Seoul Searching: Running, Motivation and Travel

When was the last time you ran a mile?  For me it was Thursday morning. I woke up and went to the gym to run before getting on a flight. Kit on, ankle braces strapped up, I got on the lift and headed to my hotel gym.

Only two years ago I ran my first continuous mile after about 25 years of no running. I remember it well. Trackside with Coach T when we first started working together. It was to see where I was, and where we needed to go.  It was hard. It was slow. And it wasn’t pretty. But I did it.

And Thursday I finished the second out of my three run sessions in week 3 of training for my first half marathon. It still shocks me writing that. Me. Half marathon. I still can’t believe I’m running, let alone this big goal. With my bendy joints and dislocating knees I was told I’d never run…


On Twitter Kimberly Linton asked what motivates you to train.

It’s a question I’ve asked myself. Why am I doing this?

(and no I haven’t asked myself this only when I’m sweating through training or pushing myself in a race!)


Prayer lanterns at Dae Kwang Sa, outside of Seoul, South Korea

I’m still looking inside for the answers. And, I think that *is* the answer – it’s the search. By pushing myself to do what I’ve thought impossible, I’m discovering who I am. I get a fantastic sense of accomplishment. A glow, just like when I ran that first continuous mile. I am learning that I am capable of so much more than I’ve ever assumed, or that I’ve given myself credit.

I’m proud.

This Week

This week I’m particularly proud of myself. I ran on the treadmill, twice.

It may seem a small thing. I’ve been on treadmills before, walking on those rubber bands as a part of Moonwalk half and full marathon training I did in 2003 and 2004. But running on a treadmill?

How could I run on a treadmill when I trip over nothing in the street?

Accident. Waiting. To. Happen.

And how could I run on a treadmill when the sensation in my feet is just, well, dull?

Enter James Dunne, from Kinetic Revolution. Thanks to the recommendation of UK pro-triathlete Tamsin Lewis I got in touch with James about doing some basic run biomechanics work. I had been looking for someone to help me with my run form and to break my hip flexor dominance, and James seemed an ideal match. We met in June to start the process, instantly focusing on glute and hamstring activation, and form changes. I’ve already started seeing the results during this triathlon season. But I knew I’d need to keep up my hard work and motivation.

So I signed up for the Egmond Half Marathon.

(nothing like committing to a race to keep me training and motivated!)

And since I’d be training through the autumn and into winter, I knew I’d need to learn to run on a treadmill.

So on September 20th James showed me how to do it – safely, while keeping a focus on my form, and in a way that can be used to do targeted training (like hills or intervals) when I am on the road for work.

Work Travel

Being on the road for work kicked off again this week. I’m going to find myself in Asia for three out of the four weeks of October. It kind of makes me nervous, knowing I have to hit my training goals to give myself the best chance of success for Egmond. But I’ve never been shy when it comes to challenges.

I was asked how I’m going to fit it in, how I’ll manage to stay in good condition with all the long haul travel. I guess it boils down to a few key things.


1.  Planning

I look ahead and know my schedule. This enables me to plan to see James, Coach T, and The Magic Hands when I’m in town for specific sessions and targeted healing.

Planning also let’s me know what I need to do when I’m on the road. I know for example that we often have business dinners (which involve sharing Asian spirits) as a key part of meetings. It is always best for me to avoid training the morning after these meals – or should I say hard sweaty training like running wink

I always try to get a session done when I land off a plane, in my destination. This gets my heart pumping, endorphines flowing, and in general perks me up for same day meetings or dinners. It also allows me to have a better chance for decent sleep.


2.  Hydration

Alcohol can be an almost mandatory part of my business trips – but it is well know that it dehydrates and is not good for jetlag.  So I make a special point on travel of staying well hydrated. I make sure there is water at the dinner table (not common in Asia!). I always have a bottle for meetings, and by my bedside.

Keeping water to hand also helps me to manage jet lag induced carb cravings. When I have jet lag I almost gravitate to things like cookies. But I’ve learned that water kills the cravings – probably because dehydration can mimic hunger (and so can fatigue!).


3.  Sleep

I do my best to sleep in the time zone of wherever I am. So, when I go to Asia I try not to take daytime naps but push myself through the first day, through dinner, and to bed by 10 (not earlier).

I don’t always sleep through the night, but when I do wake up from jet lag, I do my best to lay still and relax. I focus on my breathing and try meditative tricks like visualising colours that deepen with the passing of time. I give myself about 20 minutes of “still” time to see if I can coax myself back to sleep. Usually it works. If it doesn’t I’ll get up and start my day.


4.  Caffeine

If you know me you know that I love my coffee. And it is really easy for me to just grab coffee and rely on caffeine to get through fatigue.

But caffeine can mess up my sleep. At home, I have a “rule” I follow of “no caffeine after lunch” (stopping with my lunchtime espresso). And I stick with that “rule” when I travel. It also helps my hydration out.


5.  Sunshine

I also try to get fresh air and sun while travelling. There is no rule that says we have to stay indoors in breaks from meetings. So I go outside.

On Wednesday we were lucky. We had an hour and a half break. Close to our meeting location was a park. We were able to walk along a lake, enjoying a perfect October day.

A perfect October afternoon near Seoul…

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