For me running takes on many different aspects. For example, I am coming up to running every day for five years (today was day 1813 according to the UK Streak List). I run socially with friends and with my running club. I compete in events, especially in Masters events, where I run against other people my age. And I take part in ultra races, for example, in January I will be taking part in the Winter Spine Race in the UK, a 268 mile (431km) non-stop race up the Pennine Way in the UK. Looking back at my records (RunKeeper and Strava) I see that in an average month I spend about 40 hours running. The actual time commitment is a bit longer than that as one needs to get into running gear and typically need to shower afterwards.
Given that I work full-time and I travel quite a bit for work, I thought I would share some observations about how I fit running into my schedule. I am typing this post in the departure lounge at Sydney airport and I am about to fly back to the UK. I flew from the UK on 29 November, and I will get back to the UK on 18 December. The trip has been just over a week of work and just over a week of holiday. During my 20 days in Australia, I managed to run 263km.
Running Every Day – the easy bit
For nearly five years I have run at least 3km every day and over that time I have averaged about 10km a day. It may sound counterintuitive, but of all my tasks, running every day is one of the easiest. Most people who exercise have to decide whether to exercise today, but I know I am going to run, so all I need to do is think about when. Because I know I am going to run tomorrow, I always have a plan for when I am going to run, and this means I tend to have a plan for how most of the day will unravel. I find this is useful in general, not just in terms of running. This process puts me in control of my schedule. This means I tend to have a higher ‘locus of control’. People with a low locus of control feel that life happens to them, people with higher levels tend to feel they are responsible for what goes right (and what goes wrong).
Of course, there are times when running every day is inconvenient. For example, on days full of meetings or on days when I am flying, I might need to get up at 5am to go for my run. However, even the decision to get up at 5am feeds my sense if being in control, because it is my decision to do it. The short 30-minute run at 5am is one part of a busy day that is all about ME and is not being done for anybody else.
Sightrunning refers to blending sightseeing with running. Sightrunning means that I get to see more of almost everywhere I visit than other people do. On this trip I ran around the famous sights of Sydney (e.g. the bridge and Opera House), I ran along the coast to Watsons Bay and came back by ferry, in Canberra my sightrunning took in Lake Burley Griffin and Mount Ainslie, and in Jindabyne the runs along the lake reached as far as Hatchery Bay.
Adventures and Challenges
I love adventures and challenges, so I through a couple of those into the mix too. In Sydney I ran the seven bridges route on a hot summer’s day, a 24km tour of seven bridges over Sydney Harbour, with the famous Harbour Bridge being the last one. In the Snowy mountains I tackled the Mount Kosciuszko loop from Charlottes Pass. This is a 22km offroad route that takes in Australia’s mountain. This run was challenging, but not in the way I was expecting. It is summer in Australia, so I took 3 litres of fluid, plenty of suncream and a sun hat. However, the wind was really strong, the clouds were low, and the temperature was just above freezing for most of the day, so I wore the gloves, jacket, and warm hat I had taken as a precaution.
Parkruns and being social
Parkruns are 5km runs that happen every Saturday morning in lots of countries, including Australia. They are free, very social, and run by local communities. I took part in three Parkruns on this trip, in Centennial Park in Sydney (running with my friend Daniel Alexander-Head), the Burley Griffin Parkrun in Canberra, and the Jindabyne Parkrun (from Banjo Paterson Park) with my partner Sue.
Some thoughts on fitting things in to a busy schedule
The following things all help me, perhaps they will help you too. I am talking about running, but your passion could be quite different, it could be yoga, swimming, reading, painting, playing music etc.
- Decide what you want to do and define it your way. I run every day (my choice) and I define running as being a minimum of 3km (my choice), and I define what I mean by ‘run’.
- Think ahead of time. On a normal day I will be deciding when I am going to run tomorrow. During a busy period, if I am travelling for several days or if I am attending a conference, I will plan several days ahead. This means I need to be more aware of my upcoming schedule, and that helps in other ways too.
- Be flexible. Some days I expect to go for a 10km run and the conditions are wrong, or I feel out of sorts, or there is a chance to do something else I want to do. In those days I just do my 3km ‘streak saver’. I am not a servant of running, it is my servant ????
- Focus on you. In terms of your passion, make sure you are doing it for you. It might not always be fun (running on a cold, rainy night is often not fun) but it should always end up making you feel better about yourself.
- Try different things. For me, this has meant running with different groups of people, running ultras, doing cross-country races, taking courses on how to lead running sessions and much more. Some I like more than others, and I do more of those. Let your passion grow and develop.