When the Music Stops, Part II

I wrote a blog entry a couple of weeks ago about the merits of running with, and without, an iPod. At the time, it was sparked by my decision to enter a half marathon in southern England which had decided to ban the use of iPods and other MP3 players during the race. Initially, this was a big worry. Since I first started running three or four years ago, I had always run with an iPod in my ears. Initially, the primary role of the music was to take my mind off the hell that I was putting myself through physically. After almost fifteen years of very little exercise and activity, large parts of my body objected to suddenly being expected to work hard again. Slowly, as I eased into a regular training program and started to up the mileage, my body adjusted and was happier with the effort, but I didn’t let the iPod go. It had become such an intrinsic part of the schedule that I was nervous about giving it up. Maybe the iPod was the magic ingredient that was getting me through each run? Each time I went out on the trails, the equipment checklist was the same – GPS running watch, bottle of water, and iPod. Continue reading

The Rewards of Speed Work?

In rare moments of heightened self-awareness, I have to admit that I am one of life’s procrastinators. I always have been. Whether it was as a primary school pupil trying to cram a week’s violin practice into one single mammoth session the night before the next lesson, or a university student trying to make up for ten days of inaction by working 24 hours a day for the two days before an assignment was due, I have always done it. Continue reading

Two Tips for Running the London Marathon

As the countdown to race day continues, and the buildup to the London Marathon gathers steam, there is lots of advice out there on how best to prepare for the race. Everything from how to taper your training (surely that one’s quite easy, you basically make sure you don’t run), to how to ensure you get the diet that will maximise performance and the tactics to use on race day. I have spent a few hours reading and digesting the advice (Runners World published several useful pieces) and now synthesised it all into two simple tips, one physical and one psychological. That’s right, the whole lot, whether it was ‘top twenty tips’, ‘ten ways to beat your PB’, or ‘five essential ways to run a marathon’ can be boiled down to just two messages. We should probably call them ‘übertips’. Continue reading

What Do You Do If Running Is Not In Your Genes?

Not everyone is born to run record-breaking marathon times. That much is obvious; we can’t all be Mo Farah, after all. However, an article in today’s Sunday Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9992221/Born-to-run-genetic-test-can-reveal-those-best-able-to-run-marathons.html) goes much further than that, suggesting that 20% of us do not even possess the genetic makeup to accomplish what most of us would surely assume to be one of the fundamentals of regular exercise – the ability to improve slowly over time if we keep at it.  As a semi-serious runner, that prompts two questions – firstly, am I one of the 20% who will never improve, and secondly, even if I’m not, is there any point continuing if everything is pre-ordained by my genes? Continue reading

When the Music Stops

A few days ago, I registered for a half-marathon in southern England. The race is due to take place in about eight weeks time, and although I haven’t been following a strict training programme for the past couple of months, I was confident that I would be able to step it up over the next couple of months and secure a respectable time. My last race was a year ago, and although I’ve scaled down the training programme over the past few months, I reckoned I could turn up the heat and get back to where I was. Then I saw something on the race web site that I had not come across before, and which posed a much bigger problem than any training or fitness issues – iPods and other MP3 players are banned! No music, just the noise of the crowd and the thrill of the chase. And it got me thinking – can I do this? Do I even want to do it? Will I be able to get the time I’m hoping for without my iPod? Continue reading