‘Other countries are too hot or too cold for many months of the year but here we are privileged to be able to run year round’
Runners at the start of the Dublin Marathon. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
“You were probably born running”, my editor quipped as he commissioned this article, and I don’t think there was any question mark at the end of his words.
In fact, I never ran for more than a bus until I was in my twenties, having devoted my youth to a fruitless pursuit of footballing excellence. Then, one day, a flatmate said he was taking part in a race and did I want to come along. We both huffed and puffed our way around a tartan track on a hot summer evening for half an hour – he was a smoker, after all – and somehow I was hooked.
There followed years of daily jogging, much hill-running and about a dozen marathons.
I’m still at it because, I suppose, I can. Running for me clears the head and recharges the body. Like brushing your teeth or going for a sea swim, I always feel better after a run despite the initial reluctance. I miss team sports sometimes, but there’s nothing to compare with the convenience of being able to throw on a pair of shorts and shoes and a running top and just get out there in the fresh air. It’s a great way to see a new city, to counteract the gloom of winter, to work off excesses of food, drink or work.
No, all that pounding on pavements probably isn’t good for us overall, but not running seems to be even worse. And though it might tire you out, you’ll sleep the better for it.
Perhaps you think you’re not cut out for it. Too old/heavy/unfit, etc. Tosh, I say. Look at the finish of a marathon and, beyond the elite athletes, you’ll observe that runners come in all shapes and sizes.
The keenest competition in many amateur races is found in the over-40s age group. Over the years, I’ve met many runners who say they shed the pounds by cutting out the booze and poor diet and lacing up their trainers.
We mightn’t be a major athletic power but Ireland has an ideal climate for running. Other countries are too hot or too cold for many months of the year but here we are privileged to be able to run year round – provided you don’t mind getting wet.
- Take it easy at first. Ramp up your training gradually. Sudden jumps in mileage often lead to injury.
- Warm up before running, and warm down after. Stretch your muscles before and after. Try yoga, pilates, sports massage, etc to increase or maintain flexibility.
- Preserve your body by developing a good running posture – upright, relaxed, striking the ground with the front of your soles. Run on grass when you can.
- Join a club. Running doesn’t have to be a solitary activity.
- Set goals – mileage, times, routes. Incorporate regular runs into your life by using your lunchbreak efficiently, getting up that bit earlier, or jogging to get from A to B.