International athlete Alex Teuten writes about what it’s like when running gets too much
For so many people, in the UK and worldwide, running is an escape from the monotony of everyday life. It’s a chance to break free from the chains of society and be at one with your thoughts.
But it is possible to lose enjoyment of the sport. Indeed, when this happens many will decide to hang up their trainers when the love goes, although the sad truth is many of those cases could be avoided.
It comes down to understanding the motivation of these individuals. Running is inherently filled with highs and lows – and some people just aren’t suited to it, which is understandable!
There are many, though, who don’t fully analyse why running no longer interests them. Ironically, you could ask any athlete why they run and they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and say something like “I’ve always done it”. However, these athletes are rarely unhappy in the sport; their enjoyment of it is purely a subtle and unexplained one. But it exists!
People partake in athletics for many different reasons. To mention a few, it can be to meet people and socialise, for personal satisfaction in running a certain distance quicker than before, or to complete the challenge of a difficult event. Maybe it’s the desire to get into those jeans that don’t fit you anymore! But the common theme to all of these should be enjoyment, or at least a sense of well-being and satisfaction for achieving your goal.
AW recently published an article on club running in the UK and it reminded me of how important it is to our sport. From a young age, going to the track to do sessions with my peers has been the highlight of my week and I’ve built some lifelong friendships from it. It’s a key part of enjoying the sport and I would highly recommend getting involved in your club, both as an athlete and a volunteer (if time permits!) I managed the men’s part of the Southern Athletics League team (as an athlete-manager) at my old club and found it a valuable experience.
On the topic of club athletics, the National 6 and 12 stage relays took centre stage in the UK last month, with the Southern relays medals also contested due to cancellation of the latter event because of the snow. My club, Southampton AC finished 10th and a bittersweet 5th in the Southern event.
The cohesion of the group I train with, who are the spine of our relay team, really adds to our performances and make these sorts of events really enjoyable. It’s a rare occurrence of a team event in a largely solitary sport in terms of competition. It also falls kindly on the fixture calendar, which is important. I’ve always tried to get involved with club events as much as possible in my career, but at times I’ve come a bit unstuck from that, for reasons I will explain.
“It is very easy to race too frequently and lose focus and motivation. While one can recover within a few days in the physical sense, it can take significantly longer to recharge the “mental batteries””
As an athlete, it is very easy to race too frequently and lose focus and motivation. While one can recover within a few days in the physical sense, it can take significantly longer to recharge the “mental batteries” as a friend described it. This holds particular truth for the championship races, prior to which athletes invest a lot of mental energy to maximise their performance.
I know that’s true for me; appreciating the significance of an event means I’m likely to put that little bit more into it. However, doing this week-in, week-out can be really draining and ultimately leads to what many refer to as “burning out”.
I know first-hand what that’s like; it happened to me this season after the Great Edinburgh XCountry, my second GB vest. I didn’t rest over Christmas, instead putting in heavy mileage, pausing only briefly to recover from the flu. It didn’t impact on me physically: I felt in great shape and hadn’t picked up any niggles, but I wasn’t mentally prepared for the challenges that lay ahead for the rest of winter.
It’s not something you really think about, but preparing to race should be as much a mental task is it is a physical one, and I’ve come to realise the need to rest your legs simply to let your brain recover (as silly as that sounds)!
So be mindful of the busy race calendar and plan sensibly; I try to get the major ones in and combine with club level events where I can. One also mustn’t disregard that lifestyle plays a part in our running too; other commitments add stress and so don’t
be afraid to ease back from training a little during these times.
I know when my head’s not in it and I can’t give 100% during a session but that’s part of it if one isn’t pro. Don’t panic; just plan your training and racing around it to minimise the disruption to your plan.
As a final point, I’ll return to my earlier question: why do I run? As contentious as this sounds, I run because I take pride in inspiring others. I’m not the most inspiring of people in terms of what I’ve achieved, but experiencing the buzz of enthusiasm from friends and loved ones, and the pride felt by those who have supported me through good times and bad, that’s what does it for me. Also, being able to eat the occasional piece of cake guilt-free!
» BUCS cross country champion Alex Teuten formed part of Great Britain’s bronze medal-winning senior men’s team at the Euro Cross in 2017 and blogs at alexteuten.wordpress.com