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a blog by Chris Barrow

Why I run

City runner

I straighten my spaghetti.

I eat and drink well.

I am positive.

I am thinner.

I listen.

I see.

I solve problems.

I sleep well.

I notice.

I create.

The first time I donned a pair of trainers and set out to conquer a single mile was 1978.

Living in East Lancashire after transferring there from a 2-year work assignment that took me from Manchester via Derbyshire.

I occupied an office on Preston New Road, Blackburn as clerical assistant to a consulting actuary and pensioner trustee, maintaining a portfolio of Self-Administered Pension Schemes for a large accountancy practice.

A long-winded explanation of what was a desk job.

My 5-a-side football and squash days had been superseded by workload and a lack of new friends after two quick house moves.

At 25, my waistline and weight were expanding. Not good.

A work colleague inspired me to try out some tentative jogging after listening to his lunchtime stories of grinding out the miles with early-morning starts and late evening adventures.

My first mile (I can remember the route after all these years) was predictably testing and, although I persevered for some days afterwards, this was my first introduction to that “owie” as I rose from bed each morning and discovered that my leg muscles were complaining.

In time, my body began to adjust to this new habit and the pleasure of the fresh air, the feeling of freedom and the physical benefits became more powerful than the discomfort.

So began a 37-year relationship with pavements and trails, with early mornings and, ultimately (but much later) the challenge of marathon running.

Tomorrow I drive to Liverpool with #3 son Joshua to take part in my 21st marathon (my second with him) and, once more, test my physical fitness and mental resolve.

There have been times when I’ve lost my running mojo – the longest for 5 years – but ultimately I return and find peace of mind in the time that running gives me to think.

Over the years I’ve realised that I have a very addictive personality. An “all or nothing” approach to every aspect of my life – relationships, work, play, interests.

Many of us imperfect perfectionists have Obsessively Compulsively Disorderly personalities and the wisdom of experience teaches us to choose our obsessions carefully 80% of the time and foolishly the other 20%.

No prizes for guessing that the 20% gets us into 80% of our trouble.

I’ve “enjoyed” OCD behaviour in many aspects of my life over the years, with the banquets of consequences that Robert Louis Stevenson predicted.

As I get older, I’m choosing my obsessions more carefully and running has recently returned to centre stage.

That revival began last year when my self-image descended to a new low after completing 3 successive marathons in over 5 hours 30 minutes, after a previous track record in the mid-4 hour mark (PB 03:42 – 1999 – for the data junkies).

I have to confirm that there is absolutely no pleasure in a plus-5 hour marathon – it just hurts and it’s miserable – I have always had huge respect for those who suffer this way to raise charity funding.

The true winner of a marathon is the person who finishes last.

Entering Barcelona earlier this year was a last-ditch attempt from me – and I had already decided that another awful morning of pain and suffering would herald my search for a new OCD.

Thanks to the buddying of Michael Joseph and Marcus Spry, the unconditional support of Annie and the determination over the winter months to get the miles in my legs, Marcus and I crossed the line in 04:46 and my spirits were revived (that Joseph fellow was, by agreement, far ahead of us). In fact, since then I have felt like a “new me” and that has cascaded into many other areas of my life.

I’ve no idea what will happen tomorrow – it has been a hectic few weeks at work and I’m physically very tired, especially after a long day and 2 challenging presentations at Clinical Innovations yesterday.

What I do know is that I have the miles in my legs again.

Due, in no part, to joining Strava a few months ago and not only recording all that data on which we feed but also giving and receiving “KUDOS” from my friends on bikes and in trainers.

Fascinating for me to see how motivated I have become by the recognition of friends I respect and also in accepting the challenges that Strava set each month.

I’ve completed over 300km in each of the last 2 months, for no other reason than I wanted to post my success on Strava.

Call me a numpty – I’m a fit numpty who feels good about himself.

I have never listen audio whilst running (even though I’m a headphone and house music geek on trains and planes) preferring to soak up the sounds of cities and nature, whilst thinking.

Out there have evolved some great ideas, content and presentations as well as clarity about roads less travelled.

As a road-warrior I have had the opportunity to greet the dawn in some amazing places, from sub-zero winter to equatorial summer.

Bring it on Liverpool.

Paraphrasing the words of that great 21st century man leading a life of quiet desperation – Walter White:

I run because it makes me feel alive.
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