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jamie witton, London , UK, United Kingdom

Going Au Naturel – Midnight Runners 5km + bootcamp (Member’s Launch Party)

The decision to re-invent yourself as a runner (athlete!) should not be taken lightly.

My calves have been tighter than a ballerina’s buttocks this week.  The last time I remember this feeling of total leglock was skiing a few years back.  That was down to not having warmed up, or having skied in 2 years, and then doing a 9 hour day on the slopes with a mate and his sado-masochist father.

Why?  That’s a decent story which begins with a pathetically small tenderness in my lower medial shin area.  Also known as shin splints, the ‘IBS’ of the running world – it can be applied to more issues than game theory.

A trip to the physio produced common sense, but good advice.  Rest for a while, stretch more and improve flexibility before strengthening the glutes to help stabilise my form.  But I took this advice and supercharged it by reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  For the 1% who haven’t read it, it advocates a form of running based on our natural evolutionary talent for running rather than what Nike tell us we can do when we put on their flashy fly-knits.

My issue is Heel Striking.  This has never affected me before, as I’ve never run more than 14 clicks.  Once the mileage went up over the summer, my structure was being pounded by hard thuds into the ground with every stride.  Coupled with a decent pace and long, slender (majestic, some would say) form, I was crusin’ for a bruisin’.  Luckily, my injury wasn’t too bad and I was able to get back to it quickly.  But I was in for a shock.

I decided to trust the natural born runners described in the Born to Run book, especially since my goal in running is to take on and conquer ultras and trail runs.  I can firmly say I have zero interest in plodding round flat, grey cities with have-a-go hero dads trying not to blow out both knees and ankles after being bullied into running a marathon by their office ‘pals’.

To change your gait in running isn’t that hard, and for me the prancing forward leaning style advocated by Coach Orton in B2R feels normal.  Normal for my body, normal for my legs and super luxurious for my feet.  Issue was, I was using muscles I clearly haven’t used in donkey’s years.  In fact, I think they were on a gap year finding themselves in Thailand when they ended up staying to become dive instructors.

Result: Happy me, good run, unable to walk the next day.  But it’s a good hurt (I hope).  It’s an ache, and you should be aching if you haven’t done something in a while (ever).  Means you’re doing it right. 
Tonight’s run was a 5km shlep through London with my club, the London Midnight Runners.  It was the members Launch Party, so there was no way I was missing it.  I had employed my most compressive of compression socks, laced up, and hit the road.

Thankfully, I felt good during the run.  Like really good.  Perhaps the biggest surprise of this new style is the inability to run slow with the right form.  I think this is down to a fundamental lack of mastery, and that when my motion control and stability gets better I’ll be able to carry a slower pace.  So whilst it seems like a good thing, I’ll know I’m getting there when I can carry the form on a slow pace.  Certainly I’m going to need to for Ultras.

Takeaway lesson?  It’s never too late to change how you do something, but you’re an idiot if you think you can slot straight into it.  It’s also a multifaceted process, where you need to change many different things about yourself, from strength training to get muscles to fire that have been dormant for years, to mental resilience to know that you’ll be back at maximum attack before too long.  This is by far the hardest part… but I’m only at the beginning.

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Strava title: 
Evening Run
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Going Au Naturel – Midnight Runners 5km + bootcamp (Member’s Launch Party)
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jamie witton, London , UK, United Kingdom
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