Pole Dancing – I mean Pole Running or to be exact, Running Poles

I had set myself a goal of running a 10km road race in July. Well, with July just around the corner, and me only managing to walk/run 4km right now, I have shifted my goal slightly. But only slightly, mind. I will now be running a 10km road race on 11 August, to be exact.

Road racing is a popular pastime in South Africa. It’s also quite an expensive pastime, as I discovered. In order to keep myself on track to meet my goal, I have pre-entered a few races. Each race costs between R100 to R125. And I have pre-entered four races between 11 August and 15 September, so the cost for those is quite an incentive in itself.

I have found that I am more likely to hit a goal when I have a date to target. And the more challenging the target the better. I do that a lot; I’m a driven individual. So between now and 11 August I know that I will have to get up to at least 7km in training in order to not struggle too much on race day. It will not be necessary to do a 10km training run, although that would be a better plan. But I am running out of time for that.

I am currently running only three days a week, with the longest run on a Sunday. And I am still running ‘poles’. This is a common approach for beginner runners. Alternating running and walking between street light poles. There is no thinking involved. If you are running, when you see the next pole, walk. If you are walking, when you see the next pole, run. This is a great approach when you are really tired and your legs are heavy, as the distance between poles is quite short. I am still far from running the entire distance, I am currently walking one pole and running two poles, and the walking is reducing steadily if slowly.

There are six Sundays between now and 11 August. So my current milestone plan is as follows:

Sunday 1 – 5km

Sunday 2 – 5km

Sunday 3 – 6km

Sunday 4 – 6km

Sunday 5 – 7km

Sunday 6 – 7km

11 August – 10km

In between, I will have to increase my running days to four days a week and also increase the week day distance by a kilometer or two.

Now that winter has landed it’s icy grip, I am regretting not doing more training earlier this year when the weather was warmer. I spent so many months walking when I could have been running. But it is what it is and right now I still have the luxury of being able to run when the day is at it’s warmest. In fact, I have only needed to keep my long sleeved running vest on for the entire training run once so far.

I really enjoy the freedom of running on the road. When I first started running, I used to run after work at about 5pm. I enjoyed the time to myself and found that my head was a lot clearer by the time I returned to the office. I also enjoyed the whiffs of the different dinners being prepared as I passed by all the houses.

When I took up running more seriously, I had to really force myself to get out of bed in the early mornings. A few running mates used to arrive at our house at the crack of dawn, summer or winter, and we had to be ready. I remember the one morning. There was an icy wind and the temperature must have been about 2 degrees Celsius. But out the door we went. Two kilometers later as we passed the dam, I said to the group, “I don’t know about you, but I’m turning up here and going back home!”.

It was so cold and the wind whipped the cold right through our windbreakers and our gloves. We really aren’t equipped to train in such weather. Luckily they decided to go with me. When we got home, I put the kettle on to boil and made us all some hot, sweet coffee with a dash of brandy! At 6 in the morning! That was more than 20 years ago and we still talk about it today!

My marathon running days were cut short when my daughter arrived. I was training to run my third Comrades marathon. For those who don’t know, the Comrades marathon is a 90km road race. The elite (male) runners run the race in just over 5 hours. The average runner completes the race in about 10 hours. Slow runners like me take the full 12 hours. Although I do have one medal for completing the race in under 11 hours.

I remember the day of my daughter’s arrival very well. I know when I’m ready for Comrades when I can run Hill road without needing to walk. And that morning, I stood at the top of the hill and said, “I am ready”. The next day my daughter arrived. She’s adopted and she was a big surprise. I tried to continue to train because Comrades was literally a few weeks away, but I didn’t reckon with the sleepless nights coupled with the normal working days. Comrades that year was out of the question.

So here I am, twenty years later. I am a beginner runner again. And my approach is much the same as it was when I first started running. I remember my first run/walk well. It was down the road to the shops and back. I ran that road so many times, I don’t remember anymore. Now I am doing something similar. Down to the shops, turn, back past my house to the other end of the road, turn. That’s 4km. This week I will map out a 5km route. My first 5km training run is looming.

Until next time ☕️

Throwback to more than 20 years ago

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