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The Art of Running: Just Do It!

The weather is getting warmer and everyone, including myself, is looking at that pregnant lump under our tee shirts. This is the consequence of Christmas, Chinese New Year and sitting on our arse because we’ve nowhere else to go. So we resolve to go running. It’s not hard is it? According to Wikipedia “Running is a method of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot.” Humans have been doing it since we picked up a sharp stick and started chasing Mastodons for lunch. So where’s the “art?” It’s just putting one foot in front of the other quite quickly and repeating ad nauseum isn’t it?

The feet are a good place to start because when you peruse the online running groups the debates around shoes and the “correct” shoes run into millions of words, Hoka’s, Mizuno, Asics, Nikes, New Balance or Neu Balonce (if you’re cheap and in China) and so on, plus those weird ones with the toes, it goes on ad infinitum. Some runners also develop a serious Imelda Marcos fixation owning numerous shoes for as many likely scenarios as you can possibly imagine. Trail running, road running, treadmill, cold weather, wet weather, ice, and they buy new every couple of hundred kilometres. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have a pair of Asics I’ve had for about eight years. I’m fine thanks. Occasionally, some people remind the groups that not so long ago we were running in bare feet – think Zola Budd.

Consequently, having the correct kit, becomes a serious consideration in the art of running. Forget throwing on an old pair of shorts, a ratty tee shirt and a pair of plimsolls you last used in High School. To be a runner one has to have the right wicking material, a lightweight, waterproof, windproof, reflective jacket and weird and wonderful coloured lycra leggings for both male and female runners. Not withstanding these stylish considerations, at my local gym I’ve seen people on the treadmill in their outdoor clothes, one girl in particular running in her North Face puffer jacket, while I dab the sweat off my brow. Not that she does much puffing, because she only runs for a maximum of about seven minutes!

It’s all about the time you see. Personal bests are the focus of the serious runner, shaving minutes or seconds off the 5k, 10k, half marathons and so on. The debating about watches is just as ferocious as shoes, “Should I buy the Garmin, the Fitbit, Huawei, Samsung, Apple?” Tracking ones run so one can later post the map as crucial evidence that two seconds have been shaved off their evening run is important. So your watch must have multiple functions if you want to be recognised as a serious runner and it must be as big as a sundial on your wrist. (It’s a strange contradiction of technology that as most devices get smaller watches get bigger, remarkable because watches per se are now almost obsolete as most of us carry our phones which tell the time based on some nuclear clock buried deep in a mountain in Boulder, Colorado, which incidentally is a mecca for ultra-runners.) These gadgets must, (apart from telling the time) connect to GPS satellites to map the run, monitor heartbeat, VO2 max, connect with the foot-pod tied to your shoes, synch with the running apps on your phone, play your favourite beats, have an altimeter, store data, compass, training programmes, accelerometer. These devices have more functions and computing power than the computers that took Apollo 11 to the moon, and will safely get you around the local park.

There is no doubt that running is good for you, in particular it helps with mental health, as well as our physical health. You don’t have to be an ultra-runner running 100’s of kilometres or even a 5K runner. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that even five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all. You will feel healthier, sleep better, be happier and like me, hopefully lose some weight and that big belly. This is the true art of running. And to steal a slogan––Just Do It!


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