Born 1945 — Still Running Strong

This short video (2.5 min­utes) was  made in Chi­na in 2010 for the pur­pose of show­ing the Chi­nese Pub­lic Secu­ri­ty Bureau that “I wasn’t dead yet”. If was a futile exer­cise since they threw me out of Chi­na a lit­tle lat­er for the crime of turn­ing 65.


A high school teacher told me once that I would nev­er win a race. Well, nobody has ever got­ten away with telling me what I can or can’t do. I’ve been dis­tance run­ning ever since. Sure, it wasn’t Olympic stuff, just 10km runs up hill and down dale wher­ev­er I hap­pened to be liv­ing. The real race is always the one against your­self. It’s the per­son­al chal­lenge that you have to sur­mount. It isn’t always easy, but the rewards for get­ting out of your com­fort zone and doing it are always far ahead of wast­ing life away as a couch potato.

There’s some­thing about run­ning that brings you down to earth, yet has you fly­ing at the same time. Every day out there you come up against your own human lim­i­ta­tions. You ‘hit the wall’, and then you get past it. It gives you a kind of con­fi­dence that no amount of talk­ing can ever replace.

Occa­sion­al­ly of course there are small injuries — a torn mus­cle, a sprained ten­don — but these are short term, tem­po­rary things. I’ve lost track of the doc­tors who have ‘advised me’ to give up run­ning. Well, maybe they have an invest­ment in sick­ness. Run­ning has kept me young and energetic.

Nowa­days I have dis­cov­ered inter­val train­ing. I’ve cut the 10km slog back to 5 to 7km in seg­ments: 350 metres of steady run­ning, then 150 metres at speed, stretch for a cou­ple of min­utes, then into the next set. The effects are amazing.

Thor May,
thor­may AT
Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China
May 2010


So Now You Want to Run?

Here are a few insights into run­ning that have come my way over the last half century :

1. For a new run­ner, the first six months are the hard­est, as your body gets over the shock of ded­i­cat­ed train­ing. Leave your ego at home. Brava­do is not the point of doing this stuff. It doesn’t mat­ter a damn what oth­er peo­ple think you are up to. Most­ly they won’t even notice you. As run­ning becomes a habit, like sleep­ing and eat­ing, you will make few­er excus­es to “miss it today”. Per­son­al­ly, I find it best to run alone. If your friend give up the game, you will be tempt­ed to quit too.

2. On a dai­ly basis, the first kilo­me­ter is the hard­est, while your mus­cles warm up. As you become fit­ter, this effect is actu­al­ly more notice­able. Don’t give up at this point! Stretch for a cou­ple of min­utes, then run again. It will be easier.

3. Stretch­ing is impor­tant (I think), espe­cial­ly as your mus­cles become toned and taut. Nev­er rush stretch­ing. Mus­cle flex­i­bil­i­ty is the key to what you can do or can’t do out there on the track. Some pro­fes­sion­al sports train­ers are now say­ing that stretch­ing is a waste of time. That hasn’t been my expe­ri­ence, and cor­rect stretch­ing has been cru­cial for me to recov­er from some occa­sion­al injuries.

4. Breath con­trol is essen­tial for get­ting enough oxy­gen into your blood and then to your mus­cles. Breath in to the count of three with your mouth closed; breath out to the count of three.

5. Remem­ber to keep your upper body loose as you run. That will affect your breath­ing, and bal­ance what is hap­pen­ing with your feet. You need to keep your upper body is rea­son­able shape too with sep­a­rate, reg­u­lar weight bear­ing exer­cise (I use dumbbells).

6. Try to keep your foot­fall gen­tle. The ball of your foot should touch the ground just slight­ly before your heel, to cush­ion the ground strike. Those pho­tos you see of run­ners bang­ing their heels into the ground first demon­strate a short route to bone frac­ture (sports med­i­cine doc­tors took years to wake up to this).

7. If your knee or ankle joints give trou­ble, short­en your step. That will put less stress on every­thing, espe­cial­ly your knee cap, which acts as a ful­crum. For dam­aged car­ti­lage, as in your knee, weight bear­ing exer­cise, such as run­ning, is the only way to get a decent blood sup­ply in to repair the prob­lem (drugs only con­ceal such problems).

8. The mus­cles of a 60 year old atro­phy around four times faster than the mus­cles of a twen­ty year old, and take about four times longer to regen­er­ate. There­fore increas­ing age spells either accel­er­at­ing phys­i­cal decline (the norm), or a ramped up need for phys­i­cal main­te­nance. It is per­fect­ly pos­si­ble to stay fit, but it takes more main­te­nance, not less, as you age. A good rou­tine is two days run­ning, one day rest from run­ning (but do some­thing else like a long, brisk walk on the off-day).

9. We are all made from a bunch of meat and bones, held up against grav­i­ty with mus­cles and ten­dons, and kept in sync with a net­work of nerves. Every mus­cle in your body is coun­ter­bal­anced by anoth­er mus­cle. Where there is pain, the chances are that one of these bal­anc­ing mus­cles is weak­er than its part­ner. Find it and fix it. Some­times this takes exper­i­ment and a bit of time. If some doc­tor tries to shut you up with drugs, walk out. You need prop­er fuel to run on. Avoid the hydro­genat­ed oils they now use in most restau­rants and processed foods (your body is not made to safe­ly man­age those mol­e­cules). I find that about 10 veg­eta­bles and 150 grams of meat or fish a day gives a good mix of nutri­ents. Microwaves are mol­e­c­u­lar death to food. Sug­ar is dan­ger­ous com­pa­ny, but you need a lit­tle mis­chief occa­sion­al­ly. Water is a friend.

10. Run­ning is a great time to lis­ten to an audio book, learn a lan­guage, or fol­low a lec­ture. On your feet, your brain is in peak condition.





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