I haven’t posted here on The Running Bug since back on the 20th March. The reason for my absence was an extended leave of absence to mark one of my own milestones – hitting the big 4-0.
I couldn’t have ‘timed’ my 40th better. I have spent a lot of time in the Cairngorms these past few years but never before have I encountered the kind of weather that we had for the duration of my birthday week which was spent running & walking in the Cairngorms with Mrs Mac. I recall two weeks spent in Aviemore one summer in which we had 13 days of torrential rain and a single sunny day. On that day Mrs Mac almost broke her ankle out walking in the hills, an injury that took some 6 months to fully clear, so, all in all, we have definitely had more successful holidays!
This time around, it was a different story altogether and we certainly made the most of it on walks in and around the Cairngorms. My ‘local’ run for the duration of our stay became an out, around and back from the hotel to the stunning Loch an Eilein, a great start to any day! The last run of my 30s came in the form of a hot & brutal 1000ft of ascent in under 2 miles as I ran up the back of Aviemore in the Craigellachie Nature Reserve. On top of an ascent of the Goat Path up Coire an t-Sneachda and back around Coire an Lochan and Lurchers Gully, earlier that day, this left me well and truly in need of a day of rest on my birthday!
“A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile… Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travellers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination.” (Wikipedia – Milestone)
I will admit to having had some initial reservations about reaching this particular milestone and this is only to be expected given that 40 is an age which attracts so much attention, in a way that 20 and 30 never did. I did my usual whenever something intrigues me – I Googled it. I actually didn’t find all that much to explain why 40 was such a big deal other than the suggestion that 40 signifies ‘middle age’. Now admittedly, I didn’t search for too long so perhaps I just missed the ‘real’ significance. I don’t know about anyone else, but me, personally… I am aiming for more than 80 years and, with a bit of luck, I will still be fit and active.
Using my 40th as my own particular reference point, I would say without doubt that I am healthier, fitter & happier than at any point in my life up until now. As such, I think it is safe to say that I am indeed following the ‘proper path’ and this all helps to put the big 4-0 into perspective for me.
In terms of running, a large number of my ultra friends have this year turned or are about to turn 40. Coincidentally, most of us are also attempting the 95 mile West Highland Way Race for the first time this coming June. Mid life crises? Maybe so but I would be more inclined to call this our mid life challenges.
Dean Karnazes perhaps sums it up in the opening chapter of Run!
“The human body was made to move. Everything about us was designed for locomotion, engineered for movement. Our modern world, however, invites just the opposite: idleness. We go from our air-conditioned cars to the elevators of our climate-controlled buildings to our comfortable office chairs. Modern rationale equates comfort and convenience – the total absence of pain and struggle – with happiness. I, along with a growing number of like-minded individuals, think that just the opposite may be true. We’ve grown so comfortable, we’re miserable. Personally, I never feel more alive than when I’m in great pain, struggling to persevere against insurmountable odds and untold adversity.”
I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘miserable’ but I agree with the essence of what Dean is saying. I have a comfortable office job throughout the week and, come the weekend, I want to hit the trails, to rack up the miles, to test myself, and perhaps even feel some pain. I am not a natural runner. I am not a fast runner. When I set out on training runs and ultramarathons alike, I expect that there will be periods where I will suffer. And yet, this is the ‘hobby/addiction’ that I, like my ultra friends, have chosen for myself.
Built for comfort, not speed
Looking at the various 40 jokes, I had to laugh when I came across this one:
“At 40, I realize that I was built for comfort, not speed.”
I have never been known for my speed but, ironically, it is something that I have embraced since turning 40.
My first weekend back after my time away in the Cairngorms was supposed to involve a couple of long runs of at least 20 miles. However, Saturday’s run did not go to plan and I limited the run to 12 miles. My legs felt unresponsive and jelly-like so I saw no point in pushing things. I settled for an afternoon spin bike session.
Sunday was no different and I opted instead to hit the treadmill. I decided to ‘punish myself’ with a hill and speed session rolled in to one. By the end of the 5 mile session, I looked like I had been caught in one almighty (indoor!) rain shower but the change in how I felt was remarkable. That afternoon I hit the cross trainer and the spin bike again and, I have to say, thoroughly enjoyed mixing it up a bit for a change.
I both lost & found my mojo, all in the short span of a single weekend and this morning I completed another 5 mile hill & speed session.
It’s not exactly what I had planned in terms of training at this stage and, reading of friends 30 mile plus runs this weekend, part of me wants to hit the panic button. The Hoka Highland Fling is on the 28th April and I currently have 1 finish and 1 DNF in this race. I am determined to add another finish and, thus, don’t want my training to lose direction. However, there is still time for the long slow run training and, in the meantime, my hill and speed work can only be beneficial.
My final thought on turning 40:
If I am ‘over the hill’, it is only because I chose to run up it!