Running is hard. Don't let anyone tell you differently; that shit is tough. Whether you're consistently smashing 5K, 10K, 20K, or putting on an oversized No Fear top from 2003 and trotting round the block, it's always difficult. Since lockdown started, running's become pretty trendy. The 5K fad seems to have made a lasting impression, and if you're anything like me, you've been fully suckered in. To be honest, though, I don't actually like running. It's a bit of a means to an end. I need to run when I play football, or for the bus, or to run off the Morleys from last night. Outside of that, it's hard to see the point. Lockdown presented me with an opportunity, though. My lanky frame meant I was alright at running distances, it was just fucking boring. But this was my chance. I could become the runner that P.E teachers and the guy in the Peleton advert always told me I could be. But I felt I should do it properly, so instead of bopping out of my house and doing my best guess at 5000m, I decided to get an app. I've seen loads about. Strava's a pretty popular one, but I didn't like the idea of my struggle being a social endeavour. I looked at Puma and Adidas, but in the end, I opted for the Nike Run Club. As with all running apps, NRC tracks various metrics, like distances, times, and elevation while you run. Obviously, these are the basics, but because I was new to the game and everything was bespoke to me, I loved it. I enjoyed coming home sweaty and showing off to my disinterested flatmates that my elevation was 4.2m higher than yesterday. Maybe it's because I was new to all this, but there were tangible goals, there was a real sense of achievement there I hadn't got before from running.
One of the most popular modes is the 'guided runs'. Initially, I was pretty sceptical. They seemed kind of patronising; I knew how to run. What was this disembodied voice going to teach me? Turns out I was wrong, I hadn't got a clue. There's two ways you can attack it. Go for one of the nice easy runs, like the 'beginners runs' or the 'hard day easy run'. In an ever anxious time there's some really good headspace runs to get you through rough lockdown days. My favourite was 'hard day easy run'. It's taken by the Nike Running Executive, and it's pretty much 25 minutes of non-stop encouragement. Stuff like "wow, that's great form" and "you are smashing this, keep going!" He also tells you to slow up and run relaxed, to enjoy the scenery and think happy thoughts. It was class. Sounds silly but I think I ended up running double my normal distance just because some man kept telling me how good I was. Weird how that positive reinforcement stuff works. But you can also throw yourself in the deep end. Pretend you're a 'pro athlete'. There's a big scary virtual world of 10-mile jogs, half marathons and sprint training. I felt big the other day so thought I'd do a 'Speed Run', designed to boost your pace. It's like 8 sets of intense running led by some bastard that won't let you rest for long enough (he even tricks you into doing 9). 40 minutes later, I was lying face down in the hallway, legs like jelly. After 6 pints of water straight from the tap, my lungs started to feel a bit less on fire and after I felt pretty good. One of the things that impressed me most was the practical stuff the app teaches. Breathing techniques or how to run at 50% as opposed to always going at 90%, really useful stuff I can take into other sports. Although I wouldn't go as far as saying I enjoy running now, I'm doing it most days, and I can definitely feel the improvements. It's gonna be weird when footballs back though. Are refs going to let me have my headphones in while I play? I hope so otherwise this all may have been a massive waste of time.