Article of the week: On the run

26 September 2020


Trevor Caffull shares what he’s learnt from taking up running

IN the first week of lockdown I set myself the aim of virtually cycling the 17 miles to work from home. I reached that goal and continued to do it for some time, but I must confess that I’ve lapsed. I now only use my exercise bike two or three times per week – still doing 17 miles – and I’ve discovered all kinds of podcasts that keep my mind away from the drudge of pedalling hard to get nowhere and that educate me at the same time.

I’ve good reason for allowing my daily cycle to dwindle, because I’m now spending more time running. To begin with I couldn’t run very far and kept getting injured. It’s a wonder I didn’t give up! The truth is – and I don’t want to dwell on this because it is a difficult subject for lots of people – I have lost a fair bit of weight. This has made running easier, which has probably helped me lose a bit more weight. I’ve lost about  34 pounds since the new year – carefully and as a result of a health-related adjustment to my diet, rather than simply dieting to lose weight. So you would expect running to be easier.

About three years ago, my wife,  Deb, took up Parkrun – an organised 5k run that, before the lockdown, took place in hundreds of different locations around the country at 9 am every Saturday. Never a particularly sporty type – except for being a very good swimmer – she loved the friendships she formed, the freedom of open spaces and, perhaps most significantly, felt a real benefit to her mental health. She graduated from 5k to 10k, then to half marathons, of which she has now completed quite a few.

All along I was encouraged to join in, but I couldn’t run for more than about 400 yards before feeling I was about to take my last breath. One day I went along to volunteer as a marshal and, at the end, found myself slowly jogging back to the start/finish line – and I was hooked too.

I kept getting injured, kept having to start all over again and overall felt that  I was really getting nowhere. When  the lockdown began I decided to give it another go. The unspoken aim of all Parkrunners is to beat a time of 30 minutes – and I hadn’t really come  close to that. As lockdown progressed, however, I found myself getting quicker. A few weeks ago I broke 30 minutes  for the first time. In fact, I smashed it by coming home in 28 minutes and 49 seconds. (Sadly it is not official in Parkrun terms because Parkruns are still suspended.)

I felt that I should build in some strength, so started running longer distances and have now completed a couple of 10k runs. This is farther than I have ever run before and I’m running at a pace far quicker than I was able to manage for half the distance only six months ago.

So what can we learn from all this? First, I would encourage anybody who is able to run to do it. Once you get over the initial pain barrier it is a liberating experience.

Second, there’s something to learn about perseverance. My repeated injuries could easily have made me give up, and the fact that I didn’t is more to do with encouragement from others than it is to do with my own determination. We all face setbacks in life – sometimes repeatedly – but when we persevere, success is all the sweeter.

Third, the value of encouragement is priceless. If you can’t be a participant, be an encourager, or preferably be both. Be people who will say, ‘Go on, you can do it,’ rather than, ‘You’re joking, you’ll never do that!’

The writer to the Hebrews pictures the life of faith as a race. He says, ‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’ (12:1). That’s a race that we can all take part in. There will be times when it calls for perseverance, but by ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ (v2) we can find strength to ‘not grow weary and lose heart’ (v3). The perfecter of our faith is alongside us in every challenge, saying, ‘Go on, you can do it!’





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