Numero P

If you ever want to clear your head, go for a run. If you ever want to get to know yourself, train for a long-distance race.

I’m no sports scientist, but I am pretty confident that humans are not made to run marathons. It just wasn’t part of God’s plan. If it was, we’d probably have more legs. It’s a bit like travelling to a country that requires you to have vaccination before you go – that’s a warning sign saying, you might want to think twice before you do this.

I’ve run three full marathons now and probably six or seven half-marathons. I’ve also done a 56-mile challenge in 24hrs, but that nearly killed me and I won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

I love running, but I don’t love it that much that I dedicate my whole personal life to it. I’m just a normal guy who likes to burn off a few calories.

You don’t lose much weight training for a marathon, despite what you hear. If anything I put weight on. I took the carb loading to a whole new level as I felt like it was a part of the challenge.

The beauty of running is that anyone can do it. Anyone can put on a pair of trainers and go for a run. You’ve just got to have the determination to get up and go, and the dedication to train.

I won’t lie, it’s hard work. It can also be demoralising when you first try, because if you’re not a natural runner, you’ll be embarrassed at just how unfit you are.

But the beauty of running and what makes me run every other day is just how quickly you notice your progress. After a while you feel great. It’s not rocket science. You do it by mental markers. One day you might say to yourself, ‘I’m going to run around the block’. It might take you 20 minutes, half an hour or an hour, it doesn’t matter. You get around it.

Then the next time, you try and match it or improve it. And so on, and so on, until suddenly, before you know it, you’re running 10k in under an hour and are looking for the next challenge.

I believe the morning is the best time to run. Get up early and run before work. Run before your weekend starts. Before you’ve had your breakfast. You’ll feel great all day. No matter how busy your job is or what is thrown at you during the day, you won’t have to cancel your running plans in the evening, because you’ve already done it. No one can take that away from you.

I have to run early because I live in the Med. It’s too hot in the summer to run later than 7am, so I get up at 5.45am every other day and go for a run at 6.30am. I’m done by 7am. When your alarm clock goes off, I’m back home having a shower, 6k complete. I’m already feeling better than you and you haven’t even woken up yet.

When I was living in London, New York and Sydney, I would always get up and go for a run before work, no matter what the day or the weather conditions, which could be brutal.

I remember a time when I lived in New York. I was in a lift – sorry, elevator – complaining about the cold weather to someone, when this New Yorker turned around to me and said, “its not the weather that’s the problem. The problem is that you are not dressing appropriately for the weather”. Since that moment, nothing has stopped me from running.

If it’s cold outside, I wear cold weather gear. If it’s wet, I wear waterproofs. If it’s sunny and hot, I wear as little as possible. If it’s dark I wear high viz. Buy the tools you need to get the job done. Don’t cut corners, otherwise you’ll always have an excuse not to run.

The best thing about running is the chats you have. Normally with yourself. I would always advise running with a partner because a sensible running pace is a conversational one. But don’t be so reliant on your running partner that if they let you down one day you feel like you can’t run on your own. Everyone needs to lose their stabilisers eventually, so try mixing it up.

I often find myself having full blown conversations with myself. I rehearse presentations I am going to give later that day, or difficult work conversations I need to have. It helps me frame my argument. For some reason I never seem to forget the conversation I have had with myself, unlike dreams you can never seem to remember the next morning.

Running forces you to get to know yourself. As long as you don’t lose your concentration and get run over, running allows you to let your imagination run wild. Your thought process, creative thinking, ability to visualise and recall information is super-human. Some of my best ideas and biggest pitches have been conceived – and won – while I am out on my morning run, and my competitor is sleeping.

You can’t run a marathon without training. Training for a marathon requires commitment, dedication, determination, courage and belief. This all comes from within you. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to knowing your true soul.

All the pain you’ve suffered and miles you’ve clocked up to get you to the starting line are all worth it in the end. Whether you are running as a personal challenge or for a good cause, nothing will ever compare to the feeling of elation when you cross that finishing line. You did it. It was all you.

Copyright © Matthew Parkes 2020

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