6 Jan

Running And The Meaning Of Life

RunnerI caught the running bug writing for an athletics magazine, writes Terry Brennan. I profiled a running club in my hometown and thought ‘this sounds great’.   Midweek club evenings with groups of different abilities, springtime camps in the Lakes, handicap competitions, curry nights.

Soon I was along at club HQ signing on the dotted line. Best move I ever made; for the next two or three years I was an ever-present. I loved the track sessions, ‘bust a gut’ intervals, my introduction to cross-country and hill running. I made a gang of buddies, many of them still friends 10 years later and enjoyed a few great curries.

Even when work commitments meant I got out of the club ‘habit’, there was no way I was giving up on running.  It was now an important and entrenched part of my life - my route to health and fitness; to fighting the relentless assault of middle-age spread; to keeping in touch with close friends; sometimes even to maintaining my sanity! There were other unexpected benefits to my running hobby - a big one was, I started to think about my body - how it worked, what bits were where and what those bits were called. I was particularly proud of my first injury - ‘trochanteric bursitis’ – my chat was now all about inflamed sacs and strained IT bands. More seriously I began to understand how my calves, hamstrings and glutes worked. I wasn’t thinking about a medical degree but I was filling a woeful gap in my knowledge.

Pre-running, words like protein and carbohydrate were a mystery to me.  But running changed all that. Why, I said to my buddy, are you still going strong on mile 8 and I’m dropping back - that would be the slow energy release oats I had at 7.00am he smirked. Three weeks later on mile 10, I stutter and look over at my chum Ivolunteer. Yes but did you have a high carb dinner last night? he smirked. Three weeks later on mile 10, I stutter and look over at my chum - “I had my porridge,” I volunteer. Yes but did you have a high carb dinner last night?

Pre-midweek run I’m feeling sluggish, my mate is bounding about like a kangaroo. “Tell me what you ate after Saturday’s long run?” he asks, then lists his grilled chicken lunch with a quinoa salad and favourite protein drink. “Recovery’s crucial,” he explains.

Soon I’m stalking the shelves at Holland & Barrett and the weekly big shop is a key event in my training programme. It’s just one other way in which my life had changed. Even injury has important consequences and, surprisingly, a big upside. The physio sorts out my niggling knee problem but also emphasises that for good all round physical condition I need to think holistically. That’s it. I’m off to yoga (I couldn’t bear Buddy pointing out my deficiencies at the circuits class!)

I think you’re getting the picture, running can be a great little hobby helping to keep you fit and healthy but for many people it becomes so much more. It provides a different way of looking at ourselves and a different way of looking at life. Over a Saturday night beer Buddy tells me: “Thanks for the bell. I really fancied a night out but most of my mates are married so I was stuck.” I sip my Guinness - good for iron - and reply: “Me too.”