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Guy’s World: Kiwi Runners Must Break Pain Barrier

A recent survey by Realrunner.com showed that pain is on the minds of more than one in three New Zealanders when they’re running, while 65 percent of British runners think about sex and romance while they’re out pounding the pavement.

Other results showed that if Kiwi’s aren’t thinking about the agony they’re putting themselves through, they’re likely to be thinking about the weather, while American runners are most likely to be fretting about work.

What does this tell us about our national character? I’d say it shows a lack of imagination in New Zealanders, and an inability to multi-task. When we’re running, we think about running. We think about the weather we’re running in, the information our bodies are feeding our brains about how the run is going, and how much further we have to go. Surely we can let our minds wander a little.

Real Runner concluded that their survey results should make us re-evaluate out perception of the English as stuffy and repressed. However, I suspect that if the survey was a little more detailed it would reveal that the repression is in the content of the British runner’s thoughts – probably a parade of Benny Hill-esque tits and bums images.

As for the Americans, who can’t even leave the office behind in their recreation time, we can gather that they have a more highly evolved sense of neuroses than we do.

The Americans also clocked up the highest percentage of “other” thoughts. 11 percent of American runners thought of “other” things, compared to only three percent of British runners. This tells us that Americans are more complex than their British counterparts, who have a one-track mind.

Reading the survey reminded me that I’d been promising myself I would start running in the mornings since I started working at Scoop. I’d spent the previous six months delivering mail for NZ Post, getting fit for the first time in my adult life. I’ve been worried that my new, largely sedentary, job would see a return to sloth.

Two weeks with no more exertion than a walk to the dairy was proving me right, so I set my alarm an hour earlier for the next morning. After hitting the snooze button a couple of times, I got up in time for a 30 minute run. While it didn’t compare with my regular two to three hours with heavy mail bags for the Post, I came through with flying colours.

I realised this was only the second run I’d ever done that I wasn’t being paid for. The first was a 15 minute run a flatmate convinced me to go on when I was a lazy 21-year-old, which left me with burning lungs, and muscle pain which lasted at least a week. I couldn’t see why anyone would do that by choice, and barely exercised for three years afterwards.

With considerable fitness accumulated from my time at the Post, my latest run was a comparative pleasure, leaving plenty of mental space to think. I covered pain – wondering why a niggling knee injury wasn’t hurting; weather – admiring the heavy frost and feeling the still, icy air numb my fingers and chill my lungs; and sex - hoping I wouldn’t run into a girl I had an ill-advised drunken night with, who lived in the neigbourhood I was running through.

At that time of the morning I consider it pretty good going to think at all, so I did well to cover all the main categories of the Realrunner survey.

Realrunner’s survey results surprised me. When I was delivering mail, I found the run was a great opportunity to reflect on my life. My six-month stint at the Post Office was, strangely, a time of self-discovery. I delved a little deeper into my past in successive runs, discovering links and continuities I had never noticed before.

When you’re running, your body should be working hard, but your mind should be free.

Feedback to Guy@scoop.co.nz

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