As I was running in torrential rain whilst trying not to be blown off my feet during the latest storm, my mind wandered to the newspaper article I had read that morning. It was another feature set out to debunk several myths about running and encourage more people to take it up. Although I didn’t disagree with the essence of the article I realised that this was the second time that I had read something on the very same topic in only a matter of days. Whilst I pondered to what extent there was any mythology about running that was stopping people from lacing up their trainers, I was momentarily distracted and misjudged the depth of a very swampy puddle. I felt the surge of icy water engulf my feet as my shoes sank to the puddle’s depths and it occurred to me that neither article had mentioned this.
No one ever comes clean and tells you the truth about running. Maybe it was about time to let the uninitiated know what they will be signing up for. As a veteran runner, I feel dutybound to share this so what follows are the harsh realities and the inconvenient truth about running.
As I sit with my feet up, nursing a very blackened toe I have taken a moment to reflect on the past weekend. Last Sunday, I joined over 2000 other runners and took part in the annual Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon. I have run this event several times before and have had very mixed experiences of it mostly due to the dodgy weather at this time of the year. But like many others, I haven’t been put off by it either. The Winter Half is increasingly sold out every year and for the first time, the start was organised into waves of evenly paced runners. Not that this stopped a bit of ambitious manoeuvring to the front of the start by runners from later waves. But the slight kettling at least meant that the beginning of the race felt less like being chased by a herd of gazelles who thundered by while you tried not to get trampled on or slam into the occasional bollard.
The other difference in this year’s Winter Half was that the course had slightly changed. Now this is not unusual because the changing winter weather can mean that some years, the route must be altered at the last minute due to flooding. However, as I have run the course so many times before I never pay much attention to any tiny little tweaks to the route. Especially because the course always overlaps and repeats many of the running routes I normally train on. So as far as I was concerned, as long as the Winter Half course was pretty much the ‘same old, same old’ and not any farther than the 21 long kms, I was fine with it. Or so I thought…
What a weekend it has been for sporting triumphs as two incredible Kenyan runners smashed some historic records for the marathon. First up, Eliud Kipchoge, who holds the official marathon world record of 2:01:39, set in 2018 has broken new ground by becoming the first athlete to run a marathon in under 2 hours. It may seem slightly harsh that his time of 1:59:40 in Vienna cannot be recognised officially as a new world record when the world was there to witness every single step. But the race of 1 runner clearly wasn’t an open competition and Kipchoge was helped by an extensive support team. It was mesmerising watching Kipchoge’s 42 pacers rotate into position throughout the race as seamlessly as the backup dancers at the beginning of Strictly Come Dancing. It hardly matters that Kipchoge’s time is not official because he made marathon history and in his own words, he showed the world that there are no limits when you believe in yourself and trust in what you are doing.
the appointment of the new Marmite-like Prime Minister in the middle of the
UK’s sweltering summer, it may feel impossible to be keeping a cool head. Whatever
your political affiliation or views on Brexit, one thing is for certain: it is
a struggle to carry on as normal in temperatures more akin to the tropics. Somehow,
even if many of us look forward to being in the same temperatures when we’re on
holiday, when we are at home trying to get on with our daily lives, a heatwave makes
it seem utterly unbearable. Of course, there will always be those amongst you who
are perfectly comfortable blissfully soaking up the hot sun. They are the same people
who appear effortlessly cool on the Underground without a single bead of sweat
in sight. And I shouldn’t complain when if given the choice, I will always opt
for taking on the heat rather than facing cold weather because it is my
personal Kryptonite. However, this summer I am failing miserably to cope with
the heat when it comes to running.
Well it has been a long 18 weeks of training to get here but I can finally say that last week, I ran my first ever marathon. It was a tough 42km but I survived it mostly unscathed except for a couple of my toes which are still very sore. After the race, I was naturally a bit nervous to take off my socks in the big reveal of my feet. I have to say that frankly, they are not for the faint-hearted having been battered, bruised and now modelling a rainbow of purple shades. But I don’t care or even mind wearing flip flops in the rain. I am still walking around in a marathon-induced happy haze as I continue proudly sporting my new technical t-shirt. At moments like these, when everything is still fresh in your head it can be helpful to take stock of what went well and what didn’t. After a marathon effort, I thought I would share 5 lessons learned about how to run one well.