Anyone who doubts that running is a sport for everyone clearly has not heard the story of Fauja Singh. Fauja only took up running in his 80s and became famous as a nonagenarian marathon man. Ultimately he became the first centenarian to complete a marathon when he crossed the line at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2011.
In our community, there is the phenomenon of Flora Frank, a 75-year old great-grandmother who has so far completed more than 35 marathons and shows no sign of slowing down.
These examples prove that middle- and even old-age is no bar to running. We certainly do not need to look far to see how much children love to run. In any playground you can appreciate how natural an activity running is – you will see races, games of tag and youngsters chasing after a football. You may not label your young son or daughter a runner, but one thing is for sure – under the age of 10 we all spend a considerable amount of our leisure time at top speed.
So how do you start running? Well the glory of this sport is its simplicity. Go outside and put one foot in front of the other and you are a runner. However, if you have been sedentary for a few years there are a few things to think about before you take that first step. Are you in good health? It makes sense to pop in to your GP for a check-up. You will also need some running kit – preferably custom-made with artificial fabrics that “wick” moisture from your body so that you do not become waterlogged when you sweat.
And you certainly do not want to neglect your feet. You may think that the old pair of Dunlop Green Flash at the back of the wardrobe will do, but it is well worth investing in a proper pair of running shoes. The best idea is to go to specialist shop, preferably one which offers gait analysis. Some people are pronators (their feet will roll inwards after striking the ground), some are forefoot strikers, others heel strikers and each demand a different level of support and cushioning.
The principles of starting out are quite simple. Don’t feel that you need to tire yourself out by running miles on your first outing – the idea is to have fun while you get fit. Run-walking is the way to achieve this. Run for two-minutes at a relaxed pace (ideally you would be able to hold a conversation) and then walk for a minute to recover. Repeat for a total of 20 minutes and go out three times in your first week.
From then on you will need to expand both the time and the effort gradually. If you want to avoid injury, it is important to increase your mileage by no more then 10 per cent a week. You will also want to increase running over walking time until you are able to run a mile without stopping. This will happen within a few weeks. Your lung capacity will increase, and your resting heartbeat will begin to lower as you become fitter. Your muscles will become much more efficient and your bones stronger.
You may also lose a few pounds over those first few weeks. However, you need to be aware that running is not a free ticket to eating whatever you want. If you want to burn off the calories in a moderate 600 calorie lunch, the average-sized person would have to complete 10k. Concentrate on high quality protein and enough carbohydrate to replenish your muscle with glycogen (glucose) which is your body’s preferred fuel for running. And remember to drink. You will probably not need to take water with you on runs of less than 10k unless the weather is very warm, but you will need to drink before and after exercise.
Once you have been running for a month or two you will want to stretch yourself a little more. This might mean leaving the pavements around your house or the local park and finding trails or towpaths. Nature and running go side by side. Experienced runners are much more likely to experience the endorphin rush of the runner’s high when running through forest or countryside rather than city streets.
You may also want to test yourself by running with others in a race or fun run. On Sunday 24th June, the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run is taking place at Allianz Park, Barnet. Newcomers to the event will be blown away by the energy of the day and fun factor for what has become a must-attend event for the family. Age is no barrier, and neither is your level of fitness. Whether you plan to walk or run, there is something for everyone on a day the community pulls together in the name of charity.
Last year, there were 2,500 participants and £1,800,000 has been raised since 2006– which has all gone to Jewish causes. You can choose your distance – options are 1k, 5k or 10k, 5k walk or 10k, and the really adventurous can combine the three distances into a tri-run. There are over 70 charities and schools to choose from so whoever you choose to run for, you can be sure that you will get fitter, enjoy a fun day out and do some positive for your community For more details check out the website.