Wednesday, 31 March 2010

"Some people say life is the thing, but I prefer reading."

Long before developing a passion for running, I had a lifelong (near enough) passion for reading. While the two enthusiasms are clearly difficult to indulge simultaneously, there is a fairly large intersection, viz. books about running, of which, happily, there are many.

Recently I have really enjoyed Long Distance Information by Julie Welch, a journalist who in middle life acquired a passion for long-distance events, particularly running. It's a personal, intimate and often very funny account. I love this passage: "Running. An activity which I had last, reluctantly, performed at school, at which I sometimes made the C team if I was unlucky, which I associated with cold foggy afternoons and wet Aertex. If you had told me when I was fourteen that running would one day give me adventure, confidence, pride, calm and even, maybe, sometimes, a reason to go on, that it would work on me far more magically than any mind drug, that through running I would learn far more about myself than I ever did in any psychiatrist's chair, I would have just laughed. But some thirty years on, it was true."

Welch has also written, among other things, 26.2: Running the London Marathon - I haven't read it yet, but have just ordered a used copy from Amazon, and am really looking forward to it arriving. While I have no particular current aspirations to run the London Marathon, I'm sure it will be a good read.

On similar lines, First Marathons by Gail Kislevitz is a series of personal accounts of "encounters with the 26.2 mile monster". It's American - lots of running books are, I've found - and all the marathons and most of the interviewees are US-based. It's still pretty relevant to UK readers, though - 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles regardless of where in the world you are. It's a good read, and excellent to dip in and out of. I particularly enjoyed the story of "running nun" Sister Marion Irvine, a former 20-stone 40-a-day smoker who ran her first marathon at the age of 50 and went on to smash age group records, including qualifying for Olympic trials with a 2:51 marathon..... at the age of 54.

There are, of course, numerous "how-to" guides, of which probably the most comprehensive - American, again - is Bob Glover's classic The Runner's Handbook, which covers pretty much everything you might want or need to know. The Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running by the fascinatingly named Dagny Scott Barrios, while less comprehensive than Glover's, covers similar ground slanted towards those of us of a female persuasion. For complete beginners, John "The Penguin" Bingham's No Need For Speed or Zest Magazine's best-selling Running Made Easy are very encouraging and motivating.

Currently I'm a quarter of the way through Chris McDougall's recent Born To Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen, which is something different again. Will post a review when I have finished it!

"Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."

Hello, and welcome to my new blog, where I’m going to be – hopefully – blogging my running: training, races and doubtless various random stuff.

I’ve been running regularly for about a year. I’m not good at it. I’m not fast. Nevertheless I am astounded by how far – literally and metaphorically – I have already come after 40 years as a complete non-runner, not to mention how far I still have to go.

This year, "the big one" for which I will be preparing is the Loch Ness Marathon in October 2010, which I will be running for Marie Curie Cancer Care. I’m simultaneously wildly excited and completely horrified by the prospect of running 26.2 miles in just over six months’ time. In the meantime I have a couple of 10k’s coming up, the Stonehaven Half Marathon in July, and lots and lots and lots of training.

Seriously, I can't wait.