The Art of Bribery and Running

Running can be a bit of a game.  A game that involves bribery and making promises to yourself.  It is an art really, the art of inventing new ways to reward yourself for running that extra km or running up those 200 steps ONE LAST TIME.  It is also about having a ritual of reward, such as treating yourself to a large piece of cake after each half marathon – it can be the little things that get you through.

Lately, running has been ALL about bribery for me.  A few weeks ago I had to do a 35km run around the bays – my reward was a banana smoothie at the end at Maranui.  The last 5km all I could think about was that smoothie…but also the thought of a chocolate milkshake as well…smoothie or milkshake, milkshake or smoothie? Both!

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That is how I got through the last 5km.

Last Monday was similar – the plan was 10 repeats up the top of Majoribanks Street (a super steep hill in Wellington).  It was about 20 degrees out, 6:30pm, and all I wanted was to be on the beach.  But Rob and I pushed through, mainly because at around about the 5th repeat I decided that we would be having fish and chips for dinner as a reward. We completed 11 repeats followed by a few repeats of nearby stairs (single run and double runs up it).

Unfortunately it was a public holiday, so no fish and chip shops were open (I tried five!). But we ended up with Ekim burgers, fries and beer, which we enjoyed on the water front watching the sun set around 8:30pm. TOTALLY worth it.

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And again, part of signing up to Tarawera was the promise of new shoes!

Even on a gorgeous day like today (sunshine, not a cloud to be seen, and a high of 21 with no wind, meaning that I could walk down Lambton Quay at lunchtime in a scandalous singlet and shorts and be warm) it is bribery that gets me off the couch and hitting the road at 6:30 to do my dreaded 8x500m repeats with a 90 second rest.

Part of me wants to get out and enjoy the sun, go for a run and get out amongst everyone.  Then I realize that my ‘run’ is actually a training session where I will be pushing myself, feeling tired, short of breath, potentially in pain, and wanting it to be over.

But today, I actually loved it. Not because I promised myself cake, chocolate or new Lululemon items, but because I was out running and being active, totally killing it (if I can be modest) on such a stunning day.

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I ran around Clyde Quay (it is just over 500m to run around the building) eight times, starting at Mojo Poneke each time.  The place was buzzing with people eating and drinking and soaking up the sunshine.  Each time I finished my repeat, and would slowly walk around to Poneke and watch the time count down, setting myself up for the next round, I noticed more and more people look at me, notice me back for more, and talking about my efforts.

I took it as admiration, good on me for running on this glorious day, pushing hard and running super fast, coming back for more and not giving up until the very last one.  In reality, they were probably thinking ‘What the hell is that girl doing running around this building?”, “She’s back again, seriously!” and “man that is the last thing I would want to be doing right now” whilst holding their glass of rose and lounging about with platters of food in front of them.  But I took it as admiration, as appreciation for my efforts. And that is what fueled me today – knowing that people were there, watching me, waiting for me to give up and stop.  So I didn’t.  I had an average pace of 3:58 min/km, with my best time being 1:45 and my worst being 2:00 even.  Times I am super happy with, especially as I was only at 2:00 once and even on the very last one finished with 1:56.

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But even so, it wasn’t easy. You do it in steps, sometimes it is about saying to yourself ‘I can run another 30 seconds, don’t stop yet’ and then repeating that over and over again.  Today it was: “Get to half way, do 4.”  Then “Ok you’ve done 4, that was easy, get to 6.  After 6 you can give up.”  I got to 6 and mentally pushed myself to do 7.  Once I did 7, I couldn’t end on an odd number, and such an ugly odd number at that, so I had to do 8, for my sanity.  But I only got to 8 because I pushed myself to do 4, to do 6, to do 7.  Baby steps.

And can I say, I came away feeling inspired and reinvigorated.  It’s crazy how much having other people around can make a difference to your training – another reason why running with peers, even if you are faster or slower than them, will help, because you automatically push yourself harder.  We have this internal fear of being judged – if I had done my intervals slowly or not appeared ‘hard core’ people might have held negative views about me. For all I know they held negative views of me, thinking “What a show off”.  But in my mind, I was proving how awesome I was, and they were on par with that, appreciating my awesomeness.

Weirdly, it helped me feel a bit more at peace with myself, with running and with Wellington in general.  Wellington (on a good day) is one of the most inspiring cities in the world (to me), and today’s session made me grateful to live in such a city, to be able to get out and enjoy such a city, and to inspire others (yes I truly believe that my 8x500m repeats totally inspired at least one person at Poneke to get up early tomorrow morning and work out…).  It also helped me feel back on track with my training, and OK with the next month of training hard.

I just need to find a few more things before this Saturday to bribe myself  to complete this Saturday’s 8.5 hour run/walk.  Ideas?

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