Well, after my most recent, and most successful, marathon, I realised one thing: I hate running. Hate it. It hurts. I was fighting cramp for the first half, and that slow-burning leg ache for the second half. It’s also incredibly frustrating. Running into strong winds makes me unbelievably angry. Hurling epithets at nature, questioning the justice and mercy of God, and wasting precious energy by screaming soundlessly into the deafening wind, it took a lot of determination to cover the final couple of kilometres.
And then I crossed the line. And all of a sudden, it was all so incredibly worthwhile. I felt like I’d conquered the world. It is mistakenly believed that hate is the polar opposite of love, but I would say that the only bipolar element of love, hate, and running could be summed up thus:
I hate running. It’s fantastic.
And driven on by this mix of emotions (instead of taking six months off to sleep) the Monday after the marathon, in the pitch-black evening, I pulled on my running shoes, and dragged a friend on a short, dark seven kilometre run. The following morning, I ran the same route, five minutes quicker. Then after two days of trains instead of training, I slipped into my minimals, and headed out for the countryside again.
Is it an addiction? A habit? A hobby? Do I run because I (sort of) enjoy it? Do I run to become healthy? Or am I, as Maslow would claim, Being and Becoming simultaneously? The answer is yes.
This is not the blog of a hardcore, serious athlete, neither is it the blog of an occasional jogger. (Jogging? What the hell is that?) I’m in training. Training for the next event that catches my eye. I plan to complete an Ironman in the not so distant future, too. But I’m also doing it for the pure, simple, unbridled pleasure of feeling the ground under my feet, the breeze in my eyes, and the sun and/or rain on my skin. And the pain, and the anger.
You won’t find here many in-depth discussions about the latest sports drinks, science, or supplements. I’m not searching for a way to one-up the rest of the field, and I’m definitely not qualified to help anyone else do that either. My biggest rival is the man I was yesterday. Sometimes he wins, sometimes I win.
My own personal well-being philosophy is simple. I try and eat healthily. Avoid meat during the week, attempt to pass on desert (or at least second helpings of desert), and practice an almost zero-tolerance approach to junk food. And exercise. When I run long distances I take a bottle of water and a banana or something. Bananiagua, I call it. That’s how I like to train. Simple.
Bananiagua. That’s my little joke, a pune, or play on words if you will. I assume, since it is not particularly funny, that I came up with it while I was running. I guess I have to thank (or blame?) Tyler Hamilton for that, as well as for the name of this blog, since both are derivatives of the same bit of cycling jargon. While tearing through Hamilton’s book ‘The Secret Race’ (with Daniel Coyle), I was introduced to the term paniagua. Basically, it’s a slight bastardisation of the Italian for ‘bread and water’, and was used to refer to any cyclist who was racing clean. No EPO, testosterone, blood doping, or anything else, just ‘bread and water’ that day.
In the midst of the current turmoil in the pro-cycling world, new-generation riders like Taylor Phinney have come to the fore to campaign and speak out for clean cycling. No doping, ‘legal’ drugs like painkillers are frowned upon, some don’t even use sports drinks. To each their own, but the new generation are an inspiration to me, proving you can keep it simple, and still go hard.
Me, I just love the challenge of pushing my own limits. It’s not just about running, or riding, or swimming, or even racing. It’s more than the moment, it’s about beating yesterday, enjoying today, and training for tomorrow.
Pain and anger. Those are my drugs. That’s what flows through my veins.