Up and Running

womens+rock+climbing+clothing

Running has never really interested me before.  It’s always been a means to an end, to get a ball of some description into, or over a net of another description.

Years ago, when my friend tried to talk me into joining her running club, I humored her “sure I’ll give it a try” I said, but what I was really saying was “I have no intention of running with you, I think you’re weird, runners are weird, I don’t understand you, all of you – thanks, but a big fat no thanks!”

My only experience to draw from, of running an official 10km race back in 2008 had yielded 2 of the biggest blisters I’d ever seen, let alone grown myself – hence, I didn’t do running.  Here’s some of the things you may have heard me say from time to time throughout my life until very recently:

  1. I hate running
  2. It’s boring
  3. It’s bad for your joints
  4. I’ve got the wrong body shape
  5. I’ve got flat feet

Fast forward to 2012 where climbing had become a part of my life. I was struggling with my confidence whilst lead climbing and I was a little out of shape.  I started to work out more, with the hope that feeling, looking and being fitter was going to help with my confidence on the rock.

I got into the habit of exercise again climbing on the weekends and fitness classes in the week.  I was starting to feel fitter, stronger and YES – more confident.  But I was literally running in from the office, getting changed and rushing out again.  This meant I was spending less time at home in my little love nest, with my little family.  So, I bought some free weights, a TRX, a body-pump bar bell and started pumping the iron at home.  I was also throwing in some dynamic exercises to mix it up.  But whilst I was enjoying training my arms and core – soon, I started to dread doing squats or lower body work-outs. Doing dynamic lunges on your bedroom floor might sound like a whole heap of fun, but when you’re on your own, with your trainers and a sweat on…not so much!

So then I got to thinking about running.  I figured with running, I’d get the leg work out, but with the additional benefit of CV.  ( I’ve been corrected tonight by my friend and fitness instructor.  It’s no longer called CV which is so passé – these days its MC – “Metabolic Conditioning!”) Either way, as I grappled with the possibility of opening my mind to something to which it had previously always been shut, I also started to think about the potential transferable skills or benefit that might exist when you combine running and climbing.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Running is literally free.  All you need is to buy a pair of half decent trainers… so its minimum start up costs (like climbing) and once you’ve got the trainers you can run whenever you so wish.  Now, without generalizing, but generally (haha) climbers either like to save money, or don’t have any in the first place so I could see a possible match here.
  • You can run in most locations.  If you were camping by the crag, you could start your day by rolling out of your tent and going for a run pretty easily.
  • Running is a mental battle, just as much as a physical one. Maybe if you could push through the barriers to keep on running, perhaps it could help you to push through the crux when you are pumped out of your mind?
  • Running should help with your cardio-vascular, I mean metabolic fitness. Yes, sometimes sport climbing requires short outbursts of explosive power, but then you get the big walls and the long routes where endurance is key.
  • Running and climbing are essentially individual sports, and whilst in climbing you rely on your belay for at least safety, sometimes when you are climbing it really can feel like it’s just you against the rock.
  • Oh and Sasha Diguilian runs and she happens to be the strongest female climber in the world at the moment – if it’s good enough for Sasha…

I took the plunge and booked myself a place in the Dubai Women’s 5km run in November.  I started to run.  At first I just did short 25 minute runs, but tried to do them regularly.  Quite quickly I started to feel the physical benefits but my mind was still telling me “this is just a fad, you won’t be able to keep it up, don’t buy the expensive asics yet, you’ll have given up by next week.”  But it didn’t happen.  And I started to get the bug –  I started wanting to run, and I was still finding it quite unbelievable!  My hip joints were giving me a bit of jip and I wondered if this would be a lasting problem.  When I was trying my project on the weekend, I kept getting cramp in my hips.  Hmm, I thought…  maybe this was going to hinder my climbing, not help me.  But I pushed on, thinking my body was just going through a process of adjustment.

I had to fly back to the UK for a wedding and in the airport I spotted a book.  Firstly I was attracted to the colour – the same pink as girlcrushrock!  Then I realized it was a book about running for women.  Perfect for the plane journey I thought –it was good to do some reading around the sport.

Back in the UAE and I was starting to feel like I could run for longer, so I did.  I had no idea how far I was running, but I was running 40 minutes at a time now and sometimes 50.  November still felt like ages away.  I did my usual, and got both impatient and excited and booked myself a place in the Dubai Desert Road Run – that weekend!  Eeek – I had no idea if I could run 10km!  I took myself off to a local park where they have a 1.6km running track.  I needed to know how far I was running.  I did 5 very slow laps, so 8km on the Monday.  The race was on the Friday.  Ok I’ve got this I thought – I might be running slowly, but at least I didn’t stop.

My goal was to finish the race and nothing more – it made me laugh when my friend who is an absolutely great runner called me up with some really great hints and tips for how to prep before the race. One of them was: “Make sure you go to the toilet in the morning, you’ll be nervous.”  I didn’t think I’d be nervous – I reminded her of the “slight” difference in our agendas – she goes out to win 10km’s and more often than not – does! (She’s amazing.)  I was simply trying to finish the race before the medal ceremony started!  I’d read on the race website that the medals were handed out only 1h and 45mins after the race began.  Can you imagine the ceremony going on, and you still haven’t even reached the finish line?  HAHA!

Well, I enjoyed the entire experience!  Waking up early, gathering at the start line, pushing play on my iPod and cranking up the David Guetta as we waited for the gun.  And we were off!  My friend had said “Run the first 2km a lot slower than you can.  The biggest problem with running races is that people don’t know how to pace themselves.”  I followed this advice as the pack started to stride out and away from me.  I settled into a rhythm and took in my surroundings.  I can’t really remember much at all past 2km –  I was in some sort of running daze, but as I came round I realized I was passing the 7km marker.  Whilst there were heaps of people in front of me, I realized that noone had passed me which I found strange.  It was like I was on my own running the race.  I still had plenty left in the tank so I upped the pace a little and started to steadily overtake some peeps which felt good.  But I knew I was running at a very slow pace because I finished the race and I didn’t feel too tired.  My time was 1h and 03 mins.  Slow, but at least I now have a time to benchmark against and also have some sort of understanding of pace.  I reckon I can get under 1hour mark easily on the next one as I didn’t push myself this time.

I’ve booked a couple more 10km’s over the next month.  I’ve set a goal to run 100km of competitive races this winter.  Just 90km to go now!  And already (excuse the pun) my mind is starting to “run away” with ambitions of a half and then dare I think it – a full marathon???  Let’s see. One “step at a time”. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

I think its amazing how you can end up enjoying something that you thought you hated.  I really do think that I am going to start seeing running helping me with my climbing and visa versa.  I’d like to think I will keep it up.  The best thing I have gained out of this whole experience, is the reinforcement of the concept of opening your mind and trying new things, something I believe in more and more.  Life is so much richer when you do.

I’ve done a little bit of research online – here are some cool running events that happen around the globe.  Who knows, might see you soon at one of them!

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