My Romance With Running

Stories about running


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How to run in the wind

The idea for this post came to me, believe it or not, while I was running in the wind. Something happened to me. Something I had previously thought was a physical impossibility, it happened to me.

If you run in Wellington you can’t avoid running in the wind.

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Some runners spit when they run, I am one of those runners. Sucking in air like a vacuum cleaner with a full bag means you get little spittles around your mouth. This is fine, you use your tongue muscles to collect them in to a nice little ball in your mouth, then you launch that ball off the side of the pavement. Look both ways in case any people are near. Look right, look left, look right again. Now you may spit.

Now add in 95km/ph winds that gust and change direction; you realise you have taken the care-free spitting for granted.

Males quickly learn about wind direction as soon as they are out of nappies, so have honed their skills in judging where a stream of saliva (or otherwise) will fly in a projection. Females are not so practiced at this.

I have misjudged the wind a number of times and my target of the pavement has been missed. What I have managed to hit is my legs, shoulder, chest, chin, neck, arm, cheek, and most recently, the inside of my ear. One very large,  and very stringy, 17km’s worth of hard running’s built up saliva spit ball straight in to my ear hole. GOAL! I’d almost given up on spitting in to my ear, thinking it was in the category of ‘kissing your elbow’, but I have finally added it to the ‘Impossible is nothing’ list alongside running an Ultramarathon and never eating bacon again.

Number of times I have spat on someone else: 0
Number of times I have spat on myself: 42 (20months of running, one mis-fire per fortnight)

When you run in the wind, you are either fighting a head wind that makes your eyes water and blows the snot clear out of your nostrils, or flying along in bounds with your hair streaming behind you like a victorious flag. Unless you run in one direction and get a lift back, you’ll have the pleasure of experiencing both.

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A  particularly windy day up on Car Parts trail in Wellington

When I encounter wind I try to lean in to it, like I’m running up a hill. Through teary eyes I focus on not being blown into oncoming traffic, ignore the sea water being blown over me and sniff deeply or employ the help of my sleeve to prevent having a sticky booger face. I put my head down, put one foot in front of the other and remain positive, thinking about the run back with a tail wind and all the energy being generated by those wind turbines.

Tips for being a champion wind runner

  • Tuck in behind someone so that they bear the brunt of it, and you can run in the ‘slip stream’
  • People with long hair- put it in a bun or it the wind will whip yo hair back and forth across your face, ouch.
  • Lean forwards a little, you won’t fall over unless there is a big gust of wind, and that’s only 60% likely
  • Purse the corner of your lips into an Elvis sneer if the wind is hitting you from side on to prevent spit from escaping
  • Don’t fear the wind! The more you get use to running in it the easier it gets.

If you are getting the tail wind, you’re prancing along like an excited pony and you run towards someone struggling against the wind, yell some words of encouragement! Or perhaps just give them a thumbs up in case they have something in their ear.


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The long and short of it

I have a few words of wisdom for those in the market for running gear for their legs. There is a reason that most people wear black 3/4 tights to exercise. There is a reason why rugby shorts are for rugby, and running shorts are for running. There is a reason for everything!

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SHORTS CHAFE!

Yes they do! This will almost always happen at the mid way point on a really long run, you’re a few km’s in and you feel that first little burning sensation on your inner thigh. Too late now mate, those babies will looked like plucked chickens dragged over hot tarseal by the time you get home. Once it starts there is little you can do to stop it, just keep running towards wherever you can get away with wearing no pants for a couple of hours.

Tucking your shorts in to your undies so that you look like you’re running wearing speedos is a method I have used to relieve chafe. It didn’t improve the situation at all, but I felt a sense of freedom running in almost-undies so I left the shorts firmly wedged in there.

Wearing your brother’s old Canterbury rugby shorts to run in is great when you’re starting out. Spot the Southlander careering around Wellington Harbour. The leg holes should be big enough for both legs at once, and the stiff cotton will act like a saw blade. You’ll have a line on your legs so gruesome that the sun will not light anything beyond it.

AVOID BUYING GREY TIGHTS

I love BodyPump. I love it so much that I stand right at the front of the class, every class, and when I hear the music outside the gym I start trying to do rotator raises with butternut pumpkins at New World Supermarket.

Don’t ever buy grey gym tights. The reasons may be immediately obvious to you, but just in case they aren’t, this is why.

When I lay down to do the core workout in the  BodyPump class I thought ‘That’s odd, I don’t remember peeing myself during the class.’ Wait a minute, sweat patches! One nice, visible from space, contrast set to high, crudely shaped like a heart, sweat patch, right in my groin. Complimented by a little sweaty arrow pointing to the spot between my butt cheeks that had acted as a funnel to channel any sweat to the pool gathering a little further down.

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Before and after a run

 Sweat patches are nothing to be ashamed of, they should be aspired to! Peeing yourself is slightly less acceptable, and the two are easily confused.

And the back view

And the back view

Those $15 tights don’t seem like such a bargain now, do they?

 Pick the right equipment for the job

Loose shorts are comfortable, and allow your legs and balls to move freely. Yes I said balls. There has been many a stray nut seen in the gym and the culprit is always that magic combination of loose shorts and no undies. No undies Monday stops when you set foot in the gym. Ladies, same goes for you. Please pick a sensible combination of underwear and over-wear for your bottom half, save the genital flashes for Snapchat.

My advice on choosing leg wear-

  • Pick something with few seam details or different panels of fabric on them. This means fewer parts to chafe and irritate your skin while you work out
  • Dark colours, patterns or horrendously/ gloriously/ heavenly bright tones hide sweat patches.
  • Check that they fit over your thighs properly and don’t sag around your fanny, you’ll end up hoisting them up like panty hose
  • POCKETS! Pockets are great for car keys, energy gels, your ipod and bus/coffee money, all of which you will put through the washing machine in a tired state after your run or gym session
  • Go for quality, if you can afford nice gym gear then do invest. It lasts longer, and there is less danger of it splitting or ripping while you’re in a group fitness class of 100 people mastering a roundhouse kick

 

Side note; I keep running around in these tights intending to get a picture for this blog, so there have been many sweat patches that have gone undocumented, but certainly not unseen. These ones were after a very windy 20km around the Bays in Wellington.

 

 


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The Bigger Picture

The Tarawera Ultra is just over a week away, and it seems ridiculous that right now I am mentally preparing more for not running this race than I am for running it, the thought of missing out is terrifying to me!

If you have seen me this week you may have been subject to a tantrum. Not being able to exercise makes me an irrational a-hole. I realise now that the world isn’t ending, nobody is going to die, and there are plenty of other races that I can enter this year if I can’t do this one. I’ve apologised to Ben for being a brat, to Hinano for saying I hoped that a Lion bit off her legs because she can run and I can’t, and I am making plans for how I can be a great support person on the sideline.

If you’re a good kid the week before Christmas, Santa will forget that you pushed the trampoline through the biggest window in the house trying to block out the sun and gave your brother his first black eye. Running should be the same right? I have been doing everything right for the past week and I feel like this means the past six months of never getting a massage, not stretching properly and completely overdoing it should be discounted.

I have been walking around with K- Tape racing stripes on my legs, missing long runs, eating heaps of cookies, and I even went to get acupuncture yesterday. I don’t really like needles but if it means I can do what I love then it is worth it.  When I mentioned to the acupuncturist that I am planning to run 60km across trails in ten days time, she gave me a Britney look.

You think it's a good idea to run 60km on that ankle?

You think it’s a good idea to run 60km on that ankle?

After reading Eat and Run, I have no reason to believe that I can’t run hundreds of kilometres with ribbons tied around my feet in place of shoes, with my only sustenance coming from chia seeds stuffed in to my eyelids. My mind believes that I can run for days and exist on dried apricots and peanut butter dinners. My body says otherwise. I get so exhausted from training that sometimes  I fall asleep on the floor after my run, or just cry like a baby because I’m overtired.

The ‘Harden up’ mentality is alive and well among trail runners, the acupuncturist would stick needles in her eyes if she read some of the conversations I have read.

‘I ran 210km on a torn calf’

‘You think that’s bad, I broke my arm during the Kepler when I tripped over a Takahe. Still finished.’

‘When I was running the Bedrock a boulder fell on me and I had to sever my arm with the jagged edge of a Gu Chomps packet. I kept running and got a course record.’

I may have embellished a little, but you get the point. All of this makes me think a little niggly achilles might as well be a paper cut. But you need to think about the bigger picture, is one race, on one day, out of the 365 days I could be running worth doing permanent damage to your body?

Is being among the best athletes in the world at the sport you love, running the same course as them, seeing all your running friends, making new ones, and drinking in the spectacular views across 60kms of bush really worth not being able to run/walk properly for a few weeks? I’m not sure yet!

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The Tarawera Course


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Runner’s guide to aesthetics Part 2: Feet

Do you have a favourite piece of clothing? One that you have worn and loved so much that threads are coming away at the bottom, holes are beginning to appear, and oily pizza fresh organic blueberry stains splatter the front?

If you use something a lot, it tends to suffer somewhat in the looks department with all the love and attention it is receiving.

Background: When I was 9 years old at Mararoa Primary School, Jenny the school secretary came to my aid once when I stubbed biggie (my big toe). When I tearfully presented my toe she laughed and yelled in her shrill Southland secretarial voice ‘Lila, LILAAAAH! Come and look at this girl’s giant TOE!’ And so began years of foot loathing and shoving my feet back in to the safe anonymity of my sneakers as soon as possible.

I’ve never considered feet to be an aesthetically pleasing body part. I do love mine for letting me run far and wide but when I wear jandals I’m aware that my runner’s feet aren’t going to be front and centre of a Havaianas poster any time soon. HOWEVER, despite me thinking I have ugly feet, I have garnered a small but enthusiastic following of foot fetishists to my Instagram account. Is it because I have really ridiculously good looking feet? I’m not sure, but I’m avoiding posting foot pictures right now as I feel my little piggies are under close scrutiny.

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Perfect ten

Your precious feet are treated to a variety of ailments when you run, here are the main ones;

Blisters

Sometimes you won’t even know when they appeared, and other times you will feel that blister grow with every stride. Blisters are just skin you don’t need any more. Sometimes it’s painful to say goodbye but you should know that other skin will come along. There’s plenty more skin in the sea?

Sock Tan

Unless you run barefoot you will have some degree of sock tan. Sock tan is sexy, you might not see Beyoncé rocking it but that’s because it has to be earned; money can’t buy a sock tan. If you have a sock tan you are awesome. Sock tan also helps you to define where your leg finishes and your ankle starts when it’s swollen from injury (I’m typing this with one ankle-less appendage raised and iced on a chair).

Toenail death

I like to paint my nails. Like painting a piece of furniture, any blemishes are covered by a few strategic licks of varnish, and if your nails are REALLY bad you can also add a bit of glitter.  Each time you take the polish off it’s like unwrapping a really awful present, and you get to see, for a few minutes while the nails are in their natural state, just how attached they still are to your feet.

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The first toenail I lost made me feel really cool. I pinned it on the wall next to my race numbers like a trophy, complete with it’s sparkly blue polish, there it was glinting on the wall (it’s that dot below them both down the bottom). I took it down because of all the nasty comments ‘That’s disgusting Amanda’. Actually no it’s abject art and you’re all mean.

The question on your lips now is ‘Amanda, how do I become a foot babe and have people leaving adoring comments on my toe selfies?’ Here are some tips for you to try.

  • Use hashtags and keywords like ‘toejam’ and ‘toeswag‘ when you post foot photos
  • Never not wear socks, if your feet look like they could be a different ethnicity to your legs you’re doing well
  • Have a point of difference, like a ginormous big toe, a missing toe, or lots of long and luscious toe hair
  • Just give the people what they want, at the first mention of ‘nice feet’, go ahead and make a full colour calendar with your foot photos.
  • Run! Run on trails, it makes your feet irresistibly beautiful. The more rocks you kick and tree roots you trip over the more perfect imperfections your feet will haveScreen Shot 2014-02-17 at 7.02.32 AM

Good luck future foot babes, run hard!

Amanda (and Biggie) xx


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Runner’s guide to aesthetics Part 1: Facials

Everyone has a different reason as to why they run. You might be running to lose weight, to train for a race, relieve stress, keep a healthy heart, boredom, or enjoyment.

To run is a beautiful thing, we’re lucky to be able to walk, think of all the mermaids out there in their shell bras who wish they were running like you! To be a runner, well, it’s not always beautiful. There are a few physical characteristics that you’ll encounter as a runner, and this is part one of your definitive guide on running aesthetics.

Part one, Facials

I saw this advertisement by Nike a few years ago in a women’s magazine;run-yourself-ugly

Run yourself ugly. Run until your face looks bee-stung, sea-sprayed and contorted with eyes squinting framed by a veiny temple, and every kilometre you’ve run has etched a new line in your forehead.

In short if you remain photogenic while running you’re probably not doing it right. I think I’m getting there. The photo in the pink shirt is from the Wellington Half Marathon in June and that was giving 110%. Could be a bit uglier but this is a great effort from me.

Profile pic material?

I try to smile at people when I run past them, and it comes out like a dog baring it’s teeth at an intruder.  While I do feel like I personally own the Southern coastline after running so many kilometres on it, I will still share it with other runners. If you see me coming towards you, the whites of my eyes glinting in the sun, saliva hanging from my teeth, flared nostrils and breath coming in murderous rasps, just smile at my rabid running face. I’m harmless.

My tips for having a pretty running face for race photos;

  • Moisten your gums with your tongue before smiling so that your lip doesn’t stick up there like a curious rabbit
  • Flail all limbs so that your running form is so poor nobody will notice how your face looks
  • Pull a face, you’re going to look odd either way so you might as well do it properly
  • Raise your eyebrows, the look of surprise might make you forget how painful that moment was
  • If you feel particularly horrendous, cover your race number with your arm as you go past photographers so they can’t match you with your photos. Ha.

If you see another runner, give them a smile. That little acknowledgement helped me to keep going through so many long hard runs it’s amazing what a smile can do!