mundane adventures in running
I am proud of my friend Joe for having completed his first race. 10km. Joe wonders if he could have gone faster, or further, if he swapped his work boots for a pair of trainers.
Maybe he could. The boots (pictured) look quite heavy. They look quite unyielding. They look like a cluster fuck of sprained ankles, blisters, extra weight, poor drainage, dodgy traction. I wouldn’t wear these boots to run in. I wouldn’t wear these boots to walk in.
If Joe asked my advice, I would recommend that he goes to a running shop with a good range of shoes. I would recommend that he doesn’t get gait analysis and tries to avoid motion control. I would recommend he talks to the person in the shop, explains what he’s doing now and what his aspirations in running are. I would suggest that he looks at Brooks Pureflow, at inov8 road shoes, even at Nike Free. If he was in London, I’d suggest he visits Run and Become in Victoria, on the grounds that the staff are unimpeachably honest, passionate and knowledgeable. I would recommend that he shouldn’t buy any shoes without at least having a quick jog up the street in them.
Then, if I wanted to give advice beyond just shoes, I’d recommend to buy gear that doesn’t make him feel ridiculous, to wear cotton if it makes him happy. I’d recommend that he runs little but often, that he gets into the habit of stretching properly from the get go. I’d point him in the direction of some youtube videos with good yoga routines for runners. I’d suggest that sometimes he listens to music, sometimes he doesn’t, and when he does that “They Don’t Care About Us” is probably the perfect running song.
I’d recommend that Joe should sign up to Runkeeper; that he keeps pushing it, slowly but gleefully. I’d recommend that he should never see running as a chore, but always as beautiful, life embracing journey, a perfectly choreographed dance between the ghost and the machine. I’d recommend scrambled eggs as just what you need after a long run, and that banana blueberry and hemp protein soya shakes (with a little maple syrup) make a great recovery drink.
I’d recommend some of the tracks i’ve run, some I’d like to run. Books I’ve read, books I want to read. Not just Born to Run, all the way through to Running with the Mind of Meditation. I’d recommend him to love running just like I do: in just exactly the same way.
That’s if Joe asked me my opinion. He hasn’t and probably won’t. So I am going to shut up about it. It’s a struggle, i’ve got share tourettes: I want to share, I want to give him advice and tell him how it’s done. I want to instruct him to have the same wonderful experience of running that I’ve had; to give him a painting by numbers account of How to Run.
I’m not going to do that, or at least I’ll try to hold back. I’ve seen with lots of my friends that the journey into running is fragile. The first few weeks, months even can be a like a baby panda; there’s a kernal of an idea, or of motivation there which is to be fostered, not harangued, a spirit which is all too easy to crush with friendly advice. I don’t want to bore somebody into giving up too early. I don’t want my enthusiasm to become an alienating or elitist drone in the back of someone’s mind, laying down a directive of the right way to run, inadvertently judging.
Moreover, what do I know? I believe running is fundamental to the human experience. I believe that anyone who could run should try it, and I believe that if they try it, and stick with it, they’ll come to love it. It’s natural to want to run, it’s natural to enjoy running. Here’s the rub: running is so part of what it means to be human, it ends up as wildly idiosyncratic as the human race is diverse. While we are all wired to run, we’re not all wired in the same way. Music or no music, long distance or mid distance, jogging or running, pavements or trails, trainers or work boots. It’s up to each of us to understand ourselves how to set out on our journey into running, to work out what works for us, to work out how we can best enjoy this amazing experience. And then, to just do it, gleefully, enjoying every aching step.
So I won’t mention to Joe that I think he might benefit from a new pair of shoes… unless he asks me.