Running London: Part One

By Londonist Last edited 139 months ago
Running London: Part One

On the 8 October this year two members of the Londonist team will be taking part in the Run London event in Hyde Park.

As the theme of this year's race is North v South it's fitting that our competitors come from opposing sides of the river, and to make things a little more interesting one is a Run London veteran having taken part in 2005, while the other is a complete beginner (plus we've got one boy and one girl, so there's even a battle of the sexes thing going on).

Over the next few weeks we'll be presenting their training diaries in the lead up to the big day and the final result.

Rob: The Novice (South London)

How did I get into this then?

Well apparently my wife thought it would be a good idea, which if past experiences is anything to go by means that this is a very bad idea indeed.

I’ve never been a runner really. Ok, at school I was a half-decent sprinter (second in my year in the 100m don’t you know!) but long distance was never my forte. I’m quite an impatient person and long distance just takes so…well, long. In fact, I think the closest I’ve ever got to really enjoying running is watching Tom Courtenay’s performance in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.

So last week when I had to fall out of bed at 6:15am and try and focus on tying the laces of a pair of trainers I haven’t worn in nearly a year, well I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence.

It didn’t help that last week, when I decided to begin my training, was also one of the hottest weeks on record. So after around five minutes of pounding the streets of Vauxhall I look and feel like a dog that’s been left locked in the back of a car for a few hours. I won’t give you the details of how much I’m sweating, suffice to say that my wife was running a good ten paces behind me and I don’t think it’s because she’s pacing herself.

On that first morning we run a whopping 2.5 kilometres and I am shattered (and I walked the last hundred yards or so). It doesn’t help that I have to cycle to work straight afterwards either.

So the training regime looks something like this: three mornings a week I get up early and slog around SW8, attempting to build up the route to 10km over the next 8 weeks. For the first week it’s not pretty, the weather doesn’t help and I am just simply out of shape.

But I’m writing this towards the end of the second week and things are getting better much more quickly than I expected. I know people who do this kind of thing a lot and actually enjoy it say "Oh, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you improve" but I always thought that was just them being smug. But it turns out they’re right!

By my fourth outing I’m able to make it much further before my muscles start screaming "For the love of God stop, stop now!" and this is actually starting to feel good.

Ok, maybe ‘good’ is a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s starting to feel possible at least and just that little improvement provides a ridiculous amount of hope and therefore a massive dollop of incentive to get out of bed at 6:15am in a couple of days time.

Unfortunately there is a problem. I’m due to visit the British Beer Festival one night this week, and then I’m going on a stag weekend. And then next week I’m visiting New York for a few days. I’ve looked and looked but I can’t find any of these activities on any of the recommended training routines. I’ll just have to work round them I guess.

Hazel: The Veteran (North London)

I've been running on and off since Run London last year but now I'm working towards this year's event, I've had to re-evaluate, improve and develop how I do it. It's not been fun to look so closely at what I have fondly believed to be excellent discipline, good technique and exemplary commitment. I don't run with any of those things. I have come to accept, with humility and hopefully good grace that I am running, in this initial stage of the training period with simply Faith, Belief and a bit of Truth.

FAITH: I've done it before, I can do it again

BELIEF: It won't be that hard to get into a routine, improve and manage a better time than I ran last year and possibly beat Rob too

TRUTH: Bloody hell, this is really hard work. I don't think I want to do this any more.

I'd much rather be sipping something cool and refreshing with my feet up in a beer garden somewhere in central London than running in a crooked, lurching fashion around Tate Britain. However, my training route skirts the borders of Rob's training route (staying on the good side of the river, the north side) and I have found that I can keep going just by imagining him heaving himself around streets running parallel to mine, having perhaps a far worse time than me as a beginner. Getting started on this running lark is the hardest even with the quick rewards he has discovered; I don't envy him.

Rather than record my training and improvement by distance which didn't work for me at all last year, I've decided to record time instead. So far, I've managed to extend my time on the road by five minutes each journey. It took me 66 minutes to complete the 10km last year; I can currently run for 35 minutes without vomiting, fainting or feeling my knees go numb. Once I can run 66 minutes comfortably, then I'll concentrate on increasing speed, measuring my distance and trying to beat whatever time and distance Rob is recording. Until then... I'll just keep on running.

Last Updated 04 August 2006