THE WAY TO START
RUNNING is, as you know, a basic sport; and in one way or another enters into most games. Also you will admit that the less artificial a sport is the more its cultivation becomes worthwhile, for only by carrying on as Nature intended can we be sure of natural health.
All the same, it is as well to remember that we are no longer the sons of nature our remote ancestors were : all sorts of artificialities, clothes, locomotion and persistent advances in every direction have largely supplanted instinct and left reason to take its place. It’s all right so long as reason is properly applied, but you can see, and without having to look very far, that this point is all too frequently overlooked ; wo are too apt to let reason take the course of our inclinations without due regard to its own decisions.
As a child you went to school and started to learn to read, and there wasn’t much fun in the lesson. You also learnt to run, and that was much nicer, for all your ancestors had done that, and you took to it kindly. Running was easier than reading, though even then you didn’t want an overdose of either. Later on you probably read a great deal for the mere pleasure of it and because you were aware of its benefits. Did it ever strike you that precisely the same thing would occur with running, only more so ? Why more
so ? Because reading educates your mind only, whereas running or any natural exercise is physical as well as mental development, and makes the whole machine more capable.
It’s simple enough. Ordinary running—not racing—builds you up to a state of health far and away above the standard enjoyed by the majority of men, as of course climbing, swimming and so on, will; it’s not applicable only to running, but to every form of basic sport as well as to many of our modern games—tennis for instance.
When your physique is about as near perfection as Nature can make it, all your abilities become greatly enhanced ; you can work better, think more clearly and play more actively and intensely than before. The efforts become simplified because you have a superior machine to work with, and your rivals haven’t the same chance unless they polish up their physiques similarly. A welcome result is that you get a lot more enjoyment out of life, which is what we look for : we only do things because we consider the result will bring us pleasure in one way or another, even if it is only indirectly.
So, for those of you who are not alreadj^ athletes or runners, I would suggest that you take up some form of outdoor sport right away. But I have other suggestions as well, and I wouldn’t have you swallow one without considering the others.
If you decide to begin with running, make a note to start with that it is only the basis of most other outdoor activities ; it won’t be necessary at any time to engage in racing, though it’s likely to lead to it eventually. Just consider wild animals, which on the whole are certainly much healthier than the average modern man : they run plenty, but never at any time for all they are worth unless obliged to by absolute fear. Even then it is only being scared stiff that will make them extend to their utmost. So if you take this nature lesson to heart you will know that sheer racing should be kept within distinctly restricted limits.
Set about learning, then, to run in an easy and serene manner, knowing that once learnt—and even during the learning—you can thoroughly enjoy every bit of the exercise. You will at the same time be acquiring the health you have always wanted to possess, and no one can do you out of it. If you really mean to carry on without discomfort like this you MUST cut out everything in the nature of serious racing, except on infrequent occasions when you decide to compete at an event. Although at first sight this might appear rather queer it is nothing but sound commonsense.
Again why I I’ve given you one reason above, and here’s another. Do you play the piano ? No matter, if you don’t you can easily apply to anyone who does. Finger muscles are the principal ones engaged. Remember, the rules which apply to one set will apply equally to all. If you practise speeding continually at any passage of music it will shortly end up in complete instability, hopeless incompetence : yet if you begin slowly and increase the pace so gradually as to be almost unnoticeable, never going quite
as fast as you think you might possibly be able to manage, you will find that for a single occasion every now and again, if required, you can surpass your wildest dreams in the way of masterly execution. Apply this to running, where legs are the principal factors, and you get a similar result.
After all, when you come to consider it, this is only natural. You can’t race successfully before you have learnt to run decently, so why try ? Racing doesn’t necessarily do a fellow any good, except that it encourages him with his hobby ; all the lasting benefits are to be derived from moderate exercise, and racing isn’t moderate.
Nowadays a five mile cross-country run is a common event. Why not make a start and get busy for one of these ? It’s no good putting off till tomorrow ; are you boss of yourself or not ? If you intend to get out of the rut you won’t wait to be pushed— he who hesitates is ” bossed.”
Your age doesn’t matter ; you can be anything between fifteen and fifty, or even more, and it will still be good for you. First of all obtain the necessary outfit ; fortunately in the case of runners this is very inexpensive. A vest or sweater, shorts and crepe-rubber-soled shoes. Crepe rubber lasts longer than any other kind, likewise it is easily reinforced and repaired in the same way as a cycle tyre. Canvas shoes are more suitable than leather because weather conditions don’t affect them : ” bad ” weather is of course every bit as natural as ” fine,” and unless it happens to be really atrocious won’t interfere with you in any way. Socks or wash-leather toe-caps are advisable ; I often used the latter in summer and always the former in really cold weather.
Two primary considerations are essential; (1) you must practise as frequently as you possibly can, and (2) you must never permit yourself to approach real exhaustion, must never become badly tired. So long as you stick to those two you will continually progress : the less closely you adhere the longer will it take you to get thoroughly fit.
A quarter of a mile gentle trot in the early morning or evening won’t worry you at all provided you don’t go at it hard enough to ^et quite winded. A trifling dose like this will in a few days enable you to manage twice the distance without any more effort : in fact a single month will see you doing at least a mile a day, even if you were hopelessly out of training at the start. From then on it is only a matter of time ; when you can comfortably trot two or three miles daily without in any way really exerting yourself, you can enter when you please for a five-mile cross-country race and know that you will put up a decent show at it.
Sooner or later (sooner is much better) you will be wise to join a club, even if you have no intention of competing. This will enable you to get a weekly run with other members during which you can learn a lot. Not only that, but it will put you in the way of judging all sorts of styles, from which you can form your own conclusions. The best style is the easiest—not to learn, but to
practise when acquired. You will find runners a cheerful fraternity; they can hardly be anything else being so absurdly healthy. And you will be helping your fellow clubmen just as they are helping vou ; that alone would make it worthwhile becoming a member.
As to the distance you want to cover, this is solely a matter of style combined with the time you’ve got available. The further you want to go the shorter your stride will have to be and the longer it will take you to build up the necessary stamina. But nothing can stop you except yourself, no matter what distance you have set your mind on. So hang on patiently to training and you will ” get there ” all right.
I remember one middle-aged man in Rhodesia who was inclined to be more than a trifle stout. He was quite aware of the fact that anyone could run ten miles who practised along the lines I’ve been discussing, though at the time he was unable to run at all. In less than six months he had covered his ten miles, using the training methods I have just given you. So, no matter what your age or circumstances, you CAN learn to run, run well, and run successfully, if you reckon your determination is no worse than the next man’s. Perhaps you don’t believe me. Try it and believe yourself.