Left foot, right foot, repeat…

There’s nothing to this running malarkey. It’s just “left foot, right foot, repeat”…right? There was a time I used to think that. The thing is, the more miles I cover, the more time I spend on my feet and the more serious I am getting about this obsession simply called “running”, the more I realise just how much there is to what otherwise on the surface seems like such a simple activity…

Pick up any running magazine or visit any serious running website and the would-be-athlete is showered with all kinds of advice, reviews, articles and marketing paraphernalia. Yet many regard running as the simplest and most available form of exercise there is. The truth is you don’t need to pay out a fortune for gym memberships, you don’t need to remortgage your house to buy a load of specialist equipment or spend hours getting lessons from ‘experts’, nor do you actually need anywhere specific to do it – in fact, you don’t actually need anything to start running – if the Grand Designer gifted you with two reasonably moveable legs with something like feet on the ends which point anywhere within ±90 degrees of forward then you pretty much have everything you need to get out there and just do it, regardless of any fluorescent, reflective, gel-cushioned add-on mankind can come up with (although I don’t know how many times I’d get away with running past Tescos in the buff armed only with my “Grand Designer Theory”). Yes, there are lots of things that running doesn’t / shouldn’t / needn’t involve, but I’ve been thinking more and more about just what running exactly does involve…

I remember the day I decided to take up running vividly. Back then, all I knew to do was to get some kind of a schedule or plan, put on the ‘sporty’ clothes on that I had previously lounged around the house, don any old pair of trainers and head out to pound the streets like the Yorkshire version of Rocky Balboa. I’ll never forget that first session. The plan was “run for 30 seconds, walk for 60. Repeat 4 or 5 times”. Chuffing Nora, it was hard. By the end I was blowing out of every orifice I had and it felt like every burger, every fish and chip, sausage roll and pork pie I’d eaten for the last 15 years had been suddenly awakened and were intent on holding me back, cackling maniacally as they watched this 16st idiot shuffle my way along the footpaths like someone who had tripped and was about to fall over in slow motion. Rocky Balboa I was not. Despite this, with persistence and a lot of sweat and stubborn determination, it wasn’t long before I reached my first major milestone – the 1 mile mark. OK, I was wheezing like a chain-smoking donkey but I’d done it. Several shuffles later and I found myself able to circumnavigate the seemingly never-ending 4 mile perimeter roads of Goole in around 1hr 10 mins without needing to stop and call a paramedic for emergency assistance. I was getting there. I was becoming a runner.

Back then running was simply a means to an end. All my motivation and effort was focussed on a different goal. My eating plan, my exercise schedule…everything was geared towards losing weight. At some indeterminable point since those first, agonising steps outside, I contracted a bug. A rather nasty little critter for which there so far seems to be little hope for a cure. As anyone who has fallen foul of the same thing will agree, the Running Bug is a hungry, unforgiving and relentless little swine who will pervert your perspective of sanity and drive you to do all manner of crazy things like getting out of a perfectly warm bed to go panting round outside in the freezing cold and rain. And, like the true addict I have become, running for me is fast becoming all about getting better, going faster and further; about being a better runner, not just doing running to satisfy some other goal. As I’ve progressed I’ve realised that there is so much more to running than my original naive and basic understanding but there seemed to be so many facets I thought I’d try and get them down on virtual paper in the hope that I can refer back to it as a kind of ‘map’ to guide me in my journey towards the marathon and beyond.

The more I run the more I learn! Click to Enlarge

Like many other people I’m a very visual person, so pictures work for me every time. By creating this I now have a ‘map’, a ‘user manual’ almost, something I can mentally call upon every time I visit the fridge for a snack, every time I start to feel my pace dropping in a race, any time I need to reflect on where I am or need a reminder of what I have to focus on in the weeks and months ahead.

The more I run the more I learn. The more I learn the more I’ll tweak my ‘map’. Right now I know that if I am going to make the next step up I need to rely on so much more than simply lacing up my shoes and hitting the streets for a few hours a week. There’s SO much more to running than that. Something Rocky Balboa knew only too well…

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