The first rule of running is…
Think twice before eating roadside blueberries.
Actually, that’s the second rule. The first rule of running, in my humble opinion, is to never compare yourself to others. It’s the advice I dish out to anyone who’s thinking of taking up running, and yet it’s something I myself struggle to adhere to.
One thing I should point out for those new to the blog (or just slow on the uptake) is that I’m not a great runner. I’ve been doing it now for almost six months now but my progress has been slow and I still run with all the grace of an arthritic hobbit. At the risk of mixing up my mythical shortarses I think it’s also fair to say that I’m built like an ewok, so not exactly a svelte runners frame either. Self-deprecation features heavily in this blog but it’s all done with a pinch of salt and I’m well aware that the important thing about going out for a run isn’t the speed, grace or distance, but the fact that I’ve actually got out there and done it. I know that, and I genuinely enjoy myself whenever I’m running, but I do find myself looking at how other people are getting on and beating myself up about it*
I have enough sense to know that there’ll always be people who can run further and faster than me, and for the foreseeable future I’m quite happy to put myself in the category of “enthusiastic plodder”. If I were to enter a race tomorrow I’d have no shame whatsoever in being overtaken by any number of people dressed as Spongebob. No, the only time I tend to really start criticising my own performance is when I get overtaken – not literally (I’m used to that) but in terms of beginners ability. It was easy when I started this running lark, because back then I stepped out my front door in my trainers and everyone was a better runner than me. You know that old lady who lives opposite me with the dribbly eye and the knees that sound like an old door, and who looks a bit like an owl? You know the one. Everyone has an owl-lady living near them. Well her Nan was a better runner than me when i first started. But it was okay, because I accepted my limitations and I stuck with it. I persevered and as the months have gone by I’ve seen my distances creep up and my times creep down, and the whole process has become a lot easier. My body has become a little more accustomed to running, so now my breathing is more relaxed, my posture improved, and it doesn’t bother me that I always struggle a bit for the first ¾ mile because now I know that that’s my warm-up period.
In isolation, I can look at the progress I’ve made over these last six months and feel a massive sense of achievement.
…but back in the real world I don’t look at things in isolation. I look at my progress, and then I read a forum post about someone who last night went for their first run, which happens to be the first exercise they’ve had since the school egg-and-spoon race, and they want to know if it’s okay that they only managed to run 10k. Or I get chatting to a fellow runner who’s just done four laps of Blueberry Hill at a 9 min/mile pace, and they’re 18 stone, smoke 40 a day, drink a bottle of whisky before breakfast and they let slip that they’re only having a go at “jogging” because they went to see their doctor at the weekend and were told to get more exercise after their latest triple-bypass operation. And then they finish it off with “mind you, it’s hard work isn’t it? I’d gone four miles before I realised I’d tied my laces together – what am I like, eh?”
Having read this back I realise that I it makes me sound extremely neurotic and over-sensitive. A running-fascist is bad enough at the best of times, but a running-fascist who’s not actually very good at running is worse than Hamburglar or Skeletor. Now would be a really good time to point out that this isn’t me having a go at others – I genuinely love to see people get into running and excel at it, and I get a real buzz when I hear about someone, be it friend or stranger, hitting a new PB or some other milestone. No, when I get these momentary bouts of envy, any bitterness is aimed solely at myself and I become my own worst critic.
I love running, and if I had my way everyone in the world would be into it. But preferably not all better than me just yet, thanks.
I think I’d better end this post by putting things back in perspective so I’ll share a quote from a chap called Joe Henderson…
“The challenge in running is not to aim at doing the things no-one else has done, but to keep doing things everyone could do – but most never will”
3.04 miles (4.89km) 36:32
*Not literally. I leave that to the ducks.