Running notes

The Japanese author Haruki Murakami is 6 years younger than I. He still runs 240km per month and competes in one marathon per year. Having spent 30 or so years in an office with virtually no athletic activity at all means I have a long way to go to try and catch him up. I'm not planning on becoming an Ironman but I am trying to see what is possible by careful, progressive & patient training. Inevitable muscle & joint problems do not necessarily mean the end of the road as they are frequently part of the building process. The forced rest imposed is an important part of the training program, both mental and physical.

If you want to run, obviously see your doctor first to make sure you're not going to keel over after a few steps. The Internet will provide you with all sorts of distance/time tables, suggestions, diets, footwear and much more that probably don't really apply to your unique age and physical condition. These notes are from my experience of someone well into his sixties who didn't run because he was too old and his joints, worn out from numerous soccer injuries, couldn't possibly stand pounding along for 13.1 miles. Well, I was wrong. Don't get the impression that I'm a born again Chris Chataway because my running results will not startle anyone but some 6 years later, I can run a 10km every other day and know I can run for 2 1/2 hours. Six years ago, 50 yards would have been too much for me.

Three main factors were involved in my decision in 2005 to try & regain some fitness.
I was still searching around for something to stop 30+ years of weekly migraines and thought some fitness training might help. In 2004, I watched my brother in law compete in two International marathons & wondered what I would have to do to compete. The last straw was my doctor who wanted me to take pills for high blood pressure for the rest of my life after explaining that my knee pain was from worn out cartilage. 

I started timidly by trying to walk. Not with the almost inhuman gait that these athletic walkers use, just using a normal brisk walking speed for a couple of miles at a time. Slowly, over six months or so the mileage increased and I was "going for a walk" two or three times a week. My knee x-rays had told me about the worn out cartilage in the left knee so I was surprised to find the right knee hurting but it recovered with rest. Over time, ankles, both knees, lower back, shoulders & neck muscles all took turns to warn me about "over doing it". With rest, sports creams & trips to an osteopath, the pains would go away & I was beginning to enjoy being able to go for long walks at a very brisk pace. Then along came a kidney infection with 6 weeks of antibiotics & 6 months of total rest.

With that behind me, training started up again in January 2007 and by the summer I was walking half marathon distances. The idea was forming to try & compete in a marathon, not as a runner but as a walker. This is not always possible but I had my eye on the Philadelphia marathon where they keep the course open for 6 hours. My half marathon walking time was getting to be under 4 hours but there was still a lot of improvement needed. The following year had my speed up to a power walker's level but energy levels did not allow for more than 4 hours of walking. In May, I entered my first race as a walker. This was a 10Km event where the course was open for one hour. I needed 7 minutes more than the hour & felt quite pleased that I wasn't last.

One day while out "power walking", I misjudged the speed of an oncoming car & had to run across the road. It seemed curious to find running was easier than walking at that moment although very soon I found myself without breath and had to stop. So from that moment on, the training walks would include short burst of running which progressively became longer. After 6 months or so, the running had taken over and I had to modify my weekly walking miles table to include a column for running. The training approach has been to spread the changes out over long periods and to progressively try to go further and faster. Learning to run is not as simple as it might sound. Coping with & understanding muscle & joint problems is all part of the challenge. The enforced rest from these injuries is however part of the training as the mind also plays it's part.