Here comes now, I’m afraid, my Running Story.
Running stories are boring. They all go “I hated exercise I was so shit then I took up running and now I run the marathon and I love life and tra la la la la!”
But I really did hate exercise. Seriously. From little. I failed the bleep test at school, I purposefully walked during all the running-round-the-park exercise test things. I bunked off games, I got notes off games. Anything to avoid it.
There were dabbles with it later in life, but I just couldn’t be arsed, it wasn’t my thing. I loathed how much time it took up, (not that I had anything better to do), was astonished at how crushingly boring it all was. How shit I was at it, how I never seemed to get any better, how it never made me feel better. I hated the bouncy, positive evangelical people it seemed to attract.
Then I had two children and got fat and unfit and wobbly and knackered and hated myself. Then recently I found spinning and got fit and thinner and thought FUCKING HELL YES MAN YES YES YES THIS IS IT.
Then my spin class got bloody cancelled – some spat between the exercise dudes and the church hall ladies – and that was months ago and it still hasn’t been resolved.
So before the Easter holidays I went for a run. A slow one. I didn’t take off like a shot, like I’ve always done in past dalliances with running, only to knacker myself and my knees and my lungs within minutes, then get a stitch, then dawdle a bit and walk home and never go again.
I rumbled along slowly and kept going and going and going until the short playlist on my phone ran out. Then I walked home. Then I had three days off and then I went out again for another run and went up a hill, which wasn’t very nice, but I stopped at the top and blew my nose on my sleeve – and at least everything else was downhill from there.
The thing I find a bit annoying about running is that it is a truism that the first twenty minutes are ghastly and all jangly and shit and you constantly want to go home and you’re a bit asthmatic and phlegmy and then after twenty minutes things clear and lighten up and breathing is easier and you’re cantering along without really realising it.
But 30 minutes is pretty much my limit for a run because I squeeze it in after bath time and before dinner with my husband and there is only, frankly, so long I am willing to wait for my dinner and a glass of wine. Such dedication! But that knowledge, that after twenty minutes it suddenly gets easier, is enough to turf me out onto the streets once or twice a week.
Anyway, here are my very predictable tips for first time runners. If anyone has anything insightful and useful to add to this list, please leave a comment in the handy box at the bottom of the page.
1 No-one knows you’re a first time runner. No-one knows that you’re red-faced from just pottering down the road. No-one knows when you heave to a slap-footed stop that you’ve only been going for three minutes. No-one knows.
2 You don’t need to stretch before. You don’t even need to stretch immediately after – but it IS important to stretch after the post-run bath or shower. It will also be more effective. Just a bit. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
3 Likewise don’t tank up on a lot of water before you go, or take water with you, it will just slosh around in your stomach and make you feel sick. Have a glass when you come back.
4 Hold this truth dear: all you need to do is work your way up to being able to run gently for 20 minutes non-stop and then it will stop jangling and start being fine. Not, like, lovely or anything – but fine.
5 Have rest days. If you’re new to running leave at least two days clear before runs, otherwise you will hurt yourself. I have in the past ignored this advice and I properly crippled myself for about a week. It was awful and I felt like such a dick.
5 Runner’s high is a myth (I think). So are all those mood and emotional benefits of exercise everyone goes on about. The only thing that I like about exercise is that it means I fit back into certain clothes that I had dismissed as Never-Agains.
The exercise I do doesn’t even mean I can eat what I like. I still eat fucking nothing but weeds, fish and pulses and I have to go running to stay in shape. Getting older is no laughing matter.
6 Don’t go running expecting it to change your life, or to be nice because you will only be disappointed when it doesn’t. No-one likes going for a run. Everyone likes having gone for a run and for it to be the longest possible time before they need to go for a run again.
But do go.
If you need extra inspiration from a proper expert, read this book.