twenty seven of us likeminded, maybe a tad crazy individuals. Snow on the ground? Pah! No problem. But let’s see if we can stay upright shall we?
And, amazingly, we all did despite getting the feeling that on the ups I struggled for traction as my face was due to have an unscheduled appointment with the tarmac. Good core workout though having to think a little bit more about foot placement/balance and it was a welcome(?) distraction from my screaming body. Heading back down the hills, well let’s just say we all could have done with skis or a sledge. It wasn’t deep; just a thin layer that caused enough of a problem for us in case we wanted to impersonate Eddie the Eagle. Believe me, there were a few people, including myself, who tried. Amazingly, none of us fell.
Lucky? Don’t be daft. We’re all just awesome runners with amazing feet, eye and flailing arms co-ordination.
But after finishing the final, horrible climb with relief and heading back down to the village, you feel glad that you came out and did probably the hardest run of your week. You didn’t give up on the first, nasty climb up towards the start of the Llanberis Path that takes you up to Snowdon. Instead you dug deep and made it to the top. Doesn’t matter if you were first or last. You made it.
You may feel totally like collapsing on the ground, but no, you take a couple of minutes to get your breath back and head back down with everybody else to the start of the next, lung-bursting, calf-tearing ascent. Everybody else suffers as you do, no matter how fit. It’s all relative. Besides, the fitter you are, the faster you attempt the hills and still end up uncomfortable.
But you know that, deep down, these hills will make you a much better and much stronger runner and when Spring arrives and you look forward to your first races of the year, you will perform at your best. Your body is stronger; lungs, heart, legs and mind.
For me though, it’s pure satisfaction and sure, maybe a little smugness. And why not? We deserve to feel a little smug for what we put ourselves through. Running is hard whether that’s on the flat or up vertical tarmac, but afterwards, despite our aches and pains, we feel better and we have released whatever stress we may have been suffering and we have had our little ESCAPE.
We have ran to the hills and we have returned to tell the tale and we feel better than ever.
That’s why I do it.
See you all next time and happy running J