I discover I can run and cry at the same time


New runners and insoles transform my running experience, but my motive for running has become clear at last, writes RÓISÍN INGLE

I’VE HAD my gait analysed. It’s a thing us athletes do to find out about something called pronation. Until the other day I’d never heard of pronation. And if I’d been analysing my own gait I would say it was, and I’m being as technical as I can here, one part elephant to two parts Mr Snuffleupagus.

Now I am much better informed. Pronation is, according to the running experts, “the turning-inward movement when your foot touches the ground”. When you walk or run, this turning inward movement acts as cushioning for the body. Apparently too much pronation can hinder your running. I’m secretly hoping I’ve got dodgy pronation so when anyone asks why I run like an imaginary woolly mammoth from vintage Sesame Street I can point with a sad face at my inward-turning feet.

In Elvery’s Sports you can get your pronation examined free. You step up on the treadmill while a helpful shop assistant, mine was Rachel, sets it for “slow jog” or at least what other people might consider “slow jog”. The treadmill starts rolling and suddenly I have official and inescapable confirmation of the snail-style pace at which I run. This “slow jog” pace for me is a full on breath-stealing sprint.

Rachel, sensing that I am about to fall off the thing, turns the treadmill down a couple of notches. She also manages not to laugh which is professional, not to mention nice of her.

She makes a video recording of the back of my legs while I am running. It turns out (yay!) I am overpronated which means my foot rolls inwards too much. I am not really taking in what she is saying though because I am too distracted by the spectacle of my calves on the video, captivated by the size of them I am. I don’t tend to look at my calves that much in everyday life.

Next up Rachel analyses my feet in order to create some custom molded Footbalance insoles which she says will support my feet and improve things pronation-wise. It takes a few minutes to make them and when she pops one in a pair of runners I can feel the difference immediately. She picks out the best pair of trainers for my feet. They’re from the Asics range and they are called (oh, the irony) Supremacy.

Ruth Field, that author of my bible Run, Fat Bitch Run, says proper shoes picked out by experts can transform the running experience. I’ll be reporting next week on how both the insoles and the new runners have either turned me into a more generously proportioned Sonia O’Sullivan or a nippier Sesame Street character. Either would be nice.

It’s Good Friday, a week earlier. A time before gait analysis or pronation has entered my vocabulary. I’m in Cork, staying at the Fota Island Resort Hotel where people are walking around the impressive lobby with huge glasses of wine in their hands. I’ve had a long day, with a fractious train journey and I’d love a huge Good Friday glass of wine but instead I’ve got five 10-minute runs to complete.

I need something special in my ears for this because I am leaving the luxury of the hotel and heading out to test myself in unknown terrain.

I saw Ray D’Arcy on the television talking about running. He runs to work with no music or voices in his ears. Imagine. Running doubles as thinking time for him. I gave it a lash a couple of weeks ago. I came up with rubbish ideas for three novels and composed a mental shopping list containing mango and pineapple and nothing much else. I’m just not at the thinking and running stage yet.

For my inaugural Cork run I choose the Juliet Turner album People Have Names. I head off, down the hotel driveway out the gate and down a country lane. Then I turn a corner and suddenly I am jogging around what looks like a lake but what I find out later is the River Lee.

I am looking out at the still water, listening to Turner and I get a sense of something incredible. I am enjoying this. I am clearly rubbish at it but in this moment and for perhaps the first time this running business feels right.

A song comes on called The Elder of the Tribe: Take care of your lovely young life. It’s all that you get, you don’t get no more . . .”

I’m constantly questioning my motives for running but now I realise that this lyric might say something about what I am trying to do here. And I discover something else on this new path: I can run and cry at the same time.

Róisín Ingle’s next instalment will appear next week