Monday, 15 January 2007

Ready, steady...Run!

After a very, very slothful December post-Skyrun, I have attacked this new year with renewed vigour. My focus for the next 3-months is on road running and orienteering with space for any other diversions that arise. First, let me tell you about road running and why I think you should be out there with me...

Running is THE best training for adventure racing.
  • it is excellent cardiorespiratory exercise
  • it's a weight bearing activity
  • running conditions your knees, ankles and feet to supporting your body
  • it's the best way to strengthen your feet for the pounding they take in AR
  • you don't need much space/distance - you can run circuits of a field or around the block
  • with the exception of road running shoes (don't use your trail shoes), running requires zero equipment
  • running is the most accessible and convenient exercise; run from home, with a group, on your own, whenever you have time and for as long as you wish
  • road races are fun and motivating

Adventure races are won on foot, not on bike.

Yes, yes, yes... like you I really enjoy running on trails but it's not something I'm going to do on my own, every night (I always training in the evening/night - I don't do mornings if I don't have to). During the week I train on the treadmill but on weekends I really enjoy a good organised road race. It's a no brainer too; I don't have to plan anything or think about where to run. I just drive to the venue, enter and run the route they set.

I got into road running in Standard 9 while at school. I'd always run for the athletics team; 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. I had never imagined running more than the required training loops around the track. I had a friend in the team, Henry, who was also in my class. He was a good 400m sprinter and his dad was into road running. One day Henry invited me join them at a 10km. They fetched me on the Sunday morning and off we went - I don't even remember what race it was. Henry ran with me the whole way, giving encouragement and walking with me when I needed a little break.

I loved that first race and the following weekend went with them to another and another and another. I always looked forward to setting off early on Sunday mornings to go to races and I recall a Wednesday nite run in Alberton where I broke the 60-minute mark on a 10km (without walking at all). I think it was then that Henry realised he could leave me on my own and run his own race; he was a much faster runner.

I started frequenting the running shops to collect race flyers and became a regular Runner's World magazine reader after receiving a free copy at the Bedfordview Reebok 21km, my first half-marathon.

My mom was (and still is) a wonderful support. At school and into varsity, when I was too young to drive, she would take me to races, waiting patiently for me to finish. She always commended any result.

It was the spirit, the energy, other runners and the motivation to improve my times got me hooked. Runners are friendly people and if you run regularly you start to recognise people running the same times as you. Running for a club, people will chirp asking questions like, "Hey Adventure Racing Club, what's the adventure today?" or if you're slacking off they'll say, "Hey Adventure, not far to go".

I didn't run much between mid-2000 and early-2003 but when I started getting my running focus back I immediately began entering road races again. I'd missed the people and the spirit and I drew motivation from the races to improve my fitness, speed, strength and endurance; all beneficial for AR.

Last weekend I ran the Kudus 15km through Parktown and Parkhurst. Hilly, hilly route. This Sunday was the Dischem Bedfordview 21km; yep, it's the same half-marathon I ran some 8-years ago before joining my first road running club, Bedfordview. We had many AR Club runners there and this morning I received a quick email from Nicky Booyens (Team Red Ants) who made the following comment, which inspired this blog: "Wow! Loads of people and an awesome vibe. I have done very little road races lately so I have forgotten what it is like!"

And that's just it. If you're not running races occasionally you do forget what it is like but when you run a race again you rediscover what you so enjoyed about it. Road races do offer an awesome vibe and if your week spirals out of control a race serves as weekend fixture where you can get in some exercise. Races are safe, routes are measured, water tables are set out every 2.5-4km so you won't run dry. If you're into t-shirts and medals, you'll looooovvveee road races; I've got t-shirts, medals, beer mugs, glasses and coffee mugs.

Website to bookmark for dates, venues and details of road runs include (Race Diary) and Now you've got no excuse ;)

I'll be running a good number of road races in Joburg over the next 3-months. Look out for the AR Club umbrellas and come over to say hi. Happy running and happy feet.