Periodically I write a post brimming with good intentions about my latest attempt to resuscitate my inner runner. I used to love running. I’ve never been very good at it – shuffling would be a more accurate description, but I have managed to complete two marathons and all the training they involved. I’ve lost the spark for some time now and no matter how many kick-ass motivational running books I’ve read, nothing has tempted me back out there . Until now, that is.
Thanks to a combination of factors including fellow blogger Liz’s regular running book recommendations and race reports; my discovery of a couple of really supportive on-line running communities – Run Mummy Run and Vegan Runners; signing up for the Cardiff Half Marathon in October (I find fear to be surprisingly motivational) and my discovery of the Parkrun phenomenon; I’ve rediscovered my happy place, and am now completely hooked on running again. It feels great. The final boost, if I needed one, came from reading Lisa Jackson’s book Your Pace or Mine which is hilarious and heart-warming in equal measures.
I’ve read a truckload of books on running, many of them excellent, but more often that not, any talk of speed and improvement makes me feel a bit of a fraud. No matter what I try, I stubbornly remain a shuffler with only two speeds – slow and stop. With enough training I can pootle for miles – my two marathon medals attest to that, but no amount of intervals, tempo runs or fartlek training (snigger) have made a jot of difference to my speed. The first time I ran the London marathon, I got overtaken by a man with one leg; a man carrying a fridge; a herd of charity rhinos and a multi-person caterpillar. The second time I ran it I was even slower. Paula Radcliffe, I’m not, and what I loved about Lisa’s book is that she is my kind of runner. She’s also at the back of the pack with the wombles and the ordinary folk like me – the unlikely runners. Rather than seeing us slow-coaches as ‘also-rans’ or ‘wannabes’ she celebrates the tortoises of the running world, something I found validating and joyous.
I knew I’d found a kindred spirit when I read this, as I’ve had a similar ‘near death’ experience with cows myself:
It was after we’d been sloshing along a farm track for an hour that we saw them, dimly through the drizzle. There must have been at least 30 of them, and they were all looking straight at us. It’s a little-known fact that there are 11 animals more likely to kill you than sharks, and cows – which look deceptively placid – are one of them. I’m a city girl through and through and ‘Trampled by Killer Cows’ was not what I wanted to have engraved on my gravestone.
With chapters on what running has taught her about fear, perseverance, death, dreams, failure and success (even nudity!) the book is crammed with pearls of wisdom from Lisa’s own running experiences and other people’s stories and reflections. I snorted coffee all over the sofa more than once thanks to some of the hilarious anecdotes, while other tales had me sobbing uncontrollably. Lisa is so genuinely kind and enthusiastic, You’d be hard pushed not to warm to her. If you already run, plan to run at some point, or are resolutely committed to trainer avoidance until the end of your days, I heartily recommend this book. Yes, it’s infectiously motivational about running but it’s so much more than that. It’s a heart-warming and life-affirming reminder of the kindness of strangers, the everyday heroism of people facing their fears and risking failure, processing the hard knocks that life throws at them, and finding out the hard way what they’re really made of. Who of us couldn’t do with a little reminder of that in such bleak times as these?