Wednesday, 11 July 2012

How to become a 'proper' runner!

Only a 'proper' runner (or nutcase) runs on his wedding day!

WHAT do you have to do to become a ‘real’ runner?

It was a question posed this week by John M, a clubmate of mine. He’s a relative newcomer to the sport who is in his forties.  He gasped the words out while in the throes of recovery from an incredibly tough six-mile off-road jaunt on Tuesday evening.  

According to John:  “Despite the heavy rain that soaked me to the bones, the deep and numerous puddles that made my socks swell to three times their normal size, the crops that repeatedly battered my middle area as I made my way across fields, the low branches that either hit me across the face or added to the amount of water discharged onto me and the nettles that ripped at my shins, I absolutely enjoyed that run.  Can I now class myself as a runner, or do I need to get myself admitted to a mental asylum?”

Now that’s a very good question.  But before suggesting any answers, your very own Clapped-Out Runner must sheepishly confess that he wasn’t among the intrepid off-roaders on Tuesday night and didn’t witness the above horrors at first hand.  Reason being I made a late decision to join a small breakaway group, for a nice smooth six-miler on the roads instead.

I promise you this was not a case of settling for the softer option, but more a question of grabbing the chance to test out a pair of brand new Brooks road shoes, recently snapped up for half-price in a sale.  They looked so bright and sparkly in the boot of my car that I simply had to give them an outing on Tuesday – and at the same time give a day off to the decrepit four-year-old trail shoes which were sitting alongside them.

Of course I have nothing but admiration for John and the 25 other drowned rats who returned bedraggled to Tiptree Sports Centre beyond 9pm under Tuesday evening’s stormy skies. They survived one hell of a battering from Mother Nature and emerged in remarkably good spirits.

Details are slowly emerging about their adventure and the various injuries that resulted. Lynne B, for example, has just released a statement about her soggy socks creating what she describes as a “mahoosive” blood blister.  And I hear that even the prolific Andy G decided to take the following morning off for recovery, opting not to run into work as normal.  

Some training runs can feel mundane and uneventful.  This was clearly not one of them.  The fact that John emerged from the experience smiling means he is indeed well on the way to joining the ranks of the ‘real’ runners.  The true mental cases, that is. And if he forgets the pain and misery of Tuesday night and comes back for more of the same, he will have passed the test properly. Becoming a ‘proper’ runner is not about speed or winning titles, it’s about commitment.  

There are many ways for newcomers or casual joggers to find out if they have graduated to becoming a fully-fledged running nutjob.  Below is the Clapped-Out Runner’s guide to some of the tell-tale signs. See how many are applicable to you:

(1) You know what it’s like to suffer bloodied nipples, chafed groins and black toenails (and will talk openly about them).

(2) You have become an expert at going to the loo out of doors (even in built-up areas).

(3) You have started a meticulous running log, with comments on weather, how you felt, and other dull details included.

(4) During a normal working day, you find yourself leaning against walls and furniture to stretch calfs and hamstrings (and you don’t stop even if you get funny looks).

(5) You regularly scour magazines and shops for running shoe bargains, even though you already own at least two pairs you never wear.

(6) When planning important occasions like Christmas Day, a wedding, or a day trip, your first thought is always how you can fit in a run.

(7) You’ve been known to accidentally record a televised marathon over an important family video (such as your own wedding).

(8) Your family’s eating routine always includes compulsory pasta on certain days.

(9) You get bored, restless and bad-tempered on a weekend when there are no races (and also when you are injured).

 (10) You can list your PBs quicker and easier than family birthdays.    

If at least three of the above applies to you, then you have already become a proper runner. If all ten apply to you, then my wife knows exactly what your partner puts up with!

* Check out Rob Hadgraft’s published books on legendary runners of yesteryear at:

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