Work-life-run balance

“Can’t wait for that relaxing 10-mile uphill fartlek followed by quality time with the newborn triplets!” (Photo from

If you’ve been looking through my back pages and checking out my marathon times, then you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m not a professional runner. Somewhere among the training runs I fit in a job and a life – although for many of us runners it can feel as if the training time has to be squeezed in, negotiated or even stolen.

Having a sedentary office job, I probably fit a classic profile of the marathon runner – sitting down all day, building up energy and enthusiasm to get out and hit the streets. I show up for work in the morning, go home in the early evening and I can fit my running to that stable rhythm. Saturday and Sunday are mine. But what if you’re a farmer or nurse, to name two professions that are physically demanding and non-9-to-5, and you want to run? Where do you find the time and the energy?

Harder still is if on top of a job you have a busy family life. I don’t have children, and I sometimes wonder how the parent of an action-packed toddler or two could ever get to train for a marathon. For sure, an understanding partner may take the reins and give you the visa to go out for your run. But what do single parents do? Or someone caring for an infirm or disabled family member? I must admit that I’ve no experience of any of this, so perhaps you can enlighten me.

Being unemployed doesn’t strike me as making things any easier for a runner – financial pressure and job-hunting efforts can be as stressful as any job, and running while stressed can make your body tense and more prone to injury. But I’ve never been unemployed long-term – a few weeks between jobs at most – so again I’m eager to gain some insight here.

If I’ve any useful advice at all about the work-life-run balance, it’s that you need to establish some sort of consistent schedule and stick to it. Regular short runs are better than one make-up-the-difference mega-run per week, although if you’re training for a marathon you’ll need to make time for a weekly long run too. After a couple of weeks those regular training runs will have established unshiftable squatters’ rights in your life. Fit them in where you can and with respect to your other responsibilities – it’s probably best not to have your run while you leave the kids waiting in the rain outside the school gate, though as a non-parent I don’t know what the protocol is here. One trick is to have a regular time for your run (e.g. Tuesday evenings, lunchtime every Friday, or your long run on Sunday mornings) to nail it in your routine.

Also, running can help relieve the stress of work and family life – which in turn means that you can face work and family life with less of the crippling effects of stress. I try not to think of work when I run, but sometimes an idea or solution to some work conundrum will randomly pop into my head. (Then the trick is to remember it when you’ve finished your run – maybe there’s a niche in the market for a runner’s pen-and-paper set.)

In short, if you enjoy it and you want to do it badly enough, then you’ll find the time for it – because even with plenty of time to spare, marathon training demands commitment and planning. With time and consistency, the work-life-run balance is within everyone’s grasp.

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