Oh, my mind was busy today as I trundled along for my weekly “long run”. I was aiming for a Pavarotti. To be more specific, it was a flat Pavarotti. The flat part is self-explanatory – after my struggles with hills (or “positive inclines”) during earlier long runs, I thought I would revisit a fairly flat route I haven’t used for a while. This is the Brampton Valley Way in Northamptonshire, the route of an old railway line linking Northampton and Market Harborough in Leicestershire. Today’s route took me 5 miles from the Draughton crossing towards Brampton, then back again. Hence the Pavarotti – in rhyming slang it is a tenner (“tenor”) or a £10 note. I could have been more specific and added “imperial” Pavarotti, to distinguish it from its younger brother the “metric” Pavarotti, which is only 10km.
The early part of the run was through a gentle mist. It was lovely to see it curling over the surrounding fields. There was no-one else around for a good part of 45 minutes, so trundling is what I did – the verb seems apposite given the history of the route with its trains. Slowly, I began to encounter more people. Some were walking their dogs, others were running, and some were on bicycles. At least one person was on a bicycle with his dog running alongside. All human (and canine) life was out on the Brampton Valley Way! Well, maybe that is an exaggeration…
So, as my legs trundled, my mind sort of followed suit. It moved on from the gentle appreciation of the quiet and misty surroundings to existential questions such as “why on earth am I doing this to myself on a cold Sunday morning?). And not for the first time, I noticed that i tended to increase my pace when other people were around, desperate for them to be out of sight so I could slow down again! I think this is an example of Social Facilitation Theory in action. The theory states that people tend to perform better in the presence of other people.
For “people” read “runner”. However, it only seems to work when the person is skilled at the task in question, so it rather begs the question as to whether I am a skilled runner or a simple jogger trying to impress. Evidence for the latter was provided by someone I passed on the way out, hit my half-Pavarotti marker a few yards further on, then passed him again in the other direction. I said “Heading home now, this is the good bit” and he replied “Be careful, mind you don’t kill yourself!”. The fact that I could engage in such an elaborate conversation while running/jogging/trundling shows that I wasn’t even out of breath. Watch this space for further developments – the other side of the coin with Social Inhibition Theory.