By Shane Roberts.
On the face of it, running is an easy sport to take up. Unless you’re elite, no real specialist equipment is needed, no finely-honed skills to be mastered, and no need to become part of a team or join a local running club (though you still can, of course).
No – boiled down to its simplest form, it’s just you and the road. Chuck on an old tshirt and shorts, lace up your shoes, and head out the door. And that’s it – the fancy GPS watches, laser-cut speed socks and Strava subscription can come later. For those looking to get out there and hit the road for the first time, all you have to do is go out there and do it.
Because that’s how I started. I’d just finished university. Four years of drinking too much, smoking through every essay and a hearty diet of Pot Noodles, pizza and kebabs meant I was hardly in prime shape – unforgivable at the age of 22 – so when I graduated, I decided it was time to do something about it.
Smoking is for quitters
Quitting smoking came first. This is tough, as any ex (or indeed current) smoker will tell you. Additionally, this was in the days before vaping, and when you could still smoke in pubs, making it doubly-difficult. Temptation was always there – it’s much harder to smoke in public these days. After countless failed attempts and hope fading like a crushed cigarette’s dying embers, I managed with no little effort to kick the habit for good.
What next? I’ve never been much of a chef, and I enjoy the culinary delights of Hell’s Pizza and Satya far too much for me to cut those fine dining options out. So, I put eating better on hold, and turned my attention to exercise, and something I love in most of its guises – sport.
And it’s true. I do love sport. It’s just that, well, I’m not very good at it. Football, boxing, cricket – I’ve tried them all, but anything requiring dead-eye coordination or pinpoint accuracy in order to not be punched in the face or take a ball in the … balls is not for me. I’d rather watch, cheers.
Reaching the start line
But running is different. No chance of a two-footed lunging tackle aimed squarely at my pro e ankles, or trying to get up off the canvas while the referee counts one to ten in my face after a well-placed body shot. No – just me jogging serenely through a park, the only danger being chased by a swan (give them a wide berth, especially if they have young – Shane’s Running Tip Number One!), or stepping into a particularly deep puddle.
And that’s how I started. I threw on an old football shirt, dug out a battered old pair of Nike’s, and went forarun.Isayrun-itwasmoreofalabouredamble-butIjustaboutmadeittotheendoftheroad without dying.
I walked back home. That was enough for one day.
But, I went back out the next day. Then the day after that. Then I went a bit further at the weekend. Little by little, it got easier. Gradually, steadily, slowly, I actually began to enjoy it. Distance, speed, fitness – they all increased, and soon I found myself looking for local running clubs and races I could sign up for. It all spiralled out of control from there.
Keep on movin’
These days, I’m constantly on the lookout for the latest in shoe design, or the shiniest features on the newest Garmin model. But that’s me – the reality is, none of this stuff is actually needed. A t-shirt, shorts, sock and some sturdy trainers is all you need – and just that little piece of will to open the door and go out there and do it.