Thursday, 3 January 2013

Being a better runner

What is a good runner?

A fast one? A regular one? A lean one? A winning one? 

I've run for a long time without ever being what I consider a typically "good" runner; however, I've started to think that it all depends on how you define it. Amongst my regular goals for the year, one is to become a slightly "better" runner but probably not in the way I've thought about it until now. 

Here some simple aims and ideas for being a better runner in 2013:

A new year revolution
January can be a frustrating time of year if exercise is already embedded into your lifestyle. Many of us lucky enough to be in this position can be heard asking, “why wait til January?”, whilst TV advertising shifts from Brad Pitt wittering on about the inevitability of buying a perfume that would sell itself if poo were smeared on the bottle to a new year blitz of diet plans and anti-smoking campaigns across our screens. Instead of whining about it, let’s capitalise on this time of year. Already tired of hearing about new diets at work? Why not offer to join some colleagues on a little run? Encourage them to count miles rather than calories and give yourselves something new to talk about over the water cooler. So what if the gym and pool are full of new members on a January training binge? Don’t despair that your lucky treadmill is being used by someone walking in deck shoes, or bitch about them on Twitter; congratulate them instead. They’ve already done the hard bit and got out of the front door; with some friendly support, they may well continue to build on that. We all started somewhere and would do well to remember that.

Smile: it might happen
It takes 17 muscles to smile but 52 to roll your eyes and mutter as you plod away, feeling dismissed once again; this is something I will aim to remember in 2013 on the regular occasions when my runners’ nod goes unnoticed. Like Sheldon training Penny with chocolates, stick with it and encourage the behaviour you want to see more of. This year, I shall smile and nod regardless of reciprocity and hope that it catches on.

A race of two halves
I've heard it said that you should run the first half of a marathon with your head and the second half with your heart; this wisdom extends beyond a sensible pacing strategy and, whilst the first half of a race can be every runner for themselves, the second half offers an opportunity to be a better runner. Whatever the distance, as the field spreads out, lend some support to the person next to you: a word of encouragement as you pass another runner takes little extra energy from you but could make all the difference to someone questioning whether they can hold onto the chances of a PB. Likewise, be gracious if overtaken and offer a nod or raised eyebrow in return; this can be done, whether or not your teeth are gritted.

Marshall the troops
Fact: races don’t happen without awesome people who volunteer their time to organise and support the event. It’s time to say thank you. Literally. As you pass a marshall, thank them for marshalling. If you’re running full tilt, this may not always be possible but if we all thank one marshall* at each race, hopefully all go home feeling a bit more valued for giving up their Sunday morning. Likewise, an e-mail to thank the organiser will give both you and them that warm fuzzy glow that helps us keep going with this pastime. What could be better than that? Ah, yes, actually volunteering to marshall from time to time; something I plan to do this year in my quest to become a better runner.

*When I say, "thank one marshall", I’m hoping we’ll each choose a different one; otherwise, you know, we might make that marshall paranoid and not want to do it again.

How will you be a better runner in 2013?


  1. LOVE this post - running is often such a solitary pursuit, even when you're surrounded by thousands of people at a race. It's so easy to forget the people who make races happen, who volunteer, who commit their own free time to marshall and stand around in the cold for hours, hanging out energy gels and water.

    In 2013, I shall take heed and smile and say thank you more, to those who volunteer, and also to my fellow runners.

  2. You like Miss Fountain have a flair for writing that I am envious (in a nice way!) and I really enjoy your writing so keep making me smile :)

    I've written to a number of race organisers in 2011 (note the year! as injury has not allowed me to write so many letters in 2012 :( they always come back with a lovely response which makes you glad you did it because I'm sure most emails/letters are complaints!

  3. Awesomeness. In 2013 I plan to be a better runnr mostly by actually doing some running, but I will also try and say hello to the people I pass. However, I do want to reserve the right to continue to call the man on the scooter who drives really slowly next to me going the wrong way up the road a wanker. Does that negate the good karma? xx

  4. Very inspiring words - I think the aim to just be kinder is definitely one a lot of people are trying to do this year and its really good to see. Good luck

  5. Yay. Great words of wisdom. As ever. Happy belated new year. x


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