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Interview with Pawel Surowiec, running lover

10.12.2020 18:35 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

When and how did you start running?

I started running regularly probably around 2012. I was finishing my PhD and the stress levels were running high, so it was good to do something about that. I noticed that a lot of academics in the UK seemed to be drinking a lot, and I was beginning to be sick and tired of this beer-pub culture. I came to the point of my life when I asked myself: “do you really want to be part of this?” I realised that there is more to life than sitting in the pub, drinking beer, and complaining about academic life.

Why did you choose running?

Running fits with the awkwardness and pressures of academic career. You can go running at 5 o´clock in the morning, you can go running at night, everything is up to you. You can basically run wherever you want to - it´s an activity done in the open space and also a good way of exploring places. There is also a social aspect of running – you can run alone but you can also spend your time with friends or meet the new ones. Many people get spontaneously together to go running.

Is there any difference between running and Academia? Are there any similarities?

I don´t think there is any kind of tension between an academic career and running. Because running is mostly individualised activity, the beauty of it is you can do whatever you want. It also depends on what you want from it. If you want to be an excellent marathon runner, you need to be devoted and obviously need to spend more of time training. Equally, if you just want to stop being a couch potato, you can do slow runs and that´s absolutely fine. I am probably somewhere in between. I don´t have the ambition to be an excellent marathon runner, I like having a target and I like attending good races. I started to plan my races around times of the year when I know that there would be a chance to be completely stressed out.

Could running improve your academic abilities?

I suppose the answer is ‘yes’. Not in the intellectual sense, but in the mental one. Running has a great impact on mental well-being. It helps to forget about things. The Academic environment can be toxic at times so letting some things go is very useful. At the same time, during the 2 hours slow run you can think about things normally one wouldn´t have time to think about. You can put them in the right places in mind, compartmentalise them if you like. And of course, when you run with other academics, it can stimulate academic conversations.

How often do you run?

Four, five or six times a week – it depends on circumstances. It changed with the lockdown; it has had a huge impact on the way how people run. Now I keep running on my own, I do 40 minutes speed sessions, I do a long Sunday run, that´s probably around 2 hours and 21 kilometres. On Saturdays, I was used to do a Park Run (see: so now I am trying to keep up with the routine and I do them on my own. On Monday I do a slow jog just to stretch my legs after a long Sunday run. That´s usually my routine.

Do you use any special equipment?

Shoes, a t-shirt, and shorts. A lot of T-shirts and shorts. Occasionally I stretch my legs with resistance bands because it´s good to keep the muscle balance and prevent potential injuries. Running is a relatively inexpensive hobby. In my social circles, people slightly get mad about the smart watches. That´s a way of keeping in touch with other runners who are distant, but I am not obsessed about this digitalisation of the ‘running performance’. Some people think that if the run has not been digitalised, it has not happened. I think it is quite funny.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

I always haven´t achieved what I wanted to achieve. My fastest marathon was 1 hour, 31 minutes and 9 seconds and I wanted to do it in 90 minutes. I did 10k (10 kilometres) close to 40 minutes and I wanted to do it below 40 minutes. I can do 5K (5 kilometres) under 20 minutes. I am also pleased with the fact that I managed to get other people into running, too. They seem to be grateful and emphasize that in private conversations. One of my friends from Poland came to visit me in the UK, started running with me, and now he acknowledges that running became a very important part of his lifestyle – it became a routine for him. He is not the only one, I encouraged some other people to start running, too.

So, you recommend running to other academics?

Absolutely. I think it´s one of those activities anyone can do. The old-school orthodox runners would tell you that amateurs destroy running- they still believe you have to be a super performer or stay at home and don´t clutter the streets for other runners. Of course, people should approach running responsibly. If someone has not run at all, they need to come up with a plan to develop the muscles, and to build up their fitness levels. Running is a good thing to do to release stress, to get things into perspective, to get away from a computer screen. Especially now, when we are stuck in front of them 12 hours a day doing online teaching on the top of other things. Running is also a way how to keep fit to do other sports like skiing. Overall, running has multiple benefits. It´s really a pleasant activity and a socially good thing to do.

Paweł Surowiec is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield University (UK) and member of ECREA Executive Board.



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