Updated: Nov 23, 2020
I’m that guy you hate. The one that runs past you or, even worse, towards you, looking sweaty and panting a lot. Then he looks you in the eye and says, “Good Morning!” as he passes, like he wants you to cheer him on or say an equally cheery “Well done.” The fact is that’s exactly what I want, I’m working hard here, and any kind of reaction is welcome.
I started running at 55 for the first time since being amongst the stragglers in enforced school cross country events, alongside the canal of all places. Now at 59 I’m still going, and I think you can do it too. I don’t know you or your medical history or the perfectly valid reasons you have to not do it but I’m going to discount that. The reason is that I’ve met people my age over the past few years who have far better excuses (swollen ankles, weak knees, big bellies) than you and they’re now regular runners. I’m not the messiah or anything but I like to think I’ve inspired a few to follow my example based on the thinking, “If he can do it, anyone can.”
The primary reason for me was losing weight, I love cakes, crisps, chocolate and Haribo and I want to keep on enjoying them. When my doctor told me I was pre-obese it felt like a foregone conclusion, “You are going to be obese.” So I decided to do something. A 10,000 steps a day walking regime turned in to running and that was how it all started. Looking back the other benefits are, getting some head-space from being outside as the sun rises, sleeping better, being part of a community of runners and feeling righteous for the rest of the day after a morning run. Pick whichever one works for you, they’re all great motivators.
You could try one of the Couch to 5k (c25k) audio programmes to load onto your mobile phone. The NHS one is good https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/. It’s nine week programme that’s starts with walking and gets you to a stage where you can run for five kilometres without stopping.
Another way is to set aside some time, 30 minutes maybe, and see how far you can get in half that time. Then turn around and spend the next half getting back home. Repeat regularly and each time you go out you should find you’re getting further and further before you have to turn around.
Finally, you could talk to a running friend and ask if they have the patience to go out with you once or twice a week. You will push yourself harder, the camaraderie and conversation really help to take your mind off any niggles or brain fog that would normally tell you to stop.
Right outside your front door. Particularly in lockdown, it’s great to find routes locally, and you can measure your progress against landmarks you know well. Keep away from running alongside traffic, especially as you work on your breathing in the early stages, and find out the shortest route to a park or green space. When planning a run build in some short cuts that can get you home quickly if necessary. A thunderstorm, mad dog or tummy incident may require a swift return to home which can be difficult if you’re halfway out. For some reason I usually run roughly circular routes in an anti-clockwise direction, then I know an early left turn will get me back quicker in an emergency.
If you’re looking to lose weight run before breakfast. Apparently men burn more calories on an empty stomach and women lose more if they’ve just eaten. Don’t ask me how it works. Obviously if you’re going for a run over 10k it’s worth getting something inside you, even if it’s only a banana. Once lockdown is fully over look for your local parkrun (https://www.parkrun.org.uk/). Wherever you are in the country there should be one near you. It’s a free Saturday morning 5k event that’s not a race and I can guarantee there will be somebody there slower than you. And don’t worry about what you wear, there’s always a few at the front with go faster stripes on their underpants but most people have grabbed whatever is to hand the isn’t knitted. I ran (not all the way) for the very first time in 40 years at a park-run and didn’t feel out of place at all.
And this is the key. To quote the small print from the gambling ads, “When the fun stops, stop.” I don’t mean give up, I mean stop running and walk for a bit, sit on a bench, chat to a passer-by. The only rules are the ones you make up. Sometimes I’m blisteringly fast (by my standards), my feet barely touch the ground and other times I’m shuffling along and dragging my heels up some interminable hill. In the end it doesn’t matter, I’m outside, my mind is free and I’m miles ahead of everybody else who’s still in bed.
So what are you waiting for?