This is a book about running; but it is also a book about runners. Though I have been around runners for a long time now, they continue to amaze me.
Running has a reputation for being a sport for loners, an image immortalised in Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. The runners I know do indeed have quiet determination, a strong sense of self-worth and deep reserves of inner strength. But in my experience, runners are not introverts. They are outgoing, sharing and considerate. Runners seem to have the unusual quality of being equally confident in their own company and in the company of others. To me, this suggests that running can help us to reach an elusive inner balance.
Running is a very honest sport. You get out what you put in. If you haven’t done the training for a marathon, you can’t fake it. But if you put in the work, you will reap the rewards. There is nothing flash and nothing glamorous about the sport; just honest hard work. Perhaps this helps to explain the straightforward and open character of the runner.
This book is written both for beginners and more experienced runners. It starts with advice to beginners to help get you started, and then helps you to progress further, to develop your health, fitness and running. Although some of the discussion about training techniques in the later chapters won’t appear at first to be relevant to a complete beginner, there is plenty of advice which will help to lay the foundations of a long, safe and enjoyable pastime.
Such wisdom as there is in this book is a composite of my own experiences and those of my friends and fellow runners, who have been kind enough to share what they have learned from many years of running. Like so many others, I have also benefited enormously from the great running writers, such as Tim Noakes, George Sheehan, Frank Horwill and Hal Higdon. There is, in Noakes’s words, a shared lore of running from which this book draws; I hope that, in a small way, this book also contributes to that community of knowledge.
If this book helps one person to become physically active, or if it helps one experienced runner to avoid an injury, or if one jogger is inspired to be the best that they can be, then it will have made a positive contribution to the world. And that is all that we can ask of ourselves.
Addis Ababa, 2010