Will you read this or will you run a mile?
This week, I want to write about running which maybe sounds a little bit boring, or perhaps even a whole lot of boring. But as I guess this is supposed to be a FIRE blog, I'll start with some FIRE stuff before running (sorry for the appalling pun) off in a different direction. Read as much or as little as you want!
First the FIRE bit - three reasons why early retirement makes sense for me.
Reason 1 - retiring early frees up time to do the things I want
When I retired at 47, I felt young. A few years later when I turned 50...not so young. There's just a few years in it, but once the decade started with a five, it felt like a huge wake up call. A realisation that I have less time ahead of me, and some concerns about how many truly active years that could be.
Thankfully, financial independence allows me to buy time. I took the opportunity to trade out of work and use that time for the things I want to do while I'm still (relatively) young and active.
Reason 2 - we don't know what's around the corner
These days, I pay attention to what I eat and I keep fit. There's a satisfaction that comes with this and it should help me stay healthy and maximise my active years. But there's no guarantee, we just don't know what could be around the corner.
My Mum suffered from early onset dementia from the age of 55. That's just three years older than I am now. This was then diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease, which rapidly attacked her, both mentally and physically. It subsequently took her life. Recently, my sister told me of the plans my Mum had, the places she wanted to visit and the things she wanted to do.
My Mum didn't get her tomorrows, she never got to do those things she dreamed of. I don't endlessly worry that I'll suffer the same fate, but I'm aware that the genes exist in my family tree.
Early retirement gives me time now, just in case there aren't as many tomorrows as there should be. I want to ensure I don't waste this time.
Reason 3 - it gets harder as we get older
Here I can start to mix FIRE and running topics, because running provides a good example. A few years back, my running times were getting better and I dared to dream of a sub 3 hour marathon, something previously unimaginable. I gave it a shot and, drumroll please... missed. Sometimes dreams don't quite work out! I was only 40 seconds off but, as the saying goes, a miss is as good as a mile. That was Boston Marathon in 2018. I still dream about a sub three hour marathon, but three years older, I suspect it really is now just a dream.
Lots of stuff gets harder as we get older. It makes sense for me to free up time now through early retirement while I'm more physically able to make the most of it.
Maybe some of these reasons are a little cliché, but that doesn't mean that they aren't true.
OK, so that's the FIRE bit done, now to the running part
I'm writing this for myself, but feel free to read it too. In effect, it's a journal entry about some of my running journey (I've surprisingly found that keeping a journal can be fun). Why am I doing this? Because I can already be forgetful, so this post will act as an aide memoir and, secondly, on the hopefully unlikely chance that I follow my mother's health problems, I want to be able to remember for as long as possible, what I did and when - I guess that sounds downbeat, it's not meant to be. Anyway, here goes:
When I started running, why I started running, and why I keep running
I started running at the end of 2012. I'd spent a year working in South Africa and returned home weighing 104kgs (229 lbs or 16st 5lbs). That was too much, by quite a lot. My solution was to go on the only diet I've ever been on, the Dukan diet, which also mandated 30 minutes of brisk walking each day. After a while, I thought running instead of walking would help the weight loss - it seemed a good idea until I tried it, after 2kms I thought I was going to collapse.
Running was seriously tough in the beginning, getting through that stage was a battle. To be honest, 8½ years later, there are still difficult days - the weather might be bad, I might be trying to go faster or further than is comfortable, or I might just be having an off day.
When I lived in Dubai, I joined a running club, Desert Road Runners, and loved running with them for the encouragement, the friends I made, and the competition. There isn't a club where I live now, and I miss that a lot. I haven't run any events since Boston Marathon in 2018 - I'm not sure that I miss the events themselves, trying to run faster hurts, but I do miss the camaraderie and the fun of competing against my friends and myself.
So far this year, I've run 88 times, for a total of just over 120 hours. That equates to running 5 days a week, sometimes it might be for 50 minutes, other times 3 hours, but the average duration works out to just over 1 hour 20 minutes each time. Add the warm up and cool down stretching, plus taking a shower, it's around 20% of a 9-5 working day so, as well as an activity that helps keep me fit and healthy, it's also proving a good early retirement activity.
By the way, the weight loss journey worked well. From the original 104kgs, I now weigh in at 78kg. Running is an important part of that journey, along with some other lifestyle choices that help. It's one of the reasons I keep running, I don't want to go back to the weight I was. But I also run because I enjoy it, it's quiet time to think about things, and it's cool to know that if, say tomorrow, I wanted to run 30 or 40kms, it might not be pretty, but I could do it.
There's something special about the marathon distance. We probably all know someone who's done one but it still seems a long way to run and a bit out of reach.
My first ever event was in January 2013, not a marathon, but a 10km event on the same day as Dubai marathon. I got a buzz from it, doing something healthy and competitive with a bunch of like minded people. I decided that the following year I'd return and run the marathon.
One year later, true to my word, I lined up on the start line of Dubai marathon. I had three targets: finish, run the whole way, and try to beat 4 hours. I achieved all three, finishing in 3:35:50. The training and race combined was the hardest thing I'd ever done that I didn't have to do. I was shattered and after stumbling through the finish area, the only words I could mutter was that I was never ever doing another marathon.
Of course, next year I was back, and I've now run seven marathons:
January 2014, Dubai, in 3:35:50
January 2015, Dubai, in 3:29:11
January 2016, Dubai, in 3:36:02
October 2016, Budapest, in 3:18:53
January 2018, Dubai, in 3:03:42
In running, the definition of an ultra is any distance beyond the marathon. There are road ultras and trail ultras, all of mine have been on trails.
The Hajar, a 50km trail race in the United Arab Emirates in March 2016. This was ridiculously hard.
Chiltern Challenge, a 50km trail race in the United Kingdom in July 2016.
Wadi Bih, a 72km trail race in Oman in February 2017. This may be my best ever run/result.
Rennsteiglauf Super Marathon, a 73km trail race in Germany in May 2017.
Marathons and ultras may grab the headlines because they're that bit beyond normal for most people. But I've enjoyed shorter distance events just as much. I get a buzz from competing with my friends for bragging rights, seeing if I can improve my own times and recounting the race with friends during a post event coffee or breakfast. When I lived in Dubai, our events would start early because of the heat, so we'd be done and dusted with our healthy activity before half the city was even out of bed - that seemed very cool to me.
Just before leaving Dubai, I took part in a series of track races, an 800m, 1500m and 3000m on consecutive weeks. The event was held every year but I always avoided it as I thought it might not be my thing, I guess it was outside of my comfort zone. It turns out that it was a blast, so much fun, if only I had tried it before. I learned a good lesson, to be braver and try things even if I'm not sure they're for me.
My personal best times for the distances I've run most often are:
10km 38m 47s (Dubai, January 2018)
Half Marathon 1h 27m 48s (Dubai, December 2017)
Marathon 3h 00m 39s (Boston, April 2018)
Apart from a few overseas marathons and ultras, my races so far were when I lived in Dubai. If I had to pick some favourites:
The Dubai Creek Half Marathon and the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathons. Both were very sociable events with friends, the Creek Half had a great breakfast after the race and for RAK a group of us would book a hotel and make a weekend of it.
Abras 10km series in Dubai. There were three races each year, staged in the grounds of a five star hotel overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Guaranteed sunshine, lots of friends, and lots of banter too.
All of my overseas events because they are a bit of an adventure and I've done them with friends. The Chiltern Challenge in the UK with Tom 1, Budapest Marathon with Peter, Prague Marathon with Tom 2 and Matt, the Rennsteiglauf in Germany with Peter again, and Boston Marathon with a whole group of friends.
Wadi Bih was another great event. I ran it twice, once in a relay team which was great fun, and once solo in super tough conditions. It was another great social event, with participants camping on the beach...not quite so idyllic when fierce winds resulted in my tent being buried by sand! Fortunately, I ran well, so the loss of the tent didn't matter😀
My sister, Claire, and I have plans to run an event one day. We've not yet done it, but when we do, I'm sure it will become one of my favourites.
While running isn't really Sally's thing, she's entered a few 5km and 10km events, and I always enjoy watching her in those.
If I'm writing about my running, I have to mention Graham, the guy who founded the Desert Road Runners club and lead it while I was there. He put huge amounts of time and effort into the club and was more excited when I ran well than I was! In late 2017/early 2018 we'd push each other in our training runs, and I'm sure it's no coincidence that my best times came after that.
The last few years
I left Dubai in July 2018 and we headed off to travel in Asia and Australia. I intended to run during our travels, but only managed it a handful of times. It was a similar story during our next set of travels in 2019, this time to California, Costa Rica and Colombia. When we're at home in the French Alps, snow makes running in the winter difficult,
Trying to get back into it, I entered London Marathon April 2020, although Covid put paid to those plans with the marathon cancelled. At least I was running regularly again. The last 6 months, I've run a lot (for me), probably more quantity than quality, but it should be a good base to start adding some quality (again, that's my version of quality!).
I'm going to keep running. I wish there was a club where I live, but there isn't. Perhaps I should search to see if I can find a few other runners who'd like to go out together.
Although races/events are hard, I ought to get back into them, to feel the buzz once the finish line is crossed. Where I'm living there aren't many events, but there will be some, and probably more around Zurich or in the UK that I can enter when we visit family. This coming August, I'm part of a relay team running the Mauerweglauf, an event that follows the route of the Berlin Wall. My section is 30km, although I have foolishly volunteered to be a back up for the 60km leg in case nobody else is stupid enough to do that🙄
My longest recent run was 38km in April. Next week I'll turn 52 years old, and while I don't like the sound of that, I don't think I'm doing badly if I can knock out a 38km run when I want to.
That's it for today. My running journal entry is done. I've also done my run today. Time for a cup of coffee and to put my feet up.