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DOING A RUNNER

27-09-2007

What is it about this website? Not content with Blind Dave Heeley's extraordinary marathon efforts, we've also got Stirrer blogger Dr David Nicholl taking part in the Great North Run. And now Laurence Inman is out of the closet too.....

So, as I was saying last week, I quit organised team-sports in the mid-seventies and decided to start jogging.

This was fairly new at the time. People tended to stare at you in the street, or at least I felt they did, so at first I went out either early in the morning or at night, well wrapped-up, often with a woolly hat and dark glasses. I must have looked like the Milk Tray man, loping away from the scene of my latest romantic tryst.

Or just a nutter.

Anyway, I soon noticed something interesting about running, as I then started to call it. (I never use the J-word now if I can possibly help it.)

It was this: you can carry on running and still be able to breathe. For someone who had previously run only to get fit enough to play games which involved short bursts of sprinting and long periods of standing about moaning, this came as quite a revelation.

I found that I could run at quite a reasonable pace (6-7 minutes a mile) for distances of up to five miles or more. Not only that, it was very enjoyable. Not like it had been at school, when I had a hairy sociopath chasing me round a muddy park.

No, this was very pleasant indeed. And as I got leaner, harder and lighter, it became more and more of an acute pleasure, one I couldn't do without on a daily basis. In fact, if I was deprived of my drug for silly reasons, such as having to go to work or stay in and eat a meal, I became rather irritated.

This has now been part of my life's routine for over thirty years. I don't necessarily run every day; in fact, that can be very counter-productive. Sometimes I walk/run with my dog. At other times I just walk. Or cycle.

I've done ten marathons, although my last one was in 1992, in London, which I've managed twice. It's a brilliant course. Because it's consistently flat you can hit a good stride and keep it going at least up to the 20-mile mark. My best time is 3 hours 45 minutes.

I've still some way to go before I could beat Emma Hargrave, the Managing Editor of Tindal Street Press. We were discussing the joys of running a little while ago and she put me onto a wonderful book: Running and Being by Dr George Sheehan. It's wonderful because all of its central ideas about running coincide exactly with my own. That's the great thing about doing it: you learn more as you run more, about life, yourself and how to avoid messing both of them up.

Running at this time of year is best. I go out wearing as little as possible (any less and I'd be arrested) and just lope off wherever the mood takes me. That might be the whole reason: to scamper round the streets in shorts, like I could in 1955.

Once I've hit the lovely zone where my oxygen-intake is exactly balanced by my energy-output, I drift off into a different life-time-space. Once there, I often arrive home hardly conscious of where I've been.

But my inner mind-workings have been in overdrive.

While out running, whole comedy-routines have entered my head, unbidden. Notable poems have been written whole by some invisible inner hand. Two were about running itself. One was published. When I performed the other at a reading I completely upstaged a famous poet. Apart from me only Yeats and Whitman have written poems about running.

There's not a word about it in T.S.Eliot. Even Shakespeare is largely silent on the subject.

The most important thing I've learnt about running is this: the point of running is to enjoy running. Nothing else. As soon as you start doing it for another reason (losing weight, getting fit for a sport) forget it. You won't keep it up.

I know someone who goes out and beats himself up regularly, timing his runs, entering them up on a big chart, setting himself ridiculous targets. All he's doing is replacing one set of stressful demands with another, which is presumably the opposite of what he wants.

Forget all that. The only thing you need is a good pair of shoes. And forget about the gym. The adventure begins on the pavement outside your house.

So if you live on Amesbury Road, you're laughing.

I mean really laughing. Inwardly of course. You don't want to go too far.

Now my younger son has started and has entered for the 10K race in Sutton Park on October 7th. I also entered, although it won't be a race. He's 20. And we've also both sent off an application for the London Marathon in April. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

To see last week's article about Laurence's rugby career, click here http://www.thestirrer.co.uk/li2209071.html

And to read Dr David Nicholl talking about why he's going on the Great North Run, click here http://www.thestirrer.co.uk/dn2609071.html

Can anyone else understand the joy of running? Leave a comment on our Message Board.

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