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 yahoo.com
Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China
May 2010

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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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