On June 13th, 15 fearless RoSPA employees will be running, climbing, swimming, wading and crawling around 10 kilometres of Leicestershire countryside, as they take part in a Wolf Run. The aim is to raise lots of money for RoSPA LifeForce and to increase awareness of the work we do.
Simon Day, assistant product manager and one of the 15 brave souls, blogs about the start of his journey to the Wolf Run, to explain a bit about the event, as well as providing a few tips on how to run safely in all conditions…
First things first, I’m not looking for sympathy. We’re not attempting to scale a mountain, or to swim the Channel or to do one of those extreme challenges that the likes of Walliams and Izzard seem to specialise in. We’re just going to complete 10km around a very muddy obstacle course. It’s something that thousands of other people do and it’s something that many more would scoff at. Indeed, some of the other members of the “RoSPA 15” are regarding the event as little more than a stroll in the park. “10km? That’s nothing, I run that most days.”
Nonetheless, 10km of mud represents a decent-sized challenge for me. I’m not completely unfit, a few years ago I considered myself to be extremely fit. I played cricket, football and badminton, I was a regular at the gym and I was even a qualified cricket coach. But I got older, lazier and became unfit. In fact, until this recent episode began I hadn’t broken into a trot for about 18 months. I’m also a bit of a coward…so I definitely do not want to get hurt or injured.
Get prepared and have the right tools for the job
When the idea of the Wolfrun was mooted, I didn’t exactly jump at the chance to put my name down. But for some strange, inexplicable reason I decided to say “yes”. I’d love to come up with something more cathartic here, but I’d be lying, I just said “yes” without really thinking about it!
I paid my fee…and then gave some thought to exactly how I was going to build up my fitness in three short months! Luckily, the modern world makes life easier and I soon stumbled upon an excellent app that aimed to take me from couch to 10km in 12 weeks. There are three runs per week, with the length and intensity increasing week by week.
Of course, I needed some kit first – after much scrambling around spare room drawers I found a Portugal World Cup 2002 shirt that just about fitted and didn’t appear to have any holes in it. It did however lack a key component for running around the English countryside…it wasn’t waterproof! A visit to the murky depths of my golf bag soon rectified the situation – a lightweight, breathable waterproof jacket may sound like something from Alan Partridge’s sports casual range, but for cross country running it’s perfect.
Now it was time to find some trainers, I unearthed a pair that were emitting a stench that told a story of neglect. But I didn’t care, I’d be running through mud so aesthetics and aroma were hardly key considerations. What was important was that they were comfortable and provided support for my ankles.
Make sure your training matches your challenge
Then came the running bit. My years of playing sport had taught me the importance of warming up before exercise. So some stretching exercises were followed by a brisk five minute walk to loosen the muscles. While I’m on the subject, it’s also vital to warm down after exercising. It’s tempting to just collapse in a heap after running, but a few minutes of walking and stretching will help prevent injuries.
I decided that road running wouldn’t cut it, I needed to go cross country in order to better prepare. Luckily, I live in a pretty remote spot, but one that I know well. here are plenty of ignored footpaths and bridleways within easy reach of my front door. What’s more, most of them involve steep inclines and uneven ground. Perfect! I had a clearly defined route planned and was going to stick to it.
My app is a combination of running and brisk walking for half an hour. Easy in theory, but in practice it meant I was breaking into runs during very steep muddy climbs. There’s also the problem of uneven ground. Run on a street and you know that the surface will be solid. Run on mud and every step is a gamble. Sometimes you land hard, sometimes you squelch and sometimes your foot moves at a funny angle. That’s why it’s important to run during daylight hours. Seeing where you’re going is imperative – I encountered a number of stray branches that would currently be protruding from my eye socket had I attempted the run during darkness. Regardless of light, I was finding it difficult to differentiate between mud and horse manure during certain sections of the run. A post-run inspection of my trainers revealed that my differentiating skills weren’t the best.
Nevertheless, I completed runs one and two and felt surprisingly fine. On run three it rained hard. By hard, I mean really hard;
the sky was reminiscent of the end of Ghostbusters and to make matters worse, I discovered a fresh problem. Namely that wet Portugal World Cup 2002 shirts lead to severe nipple itching! Now, the sight of a soaking wet, panting man, scratching his own nipples may be appealing to some, but when you’re the man in question it’s a particularly miserable experience.
But once again, I completed the circuit. And you know what; I do feel slightly better about the whole thing. I know I can run, and I have a clearer idea of what some of the challenges will be. I’m still dreading the actual run, but I’m happy that I’m on the right track.
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