I am a road runner. No question. I kind of already knew that, but this past weekend’s experience with treadmill running confirmed it.
I live in a city with plenty of footpaths and a nearby park with lots of great paths and trails. I’m a little spoiled for choice when it comes to running routes. I’ve always enjoyed being able to get outside for a run and when I stopped running to music I enjoyed it even more. So much to see and take notice of; so many interesting things and sounds and people surrounding me.
So what happens when you take an outdoor road runner and put her indoors on a treadmill?
I was on holiday in Birmingham so when I tweeted for ideas for a running route, I got some replies that were very helpful. I had intended to try for 8 miles around the area where I was staying but when I got there I lost my nerve. I was nervous with the idea of running on unfamiliar streets in unfamiliar neighbourhoods. Back home I know my routes and the way traffic flows and when footpaths will be busy and so on and so forth. On holiday, I knew none of that so I thought my run would suffer from being on high alert the whole time. So I choose to run on a treadmill at a nearby hotel.
It pushed the limits of my mental strength like no other run has before; including the marathon.
I went at 7am and had the place to myself for about 30 minutes. It was a small room, stuffy and humid with no ventilation. No fresh air, no cooling breeze. It smelled sweaty and wet and with a pool nearby the chlorine smell was unavoidable.
Other gym users started arriving and so I ended up with treadmill neighbours. I realized I had made a mistake as soon as they started running beside me. I had left my earphones and music at home, thinking that there would be music in the gym (there was) and that I wouldn’t need them. I regretted that decision big time. With other people beside me I was distracted by the different speeds and paces they were running at; some faster, some slower. I’m not used to running beside anyone for any length of time, so this threw me off a bit. I couldn’t focus on my own running as intently as I usually do.
Then, about hour into my run, I got a new treadmill neighbour; this neighbour got on the treadmill beside me and proceeded to run…and cough…and cough…and cough. Every second breath was a barking, throaty, grunt/cough type sound that was so bad I had to wonder if they should even be running. It. Was. Torture.
I’m sorry, I really am. I’d like to think I’m tolerant and accepting but this constant cough/grunt was so distracting I very nearly gave up, quit my run and left the room just to get away from it.
Firstly, the noise of it. It was loud, right beside me, and never-ending.
Secondly, the closed room with no air circulation. I knew that whatever was being expelled by the cough was something I’d be breathing in too. It was inevitable.
Thirdly, the longer it went on the harder it was to endure it. The intervals this person was running were hard, and I thought maybe after 20 minutes they’d be done but they weren’t. They kept going. Now, fair play to them for going hard at the training like that for as long as they did but I couldn’t stand the grunting cough.
The person ran beside me for just over 40 minutes. The longest 40 minutes of my life. After 10 minutes of this I had nearly left the room. By then I had only run 5 miles but I figured I was on holidays, I could be excused/forgiven for not getting in the full 8 miles that were on the plan. But then you know how hard I am on myself, I knew I would regret it if I gave up.
But nearly every step I took after that was a struggle…every step felt like my last one. Every step I thought ‘ok, I can’t take this anymore, I have to stop.’
It took every ounce of willpower I had to keep going. I reminded myself of every time I’d pushed myself, every time I achieved a goal and how good it felt to say I did it. I thought back to the marathon and what it took for me to keep going for nearly 7 hours. I thought about how much I would regret not hitting my target of 8 miles.
I thought about all the things I’ve been through in life, things that were far worse than running beside a grunting coughing runner.
As an aside, yesterday I saw a runner I follow on twitter post a blog called ‘Treadmill etiquette: 5 rules for indoor running‘. I read these and thought oh my goodness, not one runner I ran with that day on the treadmill followed these rules! Are they not common sense? The coughing runner probably couldn’t help it; they didn’t cough when they weren’t running so it was definitely exercise induced. It’s why I felt so bad for feeling so annoyed!
Anyway, I finished those 8 miles, gritting my teeth and persevering through my desire to give up. I was never so happy to finish a run. And I swore to myself I would never run a treadmill again.
I am a roadrunner. Meep, meep!
Are you a roadrunner or a treadmill runner? Let me know in the comments below!