Sunday, 15 January 2012

Birth of the cool

Long run this morning. Sixty minutes, no stopping. Actually that's a lie. Three stops, two were traffic lights, one was picking up dog poo. There you have it. I'm a good citizen, and a runner.

I wasn't always a runner, and on some days it's debatable whether or not I am, but today I surely was. I know this because other runners gave me that nod. It's a very specific nod, the brief twitch of acknowledgement from a passing jogger, but once you've had it, you never miss it again.

It was getting that nod from fellow runners a few years ago that helped me know I'd made it into the club. More than completing my first 5km race (women's breakfast run around central London, took me nearly an hour, I had yet to discover hydration or training plans), more than getting my medal for the ADRA half marathon in Auckland, yes a brief flick of the head from a runner coming the other way across the Millennium Bridge at the Tate Modern end in 2008, that's when I knew I was on my way to being cool.

There have always been teenagers who start smoking because they want to be cool. They splutter and practice and cough and it seems unlikely they will ever manage to speak and smoke, but somehow - sadly - they pull it off. We have something in common, me and the teenage wannabes. Like them, I longed to join oh-so-cool ranks that seemed closed to me. I wanted to be one of those people who bounded out onto the pavements in the mornings, moved fast and fluid through new and familiar neighbourhood, took part in races, glowed with life and energy. And in my quest, I've done more than my share of spluttering, gasping for breath, lungs burning, wondering how on earth people can do this and talk, and now, I'm in the "hello other runner" nonchalant nodding brigade. Hooray.

I've yet to master lithe and fluid movement, but am very happy at keeping going for sixty minutes today.

There were several tricks that helped me, all of which I recommend:

1. Know the route.
I don't know why this matters, but it does. Something about passing familiar streets and knowing how far I was from my destination carried me forward.

2. 160 bpm
All the music I ran to today was 160 bpm. Some Latin, some electronica, some stuff I'm not cool enough to know the name of. Letting my feet literally move to the beat kept me moving at a slow enough pace to last the hour.

3. Slow down
A seasoned marathoner told me last week that elite athletes avoid injury by building breaks into their long training runs. It makes sense, and every fifteen minutes today, I slowed right down, to almost, but not quite walking pace.

4. Take the dog
If you don't have a dog, borrow a fit one.
Dogs are great motivators, and cheaper than personal trainers.
Although they know a lot less about recovery, they seem to have hydration nailed.

5.Run where there are other runners
This gives you a chance to feel part of the club, and can motivate you to keep going.

 My plan is to increase the weekly long run by ten minutes every week. Long runs, we're told, are for stamina, endurance, efficiency and confidence, and maybe, just maybe, they help build a bit of cool.

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