Running's not as simple as it looks

16:00, Feb 16 2012

Our Round the Bay runners Michael Fox and Victoria Robinson continue their training for Round the Bays.


Running might seem like a simple thing.

You don your shorts, t-shirt or singlet, socks and runners and an iPod for the modern trotting enthusiast, and you head out the door to log a few kilometres.

You lumber or leap around your designated course, nodding at fellow exercisers, work up a sweat and return home.

When you’re done you guzzle some water, shower, have a feed and spend the rest of the day feeling pleased with yourself.


It should be that simple, but it’s often not.

You have to ensure you eat the right kind of food at the right time to ensure your energy levels are right, but you’re not too full to move.

You might have had a couple of coffees during the day and need some sugar to get you out of a low energy ebb.

If you're just starting out or logging serious k’s you might also be fairly sore and need to warm up and stretch or nurse those aching muscles after.

You might also be battling chaffe or blisters, and you might be so busy you struggle to fit a run in. It might even have been a long day and all you feel like doing is relaxing with a beer.

And there’s also the one issue we fitness machines all dread.

Because you’ve seen my face and I’m a little shy to document a personal experience on this sensitive topic, I’m going to refer to my Poppa.

He was midway through a 26km run from Wellington to Stokes Valley when a familiar urge struck half way along the motorway to Petone.

Knowing he was going to fall a long way short of decency he jumped the fence, crossed the multiple train tracks to the beach and with an increasing sense of urgency he did what many a runner has done and dropped his pants and proceeded to unload.

In such spare surroundings and with the rumbling sound on the nearby rail tracks and the roar of an engine increasing in his ears, it proved a bad choice.

As he tells it, squatting on the ground and staring up at the passing train his vision was filled with passengers staring blankly out the window before their faces morphed into a mix of incredulity then amusement and rapidly turning heads to get a better look as the train shot past.

How embarrassing.

An old rugby coach was also caught out, while working as a runner on the rubbish trucks in Wellington. In desperation he went on someone’s front lawn only to discover the occupants were home and none too impressed with their visitor and his delivery.

It’s a common story and many runners plan their routes to ensure public toilets are never far away. Others are forced to take a more natural approach but many, probably most, know what I’m talking about.
Many probably carry a supply of toilet paper in their shorts, just in case.

It can strike at any time – 10 minutes in or 10 minutes from home and it’s unfortunate but also, in hindsight, often good for a laugh.

My pop recommends not eating for four hours before a run – run hungry, run mean, he reckons.

On a more serious note and to try and salvage a bit of dignity for this blog entry, I’ve logged about 15 kilometres on the roads this week as well as a few at rugby training.

I popped along to a pre-season session with Takapuna last Thursday and that brought any fanciful ideas I had of being in any reasonable sort of nick crashing back to earth.

The combination of shuttles, wrestling, tackling, hitting crash pads, up downs and burpees as well as the heat meant I was knackered after that session and sore for three days.

My lower calves and ankles were sore for a while but otherwise I’m feeling pretty good.


After a week of doing the hunchback shuffle, it was time to do something about my awkward running gait. So I turned to Google. I can imagine it would be money well spent to join a gym or similar and learn to run properly from a paid professional, but it was a week until payday and I am of the old-fashioned school of thought that refuses to shell out for exercise.

Luckily, the internet has never failed me. I came across this handy little website, that not only gave me tips on how to improve my running method, but also handy hints on what to do if approached by a dog while out running. Always good to know. It also had several suggestions for running playlists, including the best Broadway tunes to jog to.

It turns out I was right – it’s not ideal to be bent over in an awkward question-mark-like shape while scuttling along the road. Apparently my back should be straight, shoulders back, and instead of looking at my feet wishing the ground would swallow me up I should be looking about 15m ahead at all times. Also, my natural tendency to clench my fists to try and absorb some of the muscle pain was not helping either. Apparently you’re supposed to hold your hands loosely, as if you were holding a potato chip and trying not to crush it. 

All this stuff is probably obvious to seasoned runners, but to a novice like myself it was actually useful to discover. I set out for a run to test my newfound knowledge, and it definitely felt a wee bit better. And, as a bonus, I swear there were far less strange stares from fellow runners along the way.

It went so well that I even met Sunday’s goal of running a kilometre non-stop on Tuesday – only three days late!

Now that the pain of using muscles that have atrophied after years of neglect has passed, I’m beginning to get into this training routine a lot more than I thought I would. The big problem is now the lack of time. There are only four and a half weeks to go before the big 8.4km run, and I am still only running a kilometre at a time (with a bit of run-walk, run-walk for about 30 minutes after). My plan of building up an extra kilometre each week is beginning to look blithely naïve.

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* How's your training for Round The Bays going? Are you struggling in your third week of working out? Leave your comments and fitness tips below.

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