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OK, maybe I was wrong about running

Words by Nathan Irvine

39 years in and all of a sudden running for fitness now makes sense

Like millions of others, I hated running. I couldn’t stand cross country or track events at school and the dislike of the sport carried all the way through to adulthood. I run after a football for hours, but when it’s just running for running’s sake there’s a complete disconnect.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to give it a go once or twice a year for the last decade, in pursuit of that feeling of zen that runners often talk about, but I’ve never quite caught it.

Whenever I set off for a run, my main objective is to get it done as quick as possible. This would be admirable if I’d had the drive to set a personal best, but running was always something I deemed a chore to combat an ever-decreasing metabolism.

This routine carried on for years. And no matter how many books I read, inspirational runners I followed on Instagram or angry pep talks I gave myself, running was just never going to be my thing. Or so I thought.

The big difference came when I was about to set off on one of my ill-fated attempts. Not only was I about to do some exercise I didn’t like, but my wireless earphones were dead so I didn’t have any music to listen to either. This meant I didn’t take my phone too. The difference this made to the experience was transformational.

Nike I'll be honest, this sort-of-cheating Nike Vaporfly Next% makes running a lot of fun

Never miss a beat

Running to a beat and skipping past a song I didn’t feel in the mood for was no longer an issue. There were no distractions to contend with. Nothing to take me out of the moment and make the running experience even more negative. By the time I’d completed a 2km loop back to my house, my legs still ached, but my mind was buzzing. And, shockingly, I was even thinking about going for a run the following night. Was this the aforementioned “zen” I’d heard so much about?

The next revelation came in the form of pacing myself. What I’d noticed without the musical soundtrack to my run was that I was panting like a thirsty dog after only a few hundred metres because I was trying to run fast. So the next time I went out, I left my ego at the door, shortened my stride and aimed to get through the run without feeling exhausted. To my surprise, this approach actually worked and I completed the loop faster than ever before. Turns out pacing yourself is actually a good thing. Who knew?

It’s only been around six months, but I finally think I’m into running. I’ve now run further distances and quickened my overall pace, and all it took was a couple of minor tweaks to my approach. It’s unlikely that I’ll be qualifying for the Olympics any time soon, but being able to add running to my workout regime and keep off the middle age “spread” for a little longer is good enough for me.

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