Know your limits, and be flexible…

I have many friends who have run a marathon. I always ask them what it was like and whether they will run another. With the exception of a couple of hardy life long runners, to whom a marathon is just one of a long list of running goals and achievements, they all pause before answering. Firstly they will tell you of the sheer elation of crossing the finish line and the achievement, this is quickly followed by how much effort it took training and then ultimately completing the event., the points in the final run where they wondered just why they were doing this and whether they could even finish. The answer to whether they would do another is often "hmmm, maybe, I’m not sure, possibly,  mmm, yes, no, not sure… This answer really says everything about the allure and the difficulty that most of us will have running for such a long distance.

When I started out on my own personal journey from being sofa bound to running around, I, like many, had in my mind what I wished to achieve. I also had in mind how that would happen, the quick and soaring course my route back to fitness would take, the distances I would run, when I would be able to run them, and even how fast I might run them.

Needless to say, all these assumptions were based on previous fitness levels from some years before, generally being based on having always retained a level of core fitness and being generally active. This time round I had turned 50, been pretty much inactive for 3 to 4 years apart from walking regularly, and my muscles had withered away. I mean, they seriously had disappeared. I look back now and it is frightening!

My first thoughts when returning to training in early March 2017, were along these lines. ‘Hmmm, should take three maybe four months to get core fitness back, lose some weight, six to eight months and I should be back down from 102kg to nearer 80kg. I’ll be ready to run a half marathon before the end of the year and next April I’ll do the Brighton Marathon, simple.’

Well it’s safe to say all those plans went out the window very quickly. It’s been two years since I started that road back and it’s been a slog, I mean a real hard slog at times. I could easily have said blow it all and gone off to drown my woes in beer and takeaways. Thankfully I didn’t.

I’ve learnt a lot along the way about what my body can do, how to get through every sort of injury, what gear I need, how to train correctly, the necessity for a good physio, massage therapist and osteopath. I have found out that I still have the will power to carry on, even when I suffered injuries that meant I could hardly walk, let alone run. I still have set-backs, but thankfully they are getting fewer and further between.

The greatest lesson I have learnt is to be flexible, to know what I can achieve and what I want to achieve for me. I run this weekend in the BM10k at the Brighton Marathon weekend. When I first signed up last year, having started running again in October, I didn’t tell anyone, I weirdly felt that running the 10k was a cop out, when there was a Marathon going on. I have since got over this and having trained even to run 10k in a good time I’m now not sure I’ll even run a marathon in the future. In getting reacquainted with my body and it’s ongoing issues, I’m not sure I would want to batter that much. It’s initially a hard thing to admit, but it’s something we should all do when getting fit, active and healthy. It is good to set goals, but it is equally good to be realistic and be flexible. Don’t judge your goals on what you feel is social acceptable, or value it against what others can achieve. Balance it instead, against what your body is telling you. Challenge yourself of course, and push to be your best, but find the balance that works for you, your lifestyle and your happiness. Setting unachievable goals will eventually demotivate you and you may give up altogether.

I will now run regularly up to 10k, but may look for some different sporting challenges to take on alongside that. Maybe one day I'll change my mind and take on that marathon, who knows? I certainly don't.

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Written by Mark Wrangham - Founder of IT Games Club

IT Games Club is supported by a growing number of global IT companies, and aims to bring sport and fitness to the forefront of the IT industry. Challenging and motivating the industry to get fitter and healthier. If you are a senior IT professional who would like motivation and free entry into events around the world, then join up today, membership is free (and always will be). As we grow we will be opening up membership to a wider audience in the industry and across more sports and pastimes.