Upon leaving the military after 6 years of service, I once vowed never to pick up a pair of running trainers ever again!
All that changed, however, in the latter half of 2018 when I booked a once in a lifetime trip to Mount Everest in Nepal. Upon reading the itinerary of the trip and researching the physical demands not only of the trip, but living at high altitude for many weeks, I decided that my current couch potato like state was not going to work, and so I reverted back to the only thing I really knew how to do in regards to getting fit: running!
Without a plan or a coach I just started going out on short runs in the evenings after work and soon realised that my 5-year break from anything physical after leaving the military, had been less than kind to my fitness level.
However, sticking to my rather crude, self-styled and ill-educated “training plan”, fighting through the inevitable “down days”, I slowly started to see some small improvements (and later on, some larger improvements also), and so my trip to Everest was a success (and whether by genetics or training, did not suffer with a single high altitude related issue or any physical discomfort throughout the trip).
Upon returning from Nepal, I decided to keep at this new routine I had in place and noticed that it was not only beginning to get fun, but I had now inadvertently sparked a keen interest within myself to see how far I could really push myself if I so tried.
Researching and avidly reading book after book about running mechanics, running form, biology, training techniques and everything in-between, I slowly started to put my newly learnt knowledge into practice and began signing up for a few short races (and then training for them accordingly) with some success completing my first ever race (not long after my return from Everest), a 10k in Regent’s Park, London (52:06) and then a half marathon in Folkestone, Kent (2:03:59).
Since then, I have been putting a majority of my time into training and seeing some great improvements not only in splits, but my overall form, efficiency, economy and adding in a lot of elevation gain and speed work. Continually finding myself extremely humbled by (and grateful for), the benefits of this sport and basking in all the gifts that running has taught and given me: discipline, consistency, self-motivation and learning the value of commitment, daily purpose and routine, new-found knowledge and insight into how my body works (and an enormous appreciation for the resilience and outrageous complexity of the human body), pride in what my body can achieve and an overall boost to my entire life through happiness, mental calm and stability of emotions and moods. The list of benefits is endless, but I am finding that the further the distances I run, the longer I spend on my feet and the more energy and focus I give to running: the more I am getting back.
With my sights previously set on a few ultra distance races this year being smashed (due to COVID-19), it's difficult to say what the future holds (and even less predictable as this year goes on), however, keeping the routine and continuing to apply myself to training is giving me more and more confidence not only in how much my body can handle but also giving me a much greater appreciation for my mental abilities too: pushing through the pain and embracing the discomfort in order to push to new levels I never thought I could reach.
I cannot really fully explain what running means to me. I think for a lot of people (including myself once upon a time), they just don't get the addiction. That is, of course, until they themselves start to run and in turn, start to feel and understand the ‘pull’ and (as cheesy as it may sound), the “magic” of running. All I can say is that I strongly believe that a world with more runners will be far happier, far more understanding and adventurous, far more appreciative of nature and appreciative of our abilities as individuals and as a group, and a much much better place to live!
Follow David's adventures at @david_.runs