Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Unwritten Laws of Running

As a sub-category of the Law of the Sod, or at least as a relative of it, here are some until now unwritten, and certainly not complete, ‘laws’ which apply to runners (or at least mere mortal joggers like me):

The Law of Delusion – Five or six miles into a long Sunday morning run. Everything’s going well. Heart barely ticking over, legs don’t even realise they’re running, pace is brisk yet easy. Clearly today’s 15 miles will be no problem and you already consider extending it to 20 miles, maybe even the magical 26.2 of a marathon. The mind wanders further into the future… Ultramarathon running is clearly where you’re heading. It won’t be many months until you’re doing your first 100 miler. Then you get to 12 miles, just about manage to hobble through the last three which are absolute hell on earth, and vow to stick to shorter runs for the foreseeable future.

The Law of the Ignoramus (third person) – A beautiful day. You’re running well, bowling along at a steady pace, taking in the wonder of it all. The problems of the world simply don’t exist in the Utopian bubble of this magical run. You approach a figure walking towards you. As the gap closes to 15 metres you fix your gaze on this stranger. By 10 metres you can contain your enthusiasm no longer. “Good morning!” you blurt as a combined greeting and exclamation, and then you qualify it with, “Beautiful day!” before you’ve even passed. Five metres past the fellow human being you still await a response. By 10 metres past you would even have settled for a grunt of acknowledgement. But nothing. The complete ignoramus.

The Law of the Two Passing Cars – Quite simply, you are running along a country lane just wide enough for two cars to pass each other. One car approaches from behind, another from the opposing direction. There is only one place where they will meet and that is the exact spot at which they will both meet you. And next to the road at this spot is a drainage ditch, brambles or nettles (but most likely all three).

The Law of the Ignoramus (first person) – It’s beautiful day but you’re not running well. In fact today you’ve never got into your stride at all. The world maybe a wonderful place but today you wish to be somewhere else, somewhere like in front of the TV where your legs don’t hurt and your lungs are fully functioning. You barely notice the approaching figure walking towards you. As the gap closes to 15 metres you are aware of their presence and that this stranger is watching your awkward approach. By 10 metres you hear the enthusiastic greeting, “Good morning! Beautiful day!” It’s clearly neither good nor beautiful from your perspective. Five metres past this oh-so-happy-and-cheerful person, you are totally perplexed at how anyone could think such a thing as you plod along in discomfort. You manage a grunt in reply but it is indistinguishable from your  uneven and heavy breathing, and certainly not in a tongue recognised to anyone in our corner of the universe. You complete ignoramus.

The Law of the Guilty Thought – The ignoramus (third person) has just been passed. You are full of self-righteous indignation at how anybody could be so rude as to not return your cheerful bonhomie. Then you start to think. Maybe this person was deaf. Maybe they’d just suffered an unimaginable loss. And there was you, cursing their ignorance. Alternatively you have being the ignoramus (first person). Some 50 metres further on you start to consider that the person who greeted you was making a super-human effort to do so. Despite their own suffering (a terminal disease, a personal tragedy, redundancy – or even all three) this person was still able to be polite and see the wonder in the world. You on the other hand, just hammered another nail into the coffin of their self-esteem. The guilt remains with you for at least another 100 metres or so.

The Law of the Timid Looking Dog – It looks harmless because a) it’s not too big, b) it’s not too small, c)the owners look pleasantly middle class, d) it’s called ‘Jennifer’ or ‘Miffy’ or something else totally innocuous, e) it’s wearing a pink tartan coat, and, f) it’s on one of those extending leads rather than a heavy chain and three inch wide collar). The ‘cute’ little thing doesn’t even seem to glance at you as you approach. Of course, when you draw level, it launches itself at you, yapping, snarling, salivating, with the owner unable to restrain this deadly beast on the end of little more than a piece of string. You are put off your stride, maybe even stumble a little, but nothing is worst than the embarassment you feel to have been frightened by, as the owners put it, the ‘silly little billy’. You don’t stop to witness them give their pooch a cuddle but you make sure your comments about irresonsibility are loud enough to be heard as you continue on your way. (Note – The Law of the Guilty Thought should never be triggered by The Law of the Timid Looking Dog. Unless you intentionally kick the said beast.)

The Law of the Inconsiderate Traffic – You’re on for a PB on one of your regular routes. Just a couple of roads to cross and you’re home. Then you see the line of traffic. You are forced to stop for at least thirty seconds. Record attempt over. Conversely, you are desperately in need of a rest. You approach a major road junction and fully expect to have to take a traffic-enforced welcome break. Unfortunately, just at the precise moment you arrive, this particular road junction has never been as quiet since before the dawn of the automobile and you are forced to struggle on.

The above is, of course, not an exhaustive list of The Unwritten Laws of Running. Please feel free to comment and further develop this incomplete collection!


Technically Improving (or ‘Gadget Guilt’)

A little over 12 months ago, I decided I was turning into a proper runner. You see, I reckoned that as I’d stuck at consistently running at least a few times a week for at least a few weeks, I’d more-or-less cracked it and was over the hell and torment of ‘getting started’. Over the previous couple of decades or so I’d never really got beyond this stage so it was quite an achievement, especially as I was managing to lug around a couple and a half stone of excess weight.

So I rewarded myself. I brought a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS, heart rate monitor etc etc etc (I still don’t know what all the functions are). Deep down (in fact not even as deep as the hole it left in my wallet) I knew that I didn’t need this gadget to be a runner but I convinced myself I had to have one – somehow my life was not going to be complete until I’d purchased this space age microchip-filled lump of plastic with a face the size of an oil platform heli-pad.

I know why I did it. Throwing money at my running was a good way to convince me that I was definitely serious about it, and that same money was a sure way of convincing me that I’d better keep at it, or my wife would be asking far too many questions about the unused wrist-worn luxury I’d purchased while the kids were walking round in rags.* Nothing like a bit of guilt to make one turn-out for a jog on a dismal Autumn evening.

I should perhaps write a review of my adventures with my Garmin at some  point, but for now there’s something else I’d like to share. It’s true that I don’t know how to do everything of which it is capable but in the early days I managed to figure out the basics. I even managed to upload some of my ‘runs’ from the device to my computer. I then forgot the password to the software and gave up on that. Fortunately I remembered how to stop and start the thing, and how to charge it.

Today I was having a play with the 305 when I stumbled on the data from when it first accompanied me on my runs. And this was the fasciniating, and to me quite exciting thing. As I’d only ever kept comparisons of times/routes in my head, never successfully keeping a running diary, I’d never really had accurate data to be able to see how I was doing over time. However, staring me in the face today were some hard facts about my running.

Last year on 27th October (a Wednesday I think) I ran 10 miles. I remember the route because I’ve run it on several occassions since. It was a fair morning, I dropped the kids off at the in-laws, then set-off shortly afterwards (and no – the Garmin does not hold this type of information). According to the data it does hold, I completed the run in 1 hr 51 mins 31 secs. My average heart rate was 150bpm. I remember that the run felt like hard work and afterwards I was absolutely knackered.

I did exactly the same route in very wet weather on 8th October this year. So I compared the two runs in the ‘History’ file on the watch. My time was 1 hr 39 mins 30 secs and my average heart rate was 150bpm. More impressively from my perspective was that it felt like a very, very easy run.

Considering I’d managed to miss lots of training last winter beacuse of snow, ice and too much merriment over the festive season, and that my weight and training suffered terribly over the last month or so of last football season (too many beer and bratwurst-fuelled trips** to watch 1.FC Nuremberg play in the German Bundesliga), I am more than happy with the improvement I’ve clearly made.

The £100 plus seemed completely justified in just a few moments. Now I wonder what technology I could use to force me to run for the next 12 months?

* The bit about the ‘kids in rags’ is not strictly true. The rest is. 

** This is a sort of lie too. I do not actually consider*** it possible to have too many beer and bratwurst-fuelled trips to watch my beloved Nuremberg play. Although any self-respecting liver would probably disagree. And it turns running into torture.

*** Or maybe I’ve just not managed to reach a limit when even I have to say ‘that’s enough for now’.