Andy Mahony caught the running bug a couple of years ago. He works with the council’s public health team. In Running Commentary, he shares his favourite running routes and parks, as well as tips he has picked up while being overtaken by a speeding Santa and nipped at by geese. And then there are all the other weird and wonderful things he encounters along the way.
As 2016 gets under way, and a frenetic December social calendar gives way into a rather more sober January, I’m grabbing a moment to reflect on last year’s achievements – from Scotland to Santa. What a year.
In May I headed to Edinburgh to complete my first marathon. Despite sporting an injured knee which made things ‘interesting’ I managed get through the 26.2 miles, albeit a little slower than my four-hour target time. My friend Emma ran it too and it was also her first marathon, so pats on the back and ‘well done us’ was the order of the day.
A great thing about marathon training plans is that following one means you’ll automatically achieve your recommended levels for physical activity. Of course running may not be your thing, but it doesn’t really matter how you enjoy being active. What does matter is that you are moving every day, and if you’ve read this blog before you’ll know why – it leads to a significantly reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and even cancer.
My second big event of the year (and personal favourite) was the superbly organised Ealing Half Marathon, which I ran for the second time, smashing my previous time by over 11 minutes. The race is meticulously organised, the volunteers are superb and the crowd support along the route is outstanding.
The next big event of the year was not a race at all, but joining a local running club, the Ealing Eagles. Whatever your sport, joining a club is a great way to stay motivated and get some excellent advice from more experienced members and coaches. Most clubs, like the Ealing Eagles, cater for a range of abilities and have beginner’s groups. So even if you’re absolutely new to running (or any other activity) there’s likely a group or club with like-mined people you can join.
Got my Claus into charity running
Of course when joining the local running club, no one informed me it would entail running around the borough dressed as Santa. That’s what I – and about 50 other club members – did in December. It resulted in numerous bemused onlookers; much cheerful honking of car horns and some confused looking children. It was all in a good cause though, with £968 raised for the homeless night shelter.
If you’re looking to take up some exercise in 2016 you could try running, though you might want to check with your GP first. You could start with a gentle couch to five kilometres training plan. You might enjoy it and you might not, but you won’t know until you try.
I always assumed I wouldn’t like running or be terrible at it. So no one was more surprised than me to find out I was not only OK at it, but also enjoyed it. And if you told me three years ago I’d be running a marathon I’d have thought you were living in fantasy land.
There were around 7,000 people signed up for the Ealing Half Marathon last year, and every last one of them had start with that very first run.
If 7,000 of us can do it, maybe you could too in 2016?