Today is Friday and the training plan is to do “whatever I can manage” (see blog day 95). It is a welcome change to the structured week so far but I was thrown a curve ball in that I needed to do my training around Sydney Olympic Park after an early morning commute from Newcastle.

This happens regularly enough now and so long as I rise early enough to brew a decent coffee before hitting the road, I really enjoy the time in the car in the early hours. Pulling into Sydney Olympic Park around 7 or 7:30 the time is there to enjoy a run before hitting the office.

The ’creature of habit’ took over this morning and a lazy hour was covered with my mind wandering all over the place. Such a run seems to only last for 30minutes with the watch saying otherwise. During the run I reflected upon the ’creature of habit’ description for successful training and concluded that there is a tension in the need to be flexible. Not flexible in being able to touch your toes, 2012 Olympian Marty Dent proved that being able to touch his knees was ample for elite performance, rather, flexibility in being able to maintain the most important elements of training regardless of time, location or who is around.

I learnt the importance of this adaptability on my very first Australian team back in 1998. Being 23 and a bit ’country’ I was in awe of being selected on the Australian men’s Ekiden Relay* team to contest the Chiba Ekiden in Japan. The most famous distance running relay event in the world and Australia having a proud history with a couple wins in the past decade.

We arrived at Narita Airport late in the day and were taken to the adequately resourced resort where we would be staying nearby. It was dark and cold, surely not great for running so I assumed that my senior team-mates would just see to dinner then turn it in. Not so. Upon exiting my room I was confronted by Pat Carroll, Shaun Creighton, Darren Wilson, Dave Evans and Kim Gillard all kitted up in their Australian tracksuits ready to take to the roads for a quick 8k! Not wanting to be shamed I quickly threw on the tracksuit and jumped onto the back of the group as they lumbered up the road.  It was obvious that this run was important, not just so it could go in the training diary but it was keeping the ’normality’ of training despite the massive change. In one day we had traveled to a different time zone, different hemisphere and different season!

Over the next 5 days I learnt a lot about adapting the regular training to a different environment. I also learnt that it was important to be a part of the new environment. To take it all in and enjoy it. My team-mates were all seasoned travellers and made the most of the experience in Japan.

Pat Carroll was particularly useful in adapting the Japanese language. Rather than sticking strictly to the dialect he developed his own Australian ’slang’ versions of key phrases. Upon greeting all Japanese resort staff on our morning runs Pat would translate “Ohayō gozaimas” to “How high are your pajamas”! Naturally Pat would say it with a straight face with all sincerity and was most often afforded a polite acknowledgement.

My journey has shown me that while discipline and commitment are great assets to have in the sport of distance running a generous portion of adaptability goes a long way in developing a ’healthy creature!’

*The Ekiden Relay is a unique running event made popular in Japan where teams of 5 or 6 cover the marathon distance. The breakdown for the men’s Ekiden was traditionally runner 1 – 10k, runner 2 – 5k, runner 3 – 10k, runner 4 – 5k, runner 5 – 12.195k.