by Paul Halford |



I’m not a bad runner. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a particularly good runner either; I’m slow, I struggle going up hills and my form is probably dreadful. Photographs of other people running tend to resemble mountain goats skipping joyfully over the terrain, while pictures of me look as though Santa Claus has mistakenly put on running shoes and tights and forgotten where he left his sleigh.

However, the crucial thing is that I enjoy my running and nothing else really matters. To be honest, I have no desire to win races or be placed in my age category and I don’t have a competitive bone in my body when it comes to running (but play me at Scrabble and you’ll see a very different side of me). Improving my performance on Strava segments is vaguely interesting, but I don’t really care very much. I realise that this might sound heretical to some of you, but that’s fine by me.

The main reason I run is that I love the countryside and I love to be outside. Whether it is jogging through woodland paths in the valley or gasping my way up onto the tops in the Pennines or Lake District, it’s all grist to my mill. If I stop to admire a particularly interesting tree, take a photograph of a toadstool or just drink in the sights and sounds, that’s okay. Similarly, if I decide that I want to walk up a hill (or even down a hill, for that matter), there isn’t a problem. Of course, I enjoy the action of running; those moments when you just seem to be flying are fantastic and nothing beats pushing hard up a hill and feeling fully alive with every breath and every step. I love it, but that isn’t the full story.

Other runners approach things differently. They train by heart rate, calculate their VO2 max and aim for personal bests at all sorts of distances. I think this is brilliant; I love to see people, pushing themselves and having fun. When I’m driving and I see pavement warriors sweating their guts out and moving at a pace that I can only imagine, it brings a big smile to my face. I love to see people running. The fact that I have no particular desire to spend hours on the roads preparing for a marathon doesn’t mean that I don’t admire those who do. I can’t be bothered with scientific approaches to training and I’m not organised enough to hack it anyway,– but good on those who enjoy and profit from getting their biometrics all sorted. Weekly hill-reps and long slow runs are about the extent of my organisation.

I don’t consider myself a good runner in the sense of being fast, stylish or competitive – I’m none of these things. I’m a good runner because running makes me happy and that’s enough for me. Other people approach their running very differently to me, but if they are having fun, then they are good runners, too.

So, if you go zipping past me in some race or other in the Pennines or the Lake District, don’t feel sorry for the slow, old bald guy in unsuitable legwear. He’s having a whale of a time, enjoying a long day out in the hills.

Enjoy your running - it’s what it’s all about.

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