Pushing past 40 years, inevitably one’s personal fitness starts to come under attack. If it’s not your belt openly challenging you by asking “hey shall we go up a notch?” then it’s the knowing tightness you feel the day after you ran just 100 yards for the number 71 bus.
So yes I’m a new convert to running. So much so that I’ve signed up for a 10k in October and have brazenly set myself the goal of finishing in sub one hour.
It’s not a huge goal. But for someone who was medically advised to “not really run on hard surfaces”, it’s a goal I’ve been building towards with real relish thanks to the sheer amount of technology and socially engineered products that are out there to help motivate me off the couch and onto the tarmac. I thought I’d list a few of them for anyone considering a similar path.
First thing’s first you need decent running shoes. For a while I was running in some standard issue Karrimor trainers that I bought some years ago but every time I went out in these they felt both bulky and heavy. I didn’t feel nimble and it felt like I was carrying extra weight around the track with me. That’s a no no.
So last week I popped into RunnersNeed who offer a quick gait analysis service. Asked to run for 60 seconds on a treadmill they were able to pin point my running style and highlighted how I fall inwards. This much I already knew as I walk with stepped insoles every day to counter a long term issue with fallen arches. This let them recommend a certain type of running shoe and after 3 or 4 different shoes I settled on the Nike Lunarglide 8. They look like something out of Back To The Future 2 in my eyes but crucially they are light weight and affordable.
I’m not sure what quite motivated Philippides, the Greek messenger (besides delivering an important message in a timely manner) but the proliferation of fitness apps that track our steps, distances and routes is a god send to someone like me. At the end of any given run it’s fantastic to review how the run has gone, what time you did, what bragging rights you hold over your local fellow runners. And for that reason there is no better app than Strava.
At present I run with two apps running (ahem) in conjunction. Strava is there for the raw performance data and to publicly shame myself into better and better performances. Then there is Run An Empire, a real world strategy game that tracks your runs and converts them into empires won and lost. Think FourSquare + Strava. Whilst it’s still early days for the app, the sense that you are taking on and beating others in your local area is pleasingly rewarding — especially when you’ve collapsed in a pool of your own sweat and tears after trying to nail a 5 min km.
I use a standard running armband to hold my phone and when on my own tend to run with headphones otherwise I find I get bored just listening to the sounds of my feet pounding the pavement and my lungs begging for mercy.
Relive the moment
After any given run it’s nice to sit back and relive it. Where could I have gone faster, what would I do different? Whilst Strava really drops you into the data, I also found a neat app called Relive that automatically generates mapped fly-bys of your recent activity. You can see an example one here:
This week I also upgraded my equipment to include a Garmin Forerunner 35 which is a pretty standard step/activity tracker. The reason I went for this one was that it also tracks cycles (which I also enjoy) as well as my heart rate which in time I hope to see become stronger and stronger.
It’s not a particularly sexy looking watch but I only intend to wear it for runs and it synchs quickly with Strava which I use as my one source of truth for runs and cycles.
The other thing I like is the pacing feature that tells you your rolling average pace per km or mile which is great when you have a certain time in mind or are training for an event.
Last but by no means least is ParkRun. Parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. Crucially they are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.
These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and they actively encourage people of every ability to take part. I’m lucky that there is one close to me in Watford in my local park and so for the past few Saturday’s I’ve been joining people of all ages and abilities at 9am for a 5km run.
The runs are timed thanks to a simple bar code system and posted for all to see. Personal Bests (PBs) are open celebrated and anyone running their 10th, 50th or 100th ParkRun is called out for their fantastic achievement. It’s a community that celebrates the simple act of lacing up some trainers and getting out there. I implore you to find your local ParkRun and give it a go.