Marathon Training Diary, Week 3: Is running boring?

19 July 2016  |  Alex

I am interested in why other people don't love running as much as I do – and by other people, I don't just mean those people that are only interested in sitting on the settee slamming chips everyday. There are people I know that exercise regularly but to whom the very idea of going for a long run is anathema. For example, both of my current housemates love going to the gym in a way that I never did and that I will never understand but if I was to suggest that they tried to train for a half-marathon with me, they would balk at the very idea.

There is something that I have found – I would call it a misconception but maybe it is more of a difference of opinion – non-runners seem to think that long-distance running is boring. I see where people are coming from with this criticism too – you spend a lot of time pounding the pavements and, in London especially, there isn't much that is terribly interesting to look at as well on most routes (unless you're a fan of concrete and congestion). However, I (and I'm guessing most dedicated distance runners) really don't find running boring at all. So the question is: how do you stop boredom when running?

Keeping Yourself Interested

There are always going to be days when you find that your run is dragging on – when you're only 10 miles into a 20 mile run and realise that you've got to do the same distance again, only far more tired; when you're circling round the same park again and again to get your mileage up. I have always found that the thing that most people find uninteresting about running – the fact that they are left in a hinterland without a phone or a tablet or a computer or a television to look at, sometimes for hours on end – is one of the things that makes me appreciate running the most. I work in an office sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day and I still find that when I get home, I'm not able to extricate myself from the allure of staring at a glowing rectangle. Running removes the option for me to take the path of least resistance – I have to keep my wits about me or I'll trip or knock someone over or get hit by a car.

For me, the prevalent feeling of running has always been one of serenity. It is an escape from the pressures of everyday life and a gateway to another world where the only thing that exists is me and the pavement, a world where I don't have to think about anything, a world where I can escape from the pressures of the day or my stresses and anxieties. When I am running, I am in essence an empty vessel, free from the burden of knowledge, free from my own tireless inner-monologue.

Is it Wrong to Listen to Music While Running?

I am perhaps being a little hasty here; those of you who have read my previous posts will know that I'm not quite the purist that I profess to be – I love listening to music while I run. This has been a contentious issue for a while among the running community and it is one that I feel is far from black and white. I appreciate the arguments of the non-music brigade – not listening to music certainly makes you a more conscientious runner, both in regards to your body and your performance, and to other people. I know, however, the huge difference that the right song can make when you're flagging and you really need something to spur you on.

I would agree that during a race scenario, where there are so many runners crowded together, it's probably best to keep all of your facilities about you. And I can even see the appeal of running without music just on a mundane, everyday run (though it's not something I do very often) – you have a greater awareness of your own body and you can focus on things such as your cadence or pacing with greater ease. For now, however, I think that I'm too reliant on my trusty running playlist to go completely cold turkey on listening to music.

My Week in Running

I was a little lazy this week in as much as I didn't do a long run over the weekend. I did, however, come within a hair's breadth of my long-standing 5k record (22:56), a record that I hadn't come close to touching for quite some time. From the abject terror that I was feeling about this marathon, I'm starting to feel a little bit more confident.

Top 5 Running Songs of the Week

LCD Soundsystem – Movement

Sometimes I am an advocate of the subtle running song, one that eschews simply going for high octane, high tempo encouragement – this is not one of those subtle songs.

Leonard Cohen – The Old Revolution

This song is notable for containing what is (perhaps) my favourite lyric of all time: "Even damnation is poisoned with rainbows." I don't think that anyone has ever summed-up my worldview so succinctly.

Outkast – Hey Ya!

A song that's pretty much never been off of the radio since it's release, Outkast's Hey Ya! is that rarest of things – a proper pop-music hit that can appeal to all demographics.

Drake – Hotline Bling

Another one of those pure pop hits, Hotline Bling isn't quite as purely joyous as Hey Ya!, but it definitely has that "get your feet moving" quality that is essential for a running song.

Madonna – Like a Virgin

To be honest, I could have picked probably any of Madonna's output from the mid-eighties and struck gold. Like a Virgin only won out on account of the great synthesisers (so 80s) running through the song as well as her high-pitched, Michael Jackson-esque "he" in the chorus.

Come back again next week when I'll be writing about the importance of failure to running!

Do you have any tips for beating boredom on your long runs? Do you have a strong feeling either way on whether or not it is right to listen to music while running? Drop me a message!