running blog

Clive Whaley

The 'To Do' List

Marathon Training - Day 35 (Completion of Week 5) - 12 miles easy
(Link to My Marathon Plan - weeks 11-16 not yet added.)Marathon_Plan_Clive_WK5

Even though it's the longest run I've done this year, it felt comfortable fitting in a 12 mile 'easy pace' run along the coast today. It was also good to do it without spending any time on my backside in the mud - something which was starting to become a regular feature of my training.

When I got back I did what I always do, usually before I even step into the shower. I 'ticked' the run as DONE on my Training Plan and filled in the other columns for Distance, Feeling and Comments. I have written out my 16 week plan on an Excel Spreadsheet with columns for:
  • Plan day
  • Date/day of the week
  • Content of run/session
  • Column for a TICK to show DONE
  • Distance covered in miles
  • How I felt: (Poor/OK/Good)
  • Comments
You know what, I like doing this. I look forward to getting back and giving myself a TICK for my efforts! It has only occurred to me since starting this training programme for the London Marathon, that one of the reasons this appeals to me, is that it is like following the ultimate 'To Do' list!

For as long as I can remember, and certainly for a huge chunk of my adult life, I have compiled daily 'to do' lists. I have a scrap of paper with a hand written list in bullet point format, either on my desk or somewhere about the house (I use them for both work tasks and domestic tasks). An additional 'nerd' factor comes from the fact that I roughly draw square boxes to the right of each item so that I can put a tick in the box when I have achieved them. But … wait for it, I nearly always use a red pen in the box to make the 'ticks'. I don't know what it is, but there is something about the contrasting colour that makes the tick stand out and maybe there is something deep seated about 'marks from the teacher' in an exercise book - only here the 'red tick' is always a good thing - because something has been completed.

I can remember one of the first ever 'self help' style books I bought was called "Getting Things Done" by Roger Black (not the runner!). I've just looked it up and you can buy old copies on Amazon for 1p!! Maybe I got the 'tick list' idea from him but whatever the case, I have spent a long time being driven by the idea (obsessed by the idea maybe?) of doing things on my daily list and rewarding myself with a DONE tick.

I have spent recent years being more philosophical and reflective about myself and trying to ditch the striving and achieving side of my character - knowing that this has led me to some good things but has also been the source of disappointment, depression and unhappiness. So why do I cling on to the daily 'to do' list? I don't really know but I think it is a very deeply ingrained habit. I also find it very useful and I think on balance the mild satisfaction I still get from ticking things off, balances out the dark, obsessional elements associated with it. Also as I get older, I suspect the daily list will be a godsend for when I get to those moments of mental paralysis - coming to a complete stop and shouting out, "What the hell was I going to do today?".

I think I have got things more in balance these days. I would much rather be out running 10 miles or more through the Dorset countryside, than sitting at home ticking boxes on a list. But how wonderful to be able to do both - Ha Ha! But there is no doubt that, for me, there is a deep mental and physical satisfaction at work here - working my way daily through a Mega 16 week To Do List which culminates in a final task of running 26 miles 385 yards on the streets of London. For that special day I think I need to create a giant box on my spreadsheet and massively increase the font size on my tick. (Innuendo alert!)

If and when I complete the London Marathon it is going to be like completing my life's biggest ever 'to do' list. Once I get back home, I will savour the moment as I put in that giant tick to say DONE. And I should probably leave it there … it will be really healthy for me to ditch the lists, trust my memory, become more spontaneous and live for the moment.

Sounds good but I just have this feeling that within a few days, I will start another list …