Midday on Sunday last. It was windy. It was wet. It was miserable. It was the sort of afternoon that one could justifiably have decided to keep the door locked all day, stick on the heating, switch on the kettle and curl up with a book.
But, with a week to go to The Munster Express/Caulfield’s SuperValu 10K Fun Run, knowing that every mile under the belt would benefit the legs come Sunday next, I laced up and hit the road.
It was the sort of day which wouldn’t have fazed Arthur Lydiard, one imagines. The Auckland native coached the great Peter Snell to three Olympic golds (the 800 metres in 1960 and the 800/1500 double in 1964) and for a time himself ran a staggering 250 miles per week.
Lydiard’s training methods, which saw him eventually conclude that a variety of training methods totalling 100 miles a week was the magic formula, remains the methods of choice for many elite athletes to this day.
Well, neither Peter Snell nor Arthur Lydiard would this column profess to being anything like. But there are a few pearls of Lydiard wisdom (included in the latest issue of ‘Runner’s World’) which are timely ahead of Fun Run Sunday.
Lydiard: “If you can walk, you can run. If you can run, you can run 20 miles. I don’t care how old you are. You can do it if you want to.”
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself running in unfamiliar surrounds – in and around Tullamore, home to one of the country’s most feted track and field venues.
Knowing the Grand Canal ran through the town, I was keen to run alongside it for a few miles and that I duly did. Finding a road to turn back towards Tullamore was to top that morning’s running agenda.
Luckily, having spotted a flag flying on top of Charleville Castle, just on the edge of Tullamore, I had a reference point in terms of directing me home. As a typical man who loathes asking for directions, I eventually found a familiar road back to town but still had four miles to cover.
Rising from bed that morning, I’d anticipated a five to six mile run. By the time I’d returned from whence I came, I’d done double that (11 miles at least) in an hour and 40 minutes.
By not setting off at a pace that would have left me high and dry after a half-hour and having tempered my enthusiasm upon returning to a road I knew well, I vastly exceeded my own expectations.
Lydiard: “If you are not enjoying training, stop all anaerobic training. Go out for a long jog, so slow that the old ladies with shopping baskets go past you. Do that until you start to enjoy it.”
Few of us will ever be good enough to run in National Championships. Fewer still can aspire to representing Ireland in major championships. That’s why it’s important to avail of the ‘cop-on’ card if you’re a social runner.
There’s nothing wrong with running slowly so long as you don’t always run slowly. For example, did you ever hear of a cyclist pedalling in one gear from start to finish? Equally, there’s no point going out every night and attempting to run at race pace. So strive for the happy running medium.
Lydiard: “Know your limits and stay within them. Do what you think you can cope with.”
To keep running fun, which, believe it or not, it is when (a) not overdone and (b) performed as a group activity, run different (and scenic) routes regularly.
Aim to run on softer surfaces (grass, tartan, sand, etc) to save your ankle, knee and hip joints. Keep a log of how often you run and note your progress over the weeks and months – you’ll be amazed at how it all adds up.
Critically, enjoy your run. Look forward to running, which you ought to once the first few weeks of training are put away in the filing cabinet and you’ve build up a reasonable rate of fitness.
Believe me, it’ll even make running in the driving rain, like I did on Sunday last, seem worthwhile.
Be you running, jogging or walking next Sunday, the very best of luck. And enjoy it!