One of my favourite quotes about running is attributed to Frank Duffy, the legendary Irish athletics coach commemorated in an annual 10-mile race in Dublin.
As related in Pat Butcher’s excellent book on the Coe-Ovett rivalry, apparently Duffy was asked to describe the ideal day for an athlete.
“Doing what or who you did the day before,” he replied.
Like many runners, I’m fond of routine and regime. I run at the same time on weekday evenings and on weekend mornings, with the same preparation and habits before and after my run. On race day I have my usual kit – which I know will do the job – and the same pre-race rhythm (breakfast three hours before the start time; arrival early at the start area).
But there’s one thing I try to change regularly about my running – the routes I run.
Whenever I feel physically or mentally flat after a run, I know it’s time to change my route so that I have new sights and sounds to stimulate me. Sometimes it’s as simple as running a familiar loop in the opposite direction, or tacking on an extra mile or two in a nearby area where I haven’t run before.
One time, while suffering from a bad case of post-marathon blues, I simply turned left instead of right when leaving my home. I discovered a new neighbourhood and shook off those blues; neither medical science nor organised religion could have brought such a transformation in me.
Tonight I was in need of a change; last night’s run had me feeling flat. So I looked on a map and found a way of jazzing up a familiar route by adding a loop on the roads circling a nearby golf course.
The change in route was a great success. It took me along mile 18 of the Dublin Marathon course for the first time since running a P.B. in that race last October, and the memory of that fantastic day had me buzzing.
Instead of running on to Milltown, I turned right at the Dropping Well pub and up towards Milltown Golf Club. Along here the street was quiet and I could enjoy a carefree canter. The slight hill put some welcome crunch into the run – and I cashed in that uphill work by freewheeling downhill on the other side of the loop. This part of town was mine tonight.
After I closed that loop, I headed back for home with a spring in my step and a fresh breeze in my mind.
Tonight’s updated route was an undramatic change and a simple run but it seems to have worked its magic. Change can be good!