I have always maintained that runners are special. Ask anyone who lives with a runner and you will risk being subjected to a lengthy, heartfelt and even frustrated sermon about how special they really are. They disappear at all sort of unseemly hours and then come back home utterly exhausted but strangely elated. The only conclusion for a sane ( non-runner) is that the runner in their life must be ‘special’. The rest of the pleasure of cohabiting with a runner is clouded in mystery and probably makes most sense left that way.

This ‘specialness’ can be expressed in many aspects of life, be it related to diet, insistence on a rigid weekly routine or the decorating of entire rooms with medals and race bibs. You know it happens!!! That said, there is one annual ‘negotiation’ that probably equals no other. Every year the prospect of the family holiday looms large and then bursts into the family conscience. Both sides of the running divide start to think how this should or could be handled.

The non running partners, a number that often includes children, speculate on whether Mom or Dad will take a whole bag of running gear with them on the annual family vacation. This is an additional bag to the one with either beach gear, evening wear or other good stuff in it. This side of the family will also consider how much of the vacation might be structured around ‘getting a run in’ whether the intended destination is Rome, Paris, Nashville or the Sahara Desert. These deliberations might cause the occasional spirited debate around the dinner table as the running side of the family enters into delicate negotiations intended to balance their obsession with the needs of the family.

As for the runner, there really is very little to debate or discuss. Training cannot be disturbed just because familial obligations must be observed in order to maintain a civil marriage or family life. That said, this apparently straightforward and ‘obvious’ point of view tends to come unstuck when the opinions of the non-runners are, for whatever reason, taken into account. They just do not get it. The need to run seems to be lost on them. After all, they see the runner in their life do it all year round which raises the question for them: why not take a rest?

A rest? WHAT HERESY IS THIS? Surely only a non-runner could contemplate such an incomprehensible idea let alone actually dare to say it, but say it they do. This delicate subject thus forces its way onto the agenda and detailed discussions ensue as a precursor to getting some sort of treaty signed before the vacation. Of course, some families have two runners in them. These combos, often husband and wife, make the idea of no running on vacation totally beyond consideration. The hapless kids in these hopeless situations are stuck with the problem so, I guess, there is no choice but to suck it up and deal with it.

Even the single runner wrestles with the dilemma of ‘to run or not to run, that is the question’ when venturing further afield from local and comforting roads. Clearly some vacations lend themselves to running as the break from work might be destined to land the runner in a place where running is even more exciting and mind soothing than normal. Others, like my 2017 trip to the Cotswolds in England present more interesting problems. My home town is hilly and I do not need hill training right now. My fragile knees are just beginning to carry me again. Thus, the dilemma of whether to take my ‘gear’ even presents itself to me. Great beer, ancient hostelries, fabulous high calorie food and endless bonhomie with old friends all range themselves against the obvious pleasure of enjoying Merry Old England. Thus, the question arises of whether I pack running gear or just say ‘to hell with it’ and relax awhile. I am not Mo Farah, I am not trying to get into Team GB, so maybe a rest might be a good idea. I have two knees that concur, even though I might sneak one change of gear into my bag. We shall see.

In conclusion, the prospect of a complete break from running might be very therapeutic. Families might be rediscovered and good times had. While it is tempting to think life revolves around running it is quite sobering to realize it might not. Any coach worth their salt will tell you a rest is good. Some I know stop running for a three week period every year. This could, cunningly, be made to coincide with the family vacation. So. Think about it. Why not take a rest. Enjoy your vacation and chill. You might find out that it makes complete sense.

Mark Darley
aka Britrunner

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