Olympian Ryan Gregson puts his trust in running’s routines
In his third column for us, Australian Olympian Ryan Gregson talks about how running has helped him find stability during a challenging time in his life. One of the all-time greats of Australian athletics, Ryan has previously written for TEMPO on physical and mental preparation and finding balance in your training.
There have been times in my life when I’ve certainly taken running for granted. It’s what I’ve always done and all I’ve ever known. Over the past few months, however, I've valued the sense of stability it's given me in what has been a period of transition.
I’ve had a few extra things on my plate these past couple of months, including caring for my wife as she goes through two Achilles surgeries, supporting my mother as she starts chemotherapy, and launching a new business. Don't get me wrong – looking back, I wouldn't trade this time for anything, but I can see that, in a period of change and extra responsibility, running has been an important part of my daily structure. I think I’ve appreciated it as an area where I feel can move forward, even while in other aspects of life progress is slow or uncertain.
Since coming out of hotel quarantine in late August after returning from Europe, I haven’t once listened to music or a podcast while running. That’s big for me. In the past I would always listen to a cricket or rugby league podcast to make the time go by faster. If I didn’t have that kind of entertainment, there were plenty of runs that I didn’t look forward to. Now, I’m doing a lot of my running solo, without earphones, quite often on monotonous loops, and the time is flying by. Running has given me a space to think, plan my day, or if I want to switch off – a kind of meditation.
“Opportunities tend to present themselves when you’re in good shape and ready to make the most of what comes your way.”
I came home from competing on the European circuit early this year to assist my wife, Genevieve, in her rehabilitation from Achilles surgery. She’s currently had one operation to repair a full rupture sustained at the Tokyo Olympics and will undergo surgery for the other Achilles in the coming weeks. Because her ruptured Achilles is on the right side, Genevieve hasn’t been able to drive, so I’ve stepped in to help her get to doctor’s appointments, scans and daily rehab at the Queensland Academy of Sport. She is incredibly mentally strong and doesn’t overthink things, which has made the grieving process much easier for the both of us. I’m someone who is very practical when it comes to injuries, and I was straight away thinking about the surgeries she would need, time frames to get back to running, what forms of cross training she could do and what would be a reasonable next major championship to aim for. And at the same time, Genevieve didn’t grieve or mope around for too long. She was able to accept that her injury was caused by a combination of factors, mixed with some bad luck – and even able to find some silver linings in the situation. This is why she will come back and continue to be a great athlete. It also made my job easier as I was able to assist someone who was at peace and 100% focused on making a full recovery as soon as possible, instead of thinking that the world was ending.
My mother, Sue, has been battling cancer and has commenced chemotherapy for lymphoma that is in her body but also recently spread to her brain. She had brain surgery to take some of the lymphoma out, but now she has started chemo to try and keep the lymphoma that is in her body and brain at bay. She’s tough, and hopefully she’ll be okay; however, it’s still a scary time and you can’t help but feel powerless. As my mother’s condition worsened, it was a nerve-racking time waiting for the outcome of each doctor’s appointment and scan result. For a while there it was just bad result after bad result – and even if on the surface you’re functioning normally in society, there’s a layer of worry underneath everything. Running just gave me something to fill in my day. I was able to get outside once or twice a day and take my mind off things.
Starting an online coaching business (Gregson Running) recently with Genevieve has been a lot of fun, and to be honest I’ve been addicted to it more than I thought I would be. What makes running special is that everyone who runs has a goal. It might be to drop their 5km time from 22 minutes to sub 20, it might be to lose weight, or it could be to race their first marathon. Our coaching business is for everyone, but especially for those who are time-poor or live remotely and are unable to fit in with a local training group. So many people in the world run, and we’ve loved connecting with other runners and joining them in the pursuit of their goals, whatever they may be.
Regarding the performance aspect of my running, that too is in a period of transition. I performed poorly in track races in Europe this year and was a shell of myself in terms of what I believe I’m capable of. I don’t have all the answers as to why, but I have a general idea. I’m 31, and perhaps I can’t go about things the way that I have in the past. I don’t think that means that I can’t achieve great things. I think it just means that I need to adapt and find a different formula to get to where I want to go, something I’m sure my coach and I will figure out. I was able to win several domestic road races over the past couple of months, so things are trending in the right direction.
For the time being, I’m just enjoying running. I don’t know what the future holds yet. I’m running as much as I ever have, and I’m putting an emphasis on getting as fit as I can over the next few months. Opportunities tend to present themselves when you’re in good shape and ready to make the most of what comes your way.