Monday, 27 April 2009

Day 1 - Starting with a single step

Type - Steady run

Distance - 3 miles

Time - 27 minutes 20 seconds

The euphoria induced by a day mingling through the marathon crowds had not worn off. I woke elated by the prospect of going on a run, a taste for exercise I have not enjoyed for a while.

But running is for the evening. And first I want (and need) to buy some essential kit:

  1. By far the most important is a decent pair of trainers. I used to have a great pair of Asics that gave a fantastic spring to my feet and made running a lot easier. This is an investment that is essential and will yield quick dividends. But since then I’ve just had some pretty basic trainers for the gym. It is time to get serious again and so I head to Runners Need after work. I want to get trainers that fit well, are suited to my running style and will serve me well over long distances. The shop serves this bizarre niche by videoing your running stride on treadmills and providing shoes that work with and compensate for whatever running style you have. I have a medium arch and a moderate over-pronation, and so require a shoe that offers decent support. I try on a pair of Asics, a pair of Nikes, a pair of Brooks and then another pair of Brooks in a slightly smaller and wider size. I was very impressed with the time the shop assistant spent with me, and by the fact he did not simply hawk the most expensive pair (in fact the ones I ended up with were £20 cheaper than some of the others I tried). I walk out the proud owner of Brooks Adrenaline GTS size 9 wide trainers, which, as you might expect, seem a perfect fit and have an instant impact on my running.

  2. An iPod Shuffle. Okay, this might have been a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’, but it does make sense. It is a tiny MP3 player that clips to your shorts and contains about 250 songs. Much better than carrying round my encyclopaedic yet sizeable iPod Classic 80 gig, and it was only thirty quid. I fill it with 250 of the most euphoric and uplifting dance tracks – a bit of trance, house, baseline, hardcore and some of the cheesiest tracks to come out of the Netherlands and Italy. It is tiny, beautiful, and makes me happy.

  3. The bible. Okay, not the Bible, but Graeme Hilditch’s ‘The Marathon and Half Marathon – a training guide’ comes close for my purposes. It has come highly recommended, and has a reassuringly high score on Amazon customer reviews. I phone Waterstones, Trafalgar Square and Foyles, Charing Cross Road with an ISBN and they have sold out. I try Hatchards and there is a single incongruous copy in the upper crustiest book shop in London. I ask them to reserve it, and make a rain soaked journey in my lunch break to pick it up. On a quick read through it seems to cover everything you could need – training, stretches, nutrition, planning for races, physiology and even the psychology of races.

  4. Wristband wallet. Somewhere for the keys and a few coins so I can pop to the shop after the run.
But technology, gadgets and advice can only assist. The hard work comes from the running, and there is no getting around the first run. I am pretty used to running on treadmills in gym, doing a mix of steady runs, interval and hill training. But for some reason running outside has always seemed much, much tougher. And this first run comes after a long stretch of limited running training - I've stuck mainly to bikes and cross trainers.

I picked a circular route (map) along the roads around Clissold Park which came in at two miles, and I added a bolt on loop which would add another mile in case I felt able to start on three miles. I hit the pavement, and quickly got into a decent stride. The trainers were comfortable and gave a noticeably solid support. I finished the two miles with no major problems save a small build up of lactic acid threatening to turn into a stitch. I measured my breathing, and pushed on for the third mile, which certainly got the heart rate up, but left me enough to finish with a sprint for the last 500 metres.

I got in with a vaguely respectable 27 minutes, and the hunger to get stronger, faster, longer.

All journeys begin with a single step, and, in this case, the route to 26.2 miles begins with a solid 3 miles.

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