My wife used to say to me “why don’t we go for a run together? Be nice to have a chat”. “A CHAT???” I’d say? “How am I expected to run AND talk? Do you think I’m bionic?”. And that would be the end of that.
So my iPod became my trusted friend when I’d go out running. Always at a low volume (in case my mum is reading this) but always on. In fact it was a joke in my family that Ian’s training plan for the Great North Run looked a bit like this:
Week 1, Download an app
Week 2, make a playlist
Week 3, rest week.
I’d get anxious if the battery was low and when I snapped my headphones in the week before the GNR I hardly slept until they were replaced.
It was therefore with a degree of angst that – when reading the rules and regs for the Run Nation Bamburgh 1/2 Marathon – I discovered that iPods were BANNED because the race was on the roads! Dum, dum, DU-U-U-UM! (tense music)
My friend James was running it with me – and by with, I mean that we travelled to the race together and agreed to come home together too. I was concerned that I wouldn’t get my pace, and my mind would wander and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate and I’d die!! Well, not die, but maybe not complete the run.
I made it clear to James that I wasn’t a good talker when running and he assured me that neither was he. Good start.
So as we ran off, James was like a leaping gazelle and got ahead in next to no time. I couldn’t find my pace. What to do, what to do? I did what I had told myself not to – I thought. And it didn’t take long until I thought about how to kill the time.
13(ish) miles, 26 letters. That’s 2 letters per mile. I like music. I know a decent bit about music. I’m going to play the alphabet game with myself! So I invented the game – the rules were simple. When you hit a mile marker, move to the next letter. When you think you’re about half way between the markers, move on again and so on and so forth.
It only took Abba et al and Blur and their alphabetical neighbours to get me caught up with James. So, surprisingly less panty and out of breath than I thought I would be, I explained the rules to him.
It wasn’t long before Debbie Gibson, Manilow (Barry) and U2 had given way to Yazz and the Plastic Population and ZZ Top all the way to the finish line. I didn’t die, I didn’t think about the following day at work and I didn’t miss my iPod.
I’ve said it before, but for me running is at least 60% in my mind and I really believe that without some kind of mental focus I tend to overthink the most basic of human functions – putting one leg in front of the other.
And you know what? I’m glad I was sans music as during the run at Kirkley at the weekend I had a couple of brief and a couple of not so brief chats with other runners and we all agreed that without a bit of company we would probably have struggled against the elements.
So here’s to meeting new people, in new places doing new things. And if anyone sees me at a race any time soon, any band beginning with THE belongs in the alphabet group of the second part of the name.