Monthly Archives: May 2013

A runner by any other name…

… would still be running, right? Not according to some people.

What does the word jog mean to you? I’ve just been browsing on runnersworld.com and came across a comment posted about joggers. According to one (presumable) runner, “Only joggers get injured.”

What is that supposed to mean? Jogging is still the act of running, or so I am led to believe by dictionary definitions. The process of one step in front of the other, with never having both or all of the feet touching the ground at the same time still applies, does it not?

Further research tells me there is a speed element to the equation. According to some pros and the gadgets they use, if I run at a pace of 8 minute 15 seconds per mile, I am actually jogging. I need to shave 15 seconds off my minute-per-mile pace to qualify to be a runner. Oh dear. Put me in another category, then.

In my arrogant youth I used to think the same as the comment-maker on Runners’ World. “I am a runner, NOT a jogger!” I thought jogging was for older people who shuffled around parks in matching tracksuits. Don’t get me wrong, I always admired them. I applaud physical activity of any kind, in anyone. But, it isn’t exactly the same as dancing all night in the clubs of Buenos Aires and running a 49-minute 10km the next day on no sleep, is it?

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Runners or joggers?

Now, it turns out – I wasn’t even running! I was jogging all along!

Measuring a jog from a run is of course as arbitrary as what colour vest you wear is to your race time. (Damn Nextel for choosing yellow this year! I’m slower in yellow!) I looked up the history of the word jogging and it appears it was first used here in the UK. It features in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, though at that moment it meant ‘to leave’. By the 17th century it had worked its way to meaning a form of exercise. And that, essentially, includes running.

This historical point about jogging is important because once its meaning of sustained exercise was established, it hasn’t changed again over time. Its only problem is that it has been looked down upon by speed demons who fear 9-minute miles. Of course, I am not denying the difference in the actions of a sprinter and a jogger: the impact and power on the body of the sprinter compared to the endurance required when jogging is obvious. Yet we all run.

I believe that inside every runner is a jogger. You might not meet your jogger until you have bought your matching tracksuit and are jogging around your local park in your eighties. You might already have met your jogger on an uphill struggle (in that case, I meet mine regularly) You might not admit to having met your jogger in that last race, when there just wasn’t enough in the tank. But it’s a good job your inner jogger is there. Jogging is your warm-up and cool-down. Jogging is your health care plan for life. Jogging is your back-up plan for when, you know, running becomes too much.

fast runner_250So, to coin a phrase from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale; I say “JOG ON!” to those doubters and mockers of joggers. Leave! Run away! For when you might need your inner jogger, I hope they haven’t sprinted on ahead.

How wonderful life is

Maria sent me an email the other day. As well as the countdown to our trip (14 days!) she had come across a running quote she knew I’d like, and I want to share it with you today. I thought about it as I ran yesterday morning and it totally got me through the last mile with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.

Whenever your next run is, hope it gives you that wonderful view on your life.

“That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.” – Kara Goucher

Match fit

Last week it was time to dust off the racket bag and see if we could remember how to hit a ball over a net. We went to play tennis.

Having been running, doing yoga and swimming, a mix in of tennis was going to be good thing. Until we realised after a couple of rallies that a) not only we were rubbish at tennis again, having last played about 9 months ago, but b) we were not match fit.

Running for miles at a steady pace, or even a shorter route at a faster pace has totally different fitness needs to a game of tennis. I loved playing tennis when I was younger and spent all summer at the school courts and all winter at Saturday morning tennis coaching. But I’ve played less as I’ve been on my travels and living here, there and everywhere. Then Martin and I started played in Buenos Aires. It was great because although we have very different strengths on the court, we’re quite evenly matched. Sometimes I would win, sometimes he would: the game was always worth it.

Until last weekend. The score is irrelevant (oh, go on then, I won) but what was interesting was the fact were knackered and breathless after a few rallies. Having to dart around the court for a few shots left us panting more than we thought it would. The pause between points got longer as we laughed at ourselves. The short, explosive bursts required in tennis are just not what we’re used to with our long running or swimming sessions.

What to do? Well, we need some match fitness practice and especially speed work which will no doubt help our overall fitness and not leave us bent double after a few points. Here are some ideas I remember from tennis club at school. Ah, the days of those drills…

  • Ball retrieval: put some balls randomly around the court and sprint to get each one and back to the base line in between. I emphasis the point of sprinting. Not for joggers!
  • Shuttle sprints: running from the base line to the service box line, back and then to the net and back and so forth. Again, as fast as you can. (In class we would race against each other and try not to puke.)
  • Blind ball: this was a favourite of my tennis coach when I was 14. You stand with your eyes shut and back to the net on your half of the court. Your partner throws or hits the ball with a shout of “Go!” and you open you eyes and run to get it as quickly as possible. Yes, you guessed it, sprinting. Repeat until knackered.

old tennisThinking about all this, I am now marvelling at my younger self, a middle distance runner with tennis match fitness. Ah, those were the days. I wonder if, even before my time, they worried about these things? Something tells me it wasn’t a priority for tennis ladies like this one. You would be more worried about tripping over the skirts before even reaching the ball in the first place.

Got any match fitness tips? Let us know!

The summer squeeze

I finally have chance to sit down and write. Sorry we’ve been missing. I wish I could tell you it’s because we’ve been traversing mountain passes and running through wind torn valleys. But no.

Ouch, actually. I’m feeling a bit tight in the quads. I guess that’s what happens when you put all your training for an up-and-coming 10 km into the six days beforehand.

Last Sunday we (the royal married ‘we’, not Maria and I together unfortunately) ran the Grand East Anglia Race (GEAR), a nice and flat 10 km around King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Here was my training plan:

Monday: Go for a fast 1.5-mile run to remind legs what running is and how it feels. It had been 12 days.

Tuesday: Run 4-mile route through fields, along cliffs and up little hills. Nothing like King’s Lynn.

Wednesday: Marvel as legs don’t feel too bad. WooHoo!

Thursday: Run the 4-mile route the other way round and with sun on my face do it in under 33 minutes. That hasn’t happened for a while! So chuffed with myself, I deserve a glass of husband’s home-brewed beer.

Friday: Fannying about at work means don’t get to the pool in time. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.

Saturday: Get up and swim 1 km in the pool. Imagine it’s the sea and I’m on a tropical island. Leave the pool and need a coat.

Sunday: Run 10 km in 52 minutes and 14 seconds. The route sidles along the river, through the park and finishes in a flourish with a samba band motivating us through the final 400m. Celebrate with eggs, beans and bacon.

And, having got through it all swimmingly, running is back as its own thread of my week. I went out yesterday to keep the legs working, but I know I didn’t stretch enough, hence the tightness.

It feels good though. My mum is also back to her training for the Cambridge Race for Life (you might remember her being a running virgin last year) so our hallway is full of trainers. The sun has been shining and the wind is blowing at less than 80 mph. This bodes well; it makes us want to get out there.

The first race is out of the way. Nerves shivered through our bodies on the start line. The sun has arrived on the scene. Summer is not long – what can we squeeze out of it? How many runs do we have to reduce our times/actually get a new pair of running shoes and test them out/simply keep going? I remember last summer we started our half marathon training and squeezed as much out of the longer days as possible. We are starting to do that again. But what next? (Apart from a massage and some yoga stretches?)

There are so many options for summer running: trails, fun runs, marathons. I spoke to a very old school friend on Sunday who is off to try out the Edinburgh marathon at the end of this month. And a couple of weeks ago we had the runners shining on our television screens as they pounded the streets of London for their chosen charities; a warming sight, especially after the tragic events just days before in Boston. It is inspiring. Should I sign up? Should we sign up? Should we pledge our winter to training and have a fun summer just… running?

I’m not sure I can even plan that far in advance, but there’s no harm enquiring is there, via the charities I’ve already worked with (the ballot has already opened and closed!)? It’s just one email.

Blimey, one beautiful, sunny run quicker than expected and the need to squeeze in more is palpable. But that’s what summer is about.

P1060211 Sod the tight legs.