Thursday, 22 April 2021

About Running - Fact or Fiction

When it comes to running, it seems that there are many experts, especially amongst the non-runners.  They are the ones who are quick to tell you about the cons of running.  I am not quite sure what the reasons are behind their anti-running attitude, but I myself in the past have used a few of these wisdoms to convince myself that it is better to walk rather than run.  Pulling one of these reasons out of my excuses booklet made me feel better about not running. I am sure you are familiar with quite a few of these anti-running "facts".  So let us have a look at a few of these so called facts.

One of the first "facts" you'll often hear is that humans were not made to run. We have actually dealt with this notion in my previous post, , please feel free to read about it there.  Another 'fact" is that runners need to be a certain body type, size, height or weight to run.  This is absolutely not true, and although elite runners are usually smaller and lighter than regular runners, it is not a pre-requisite to run. Charles Bungert of the USA is proof that you do not have to be the right size to be a runner.  At 193 kg he ran the LA Marathon in 2013.

Another fact offered by the expert non-runners is that running is bad for your knees.  This one certainly sounds to the lay person like the gospel truth.  I mean we can all imagine the pounding a person's knees must take when running.  Surely that impact can only be very detrimental to those vulnerable joints.  We envision knee-replacement surgery as the final outcome for abusing our knees in such a manner.  The truth is, however, that it is not running which can damage your knees, but running incorrectly. You can read more about it here: .  Several studies have shown that running seems to have very real benefits for our knee joints.  It can help to reduce inflammation in the joint and actually protect our knees and delay the onset of  osteoarthritis.

Let's bust another myth.  Many people believe that you can only call yourself a runner if you can run fast and/or far.  Absolutely not true!  Neither pace nor distance makes you a runner.  There is not an exam you need to pass or a certificate or a degree you can get that would declare you a runner.  Whether you run fast, slow, sleek as a panther or awkwardly like a giraffe on stilts, you are a RUNNER.  Whether you venture out once a week for twenty minutes or run five days a week, you are a runner.  All that matters is that you run.  Whether you regularly take part in races or you have never signed up for a single one is of no importance, you are still a RUNNER!

Another fallacy many people believe along with the above mentioned myth is that "runners don't walk".  A chant you often hear when passing a running bus in an ultra marathon is: "No walking in running shoes", and while this chant does help to keep you focused on your goal, there is a lot to be said about taking walking breaks.  Many people have the opinion that only beginner runners do this, however, even seasoned runners employ this strategy.  Whether you run non-stop, or prefer the run-walk-run method, you are still a runner!

One final myth I want to bust once and for all, is the one that says "I am too old to run".  There is no age restriction when it comes to running.  Some people have started in primary school or even pre-school, but in recent years a large number of people has started running later in life.  Male runners over 40, referred to as "Masters", now represent about 50% of the marathon finishers in the USA, while women over 40 make up about 40% of the marathon finishers.  In 2011, at a 100 years of age, Fauja Singh was the oldest marathon runner.

So, how about it?  As you can see there is no reason at all why you, yes you reading this, can not also become a runner.  It is easy to get into , low cost, accessible anywhere and anytime and it is very good for your health.  Next time we will talk about the benefits and how to start running.  I hope to see you here on my blog.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Designed to Run

Sitting here at my desk I watch as two runners are jogging past my window.  They are happily chatting as they stride along in their colourful running gear.  Their running shoes are the best on the market and colour coded with their clothing. They make it look so easy and I have an urge to lace up and join them. The sport of running has become a multi-million dollar business, but have you ever wondered about running and the history behind this sport?

Running has not always been a sport, although it has been around for millennia.   For early humans running was essential for their survival.  As hunter-gatherers they had to cover long distances in search of food.  Although there has been many debates about whether humans were made for running, especially when compared to faster land animals, research has shown in fact that we are uniquely designed for running.  Especially longer distances.  Even though many animals, including the elephant, are faster over short sprints, humans can outrun them over greater distances.  In fact every part of our bodies features designs made to sustain long distance running.

One such a design is the Nuchal ligament, which is only activated during running, and helps to keep our heads stabilized.  Humans also have longer legs compared to their body mass and this results in more energy economy while running.  Our shorter toes and the lack of fur, as well as the ability to regulate our temperature, are also designs which aid us in running longer distances.

So when did running become a sport?  Well, first, running is inborn and is a natural part of movement.  You just have to watch a baby learning to walk.  Not long after they find their footing they start taking quicker steps to get to a shiny object, their bottle or anything else they should not be touching.  It is simply amazing how fast they can run on those wobbly little legs, and no one taught them to run, it just happens!

Now let's talk about ancient.  How does 3100 BC sound?  It started in one of the oldest civilizations, Egypt.  They held the Sed Festival.  Thirty years into a Pharaoh's  reign he had to complete a race every three years until his death.  It is theorized that the reason was to determine whether he was still fit to rule. Then there are factual records of when the first "sporting" event happened.  It dates back to about 1000 BC when the Tailteann Games were held in Ireland.  These were in honour of the dead.  In 776 BC, Olympia in Greece hosted the first Olympic games, where the only items were running.

Most people running for recreational purposes have some or other goal in mind, and although many  proclaim that they only ever just wanted to run 10 km maximum, most of them actually have greater goals in mind, such as a half marathon and even a full marathon.  There is something alluring about the marathon distance.  I think a lot of it stems from the legend of Pheidippides who ran the distance of about 42.195 km in 490 BC.  The story has it that  he ran from the battlefield near Marathon, a town in Greece, to Athens to deliver the news of the Persians' defeat.  After delivering his message, he fell over and died.

Over centuries running has evolved from a necessity for survival to what it is today, a highly competitive sport or simply a means to stay healthy or a chance to socialize and de-stress from life's demands.  Whatever your reason is for running, just enjoy it. 

 I leave you with this quote by Kristen Armstrong, runner and author:

"There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further it transcends the mind.  A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.

Happy Running.


Monday, 5 April 2021

Run Along

Recently, on one of our visits to our granddaughters, the elder of the two, four year old Rose, invited me to go run outside with her.  She explained that she has to run to get fit like her mom and dad.  A few laps into the run (around the mulberry tree), she suddenly gave a loud sigh and exclaimed, "Nana, this is so boring, What can we do to make it less boring?"  So we started singing.

Since this is Rose's birthday month I thought we could have a look at the sport of running.  The myths and facts about running, the history of running, the science of running and the strange attraction of running.  Why would we, as sane and logical people, want to do that to our bodies? There has to be some explanation as in South Africa alone there are over a hundred thousand registered runners and in the UK it is estimated that there are over two million runners!

I myself have been fascinated by running from a very young age.  The first time I saw children running in one direction around an oval, I watched in wonder.  I wanted to do it too, but was too shy to try it.  Eventually, when I was 8 years old I gathered some courage and entered a track item, but I had hardly covered the first two hundred meters when I got such a terrible pain in my heel that I limped off the field.  I tried it a few times more, but every time with the same result.  My parents took me to the doctor, but there was no answer to the problem and I conceded that there were obviously some people meant to do it and others were meant to watch.  And watch I did, and cheered.
 Strangely, I was never fascinated by any other sport.  Rugby and Netball or even Hockey held no charm for me.

I was never a sporty child, but I could spend hours on my bicycle and when an ice rink opened up in our town, I basically lived on the ice.  Later I turned to Karate and loved doing Ballet as well.  In 1987 I watched the Comrades Marathon for the first time on television and I was absolutely hooked.  I sat the entire race nailed to the screen and no one dared interrupt me.  That year I decided to try again to  run.  I got myself a pair of running shoes and set out diligently every afternoon.  Or tried to.  After running two kilometers flat out, I returned home utterly despondent.  However, the next day I tried again and a few more days after that.  Finally, after a week of running, and it becoming more and more difficult instead of easier, I decided that it was just as I had feared.  Some people were meant to be athletes while others were meant to be spectators and supporters.  I was obviously meant to be the latter and that was what I did.  When my brother started running a couple of years later, I was an avid supporter and would be there to cheer him on as he did his finishing sprint.  I also continued to watch the Comrades Marathon every year from sunrise to sunset.  I buried my secret dream in my heart.

So why do people run?  Well, Forest Gump's reason for running was "I just felt like running".  One of the reasons why people start to run is weight loss.  Running burns quite a decent amount of calories and it is easy, as well as cheap to start.  Some people claim that it helps them to get rid of work stress and gives them a feeling of freedom.  
For  many people the element of competition is a wonderful incentive.  Joining a running club has the added benefit of meeting new, like minded people.  Runners are usually a friendly bunch and are always eager to welcome new members into their group.  
Running is a great way to boost your over-all well-being and improve your health.  It is known to help lower blood pressure as well as the risk of contracting diabetes.  Taking a jog out in the fresh open air does wonders for a person's mood and reduces feelings of depression.

Clearly there is much to be said about the benefits of running.  Are you a runner?  Or have considered taking it up as a sport or pastime?  Please tell me more and watch this blog for more running related stuff during the month of April.