run, forest, run!

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A couple of months ago a pal of mine, a half-decent middle-distance runner decided that, for his birthday treat, he would finally run a marathon. Wanting to avoid the palaver of buying an entry place, early-morning start and getting to the venue, ignoring the roaringly supportive crowds, trouble at the drink stations and having to get his completion medal framed, he simply set his garage-sited running machine to 26.2 miles, opened the door, put the fan on and ran the allotted distance. Functional to the end, he ran his race within four hours and broke the finish tape to the sound of deafening silence and his own laboured breathing. Functional but hardly romantic.

Yesterday saw over 40,000 people run the London marathon and, with a whopping 386,050 having applied to do so, the most in its illustrious history, the popularity of the event shows no sign of abating. I’ve done a couple myself and, watching it from the comfort of my living room sofa, have nothing but admiration for their determination and perspiration. It’s a helluva distance and irrespective of your training and timing you ain’t going to feel on top of the world come the end. Which begs the question: why?

The health benefits of long-distance running are debatable at best, injuries are a constant, a daily prescription of Ibuprofen essential, the physio on speed-dial will half-bankrupt you and, as you’ll eat everything within your grasp, you’re likely to gain weight! Want to get fit & toned? Take-up swimming, walk quickly or get some use out of that gym membership you treated yourself to last January. The best healthy exercise regime is to move frequently, lift things occasionally and sprint when being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger. Our obesity epidemic and junk food obsession is countered only by our fixation on clean-eating and achieving a beach-ready body!

So, if yesterday you felt inspired to pick-up the gauntlet thrown down by every costume-attired and charity-sponsored competitor, good luck and all-power to your elbow. And knees. However, if like me you’re not motivated to do so, don’t let it stop you getting out there and go for a bike ride, a dip in the pool, walk the dog on the common, get some rays on your face, fill your lungs with freshly released diesel particulates. The benefits of getting out & about are there for all of us to enjoy.