The Part-Time Running Years (Part 1)

Following on from Steven’s previous article…

For the next three years or so, following the Newry half 2012, I guess I was best described as a part-time runner. Entering the odd race and training off and on.

I had only just returned to bowls two years beforehand, in 2010, following a change in career and hours to suit a very time consuming sport, if you were keen to play at a certain level. However, I was struggling to find the same level of consistency I had previously shown, due to a number of factors, including a lack of strength in the legs and crippling bouts of sciatica since July 2010.

Therefore, as I began to spend more time pounding the roads than bowling on the green, my love for running started to overtake that of bowls.

However, there was a problem! The pains in my knees were returning, and again the concern that I might reverse the work and improvements that were made in surgery worried me, to the point that I posted about it on Facebook; that I might have to consider abandoning any thoughts of continuing with this new found love for running.

Thankfully, an old school friend (Thanks again Gareth Owens) commented on the post – “check out chi running”… and so without question I did just that, as I have always been, and always will be, open to advice from anyone… a favourite saying of mine – if you do what you always do, you’ll get what you always get; you have to be open to change.

When I first researched chi running I realised that my efforts towards good posture and stride were ALL wrong… in an attempt to protect my back I was running too upright. I was also naively focused on moving forward, and therefore this dominated my thoughts through each swing of my arms and legs; while any leaning was done at the waist.

So to adopt the chi running approach I had to begin the process of changing EVERYTHING to do with how I ran… in other words I finally began developing a child’s natural run… in my late 30s!!! This was NOT that easy!! I had to change my arms from, to quote the chi running approach, “punching someone in front” to “elbowing somebody behind”… similarly I had to reconsider how I made every stride, thinking more about what my legs were doing behind me rather than their movement forward… while also focusing on leaning forward at the ankles rather than the waist. As advised, at times I had to concentrate on one thing at a time, trying to change all aspects at once was proving to be too difficult.

All of these changes employed more new muscles I had hardly used before; and as my research into chi running warned, it was painful at first, but soon I was getting the hang of it, and feeling stronger. I also had to change my breathing, taking a slightly longer breath out to empty the lungs and maximise the benefits of the next breath in.

Although the changes were difficult they were also very enjoyable… I LOVED the need to focus FULLY on what I was doing with every step, every arm swing… and still do! It rests the mind!

As I made the transitions my times began to improve a little, I encouraged and organised two teams from work to run in the Belfast marathon relay in 2013. Later that year I completed the inaugural Belfast half marathon in 2 hrs 11 mins and started to set my sights on breaking the 2 hour mark for a half marathon.

By Steve Smyth (You can Jog It)