Am I really a runner? I say that because I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time actually not running. For example: I do not run whilst making breakfast for the family; I do not run during my job; I do not run whilst watching TV. In actual fact according to my Dailymile page I’m a runner for an average of only 6 hours a week.
6 hours a week? Out of a possible what…hang on, I’ll just get the calculator… 168 hours in total. Okay some of those I’ll be asleep, let’s say an average of 8 hours a day, so that’s 56 hours… Damn, I sleep more than I run.
So there you go – if I was to actually use a term to define myself then, “sleeper” would be more accurate than “runner.” Shit.
There’s me doing what I do best – sleeping. This time just after the birth of my first child. God I was tired
And it gets worse. (This is actually the main point of this post.) When I run, half the time I’m not actually running! That’s right when I’m running what I’m really doing is walking…
Oh, but believe me, my intentions are good. I dress in runners clothes; I wear trail running shoes, I even sometimes carry a water bottle and generally set my stopwatch off when I start. I have one of those visor hats and I wear a Buff. And I do usually start off at a brisk jogging pace. All good so far.
The trouble starts when I hit the trail. My local “Big run” is just over a vertical kilometre form the start of the trail head to the top of the first peak – Le Picou. A great path that winds its way steeply up through the forests above Ganac then out on to the open pastures that are full of rogue cattle in the summer and even roguier looking hunters in the winter. It culminates in a super steep climb to the top of Le Picou, an iconic point in the Barguillère valley at 1601 metres.
And it goes up all the way.
I usually manage to “run” the first 20 metres as I leave the village, but I am soon greeted by a narrow steep and rocky path and I’m forced to walk. Pretty much after that I’ll have a token shuffle now and then but the majority of my human powered locomotion will be walking not running.
Pen-y-fan fell race in the UK. At this point we’re “running” as soon as we got past the photographer, it’s back to walking…
Now we’re not talking about namby pamby ambling here, oh no, we’re talking about the hardcore hands-on-knees (what I call HOK, or HOKing) style of mountain climbing. Everyone reverts to this at times, even the good runners. It’s okay.
It’s just I seem to do it quite often, very frequently in fact. Very quickly I came to the realisation that what I’m doing on the mountain isn’t really a “run.” When I leave the comfort of my warm bed and my partner says, “oh are you going for a run?” I normally reply, “yes dear,” what I should really be saying is this: “Actually dear, I’m putting on my running clothes, but essentially I’m going for a hike” Because that’s the reality of it.
But there is a difference between what I do and what walkers do. For a start, your average walker must take at least three different items of emergency clothing, a GPS, a lunch box, gaiters, full waterproof clothing, an emergency shelter and a satellite phone. And this is just his summer gear. When I do my thing I look like a “runner.”
Another thing that separates me from the Goretex brigade is the fact that once I’m at the top I do find myself running back down again. Okay, I’ll admit it, you kind of don’t have to put any effort in to the down hill bit. Of course, there’s a fair amount of skill required and you do need to develop the legs a bit, but in terms of raw energy, I usually don’t feel the need to breath very hard at all, It feels quite easy.
So maybe I need to define myself differently, I may not be a proper walker or neither a proper runner – so what am I? A “fast hiker” maybe? If I wore a back pack all the time I could be a “fast packer.” Hmm. The French have a term for fast hiking in the mountains; “Le Randonée Sportif.” Perhaps that’s me a “Sportif randonneur?”
I don’t know, and really do I care? Do I really have to define myself anyway? Why can’t I call my walking, “running?” Who cares about labels anyway?
There are of course a few fleetingly blinding moments when fitness finds me and I’m sure as hell that I am actually a runner. And to be even more specific – a runner of the mountains. One of these moments occurred last summer. I hit the trail with two handheld water bottles, wearing just a pair of shorts and shoes and with the sun beating down on my head (I think I did have my visor hat thing on – basically I looked shit hot.) Now I don’t know if there were some freaky gamma rays being emitted that day, but I had the feeling that I could run the damn hill. And that’s what happened – I ran all the way, right (almost) to the top – 1000 vertical metres.
I was very pleased with myself.
Okay you could argue that I’d have been quicker walking some bits due to the “fairy stepping” nature of my gait, but it was proper running, real and beautiful. I was “in the zone” and best off all I could truthfully say that I had actually gone for a run.
View of Le Picou from mid way up the summer pastures. I love this run… err…walk