What I Talk About When I Talk About Runners

Got sole?

Got sole?

Until I reached the age of 30 I had never ran further than 200 metres at any one time. When I did it was at a stretch – one which often involved my hamstring.

That changed when I decided to climb Mont Blanc in 2008. I wasn’t fit enough so, one spring evening in that year, I ran five kilometres for the first time.

What followed was a reality check of the severest nature, and a gut-wrenching realisation that I had to change the way I lived.

So I started running. Almost five years have passed and – allowing for a six month lazy wobble after that Alpine trip – I am still going. Five times a week, regardless of weather, location, state of mind, tiredness or any other factor that conspires to trip me up.

Most of it happens in my hometown of Dublin, but sometimes it’s further afield. In the past two years I’ve pounded pavements and parks in Los Angeles and London, New York and San Francisco, Killarney and Tuscany.

I’ve run on the morning of my wedding and the nights when jetlag ruled out sleep in Manhattan.
My first thoughts on hitting any new place are a little like George Clooney’s secret agent in Burn After Reading.

I’ve done most of those runs in my Nike Zooms (above). And this week, after two and a half years, they’ve finally began to fall apart.

Dawn run, Central Park, 2010.

Dawn run, Central Park, 2010.

I estimate I’ve clocked up around 5,000km in these runners since I bought them, a stat which would horrify most orthopaedic surgeons. (Common advice is to change running shoes every 700km, I’ve discovered.) For the record over all that time I’ve lost four or five days to shin splints, but suffered no other injury.

Despite the crumbling soles, the ripped fabric and the ratty laces even at this late stage I am loathe to bin my shoes. They’re a beat-up symbol of how far I’ve come. But now they gotta go.

– Haruki Murakami readers will have spotted the hat-tip in the title of this post. Murakami’s book is full of on-the-mark observations about running. One of his best is one of the simplest: “You don’t need anyone else to do it, and [there’s] no need for special equipment. You don’t have to go to any special place to do it. As long as you have running shoes and a good road you can run to your heart’s content.”

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4 thoughts on “What I Talk About When I Talk About Runners

  1. So does this mean you are going to throw out those old trainers now? 🙂 (Please say yes). xx

  2. Anne says:

    I always long to be a runner, particularly for the reasons you, via Murakami, listed above. We have beautiful weather in SoCal so rain is hardly ever a factor, I can go someplace with no cars like the Rose Bowl loop, and I love the idea of just running free without any special equipment or having to wear special clothing. I guess I’m afraid of one thing- issues with knees and joints way down the line. But I guess that’s silly because millions of people run each day, and if all of that running really caused major injuries then we’d probably hear about it more often. I’d like to eventually get to the point where I can run 3-5 miles and be done with my exercise for the day, five days a week. We’ll see. I need to buy a stopwatch so I can start timing my Rose Bowl loop. Wish me luck!

    • I found the habit develops its own momentum Anne, a bit like the actual act of running itself. The Rose Bowl loop is perfect, there’s very little gradient (with the exception of one slow drag) and it was relatively unpopulated on the mornings I’ve been there.
      And John can monitor your progress as he speeds past.

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