Fac­ing the rigours of run­ning – part two

The Oban Times - - Letters - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­hoo.co.uk

AS PROMISED in an ar­ti­cle of early Fe­bru­ary, the fol­low­ing is an up­date on the rigours of ready­ing my­self for the Tiree half-marathon that An­drew and I promised to com­plete on April 29.

Since I stopped fish­ing in 2004, I have not given my body any pro­longed pe­ri­ods of car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­cise and, since then, ex­cept for some short bursts of ac­tiv­ity in High­land Games events, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity has been very lim­ited. So an up­hill strug­gle was ex­pected. The hu­man body, how­ever, is an amaz­ingly adapt­able piece of kit and, while there have been a few set-backs, things are look­ing pos­i­tive for the prospect of be­ing able to fin­ish with­out re­sort­ing to jump­ing on An­drew for a piggy-back.

I got off to a good start with the train­ing in Jan­uary but then did hardly a thing from mid-Fe­bru­ary till the end of March. The usual range of com­mon, self-in­flicted ex­cuses were ap­par­ent. The com­bi­na­tion of CD record­ing, stag week­end dis­trac­tions and a mus­cle in my up­per thigh com­plain­ing, ac­cu­mu­la­tively gave just enough cre­dence to the in­ner lazy voice telling me to take it easy and that ‘there’s plenty time’.

But the vig­or­ous healthy and proac­tive, pain-in-the-tòn fit­ness con­scious voice sprung into ac­tion again a few weeks ago and I am back train­ing.

A chance meet­ing with a great lady in the Fort Wil­liam Mor­risons has also been a great help in get­ting mo­ti­va­tion go­ing again.

Kath­leen MacPher­son, nee Con­nachie, was the first woman to run the Ben Race and a few weeks ago as I was trawl­ing the shelves for fruit and veg, she struck up a con­ver­sa­tion with me, ini­tially about Gary Innes and Take the Floor.

We moved on to her fa­mous as­cent of Ben Ne­vis and she re­galed me in acute de­tail of how her pi­o­neer­ing race came about and of the events of the day it­self.

Con­sid­er­ing this was more than 60 years ago, her retelling was in­cred­i­ble and her de­liv­ery was as pas­sion­ate as if her feat of ath­leti­cism had taken place last week.

Com­pared to run­ning up Ben Ne­vis with noth­ing more than a few weeks’ train­ing, tod­dling a few miles along the flat sands and roads of Tiree is an easy task.

The mind is a strange and won­der­ful thing and how it in­ter­acts with the body is very in­ter­est­ing.

On the last few train­ing runs I’ve been on, when I have been feel­ing I re­ally need to stop for a rest, a brief thought of hav­ing to run up Ben Ne­vis in­stantly gives ex­tra en­ergy and be­ing aware of the rel­a­tive ease of run­ning on a flat sur­face gives im­me­di­ate ex­tra stamina. Thank you, Mrs MacPher­son.

The con­cept of us­ing com­par­i­son in any dif­fi­cult or stress­ful sit­u­a­tion is a use­ful tool to get­ting through times of per­ceived ad­ver­sity.

So as I am gasp­ing for breath and strug­gling to stay up­right on the last few miles of this daft es­capade, I will be think­ing how lucky it is that I’m not half way up Ben Ne­vis in a skirt with the rest of the moun­tain to run be­fore reach­ing the fin­ish.

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