34 Must-do Running Experiences
Your ultimate bucket list
1-3 Get on track
Stepping onto a floodlit oval for the first time is a thrilling moment for any runner, and you don’t need to be super-speedy to take advantage of the responsive, level, measured surface. ‘Running 400m laps is great for staying focused and developing your concentration,’ says England Athletics Coach Area Mentor Stella Bandu. Start off gently, with a maximum of one track session per week. Here’s an easy feet-finding workout: warm up, then do eight laps (two miles) of the track. Jog the bends and run hard on the straights.
…Now step up to a race
If you’re already a track regular, it’s time to release your inner Mo. ‘You can choose race distances from 100m to 10,000m, including the classic mile,’ says Bandu. ‘Doing shorter track races will improve your speed and boost your confidence over longer distances.’ Lots of clubs organise ‘open’ athletics meetings that anyone can pay to enter. ‘Most events are graded, so you race against others of similar ability,’ says Bandu. Find a local event at openmeetings.co.uk, or relive London’s Olympic glory and follow in the footsteps of Bolt, Farah and Rudisha by entering the Great Newham London Run (July, greatrun.org), which finishes on the Olympic Stadium track.
…And spike your performance
If you’re on the oval, try swapping your usual runners for track spikes. ‘Conventional running shoes won’t allow you to achieve your potential in track sessions,’ says Mark Speed, manager at Runner’s Need in Clapham, South London. He recommends a middle-/long-distance spike: ‘The fiveor six-pin plate will help you grip the track and push off more effectively, which, combined with the shoe’s extremely light weight, will boost your leg turnover and speed,’ he explains. ‘Track spikes will offer a lot less support than normal running shoes, so introduce them gradually.’ Try the Nike Zoom XC (£75, nike.com, shown left).
DO always run anticlockwise (remember, you’re ‘against the clock’).
DO move out to the right if someone wants to overtake.
DON’T run in lane one (nearest the centre) unless you’re doing fast laps. They’ll usually shout ‘track’.
DON’T stop suddenly without checking who’s behind you.
DON’T stand around or leave anything on the track.
4/ Race in fancy dress
Racing can be a serious business, but not when you’re dressed as a vegetable. Thomas Bolton has done three marathons in fancy dress, including one as the Tardis: ‘I find running in costume more rewarding, as I feel like I’m giving something back to those who’ve sponsored me and those who’ve come out to watch.’
Tom’s tips for fancy-dress racing:
‘Pick a costume that means something to you. Location-relevant costumes are popular, or ones linked to a charity you’re representing.’
‘Do your homework on the course and also the type of runners it attracts. Some races aren’t so welcoming.’
‘Even the lightest costume can affect your gait. You need to train in your outfit, but alternate with costume-free runs.’
‘It’s worth having a mock costume for training so your real one doesn’t get damaged.’
5/ Run your age
Many runners celebrate landmark birthdays by ‘running their age’: for example, running 40 miles at 40. Dave Mcgillivray, director of the Boston Marathon, has been running his age every birthday for the past 50 years. Now 62, he mixes running with cycling to make up the numbers. Depending on your level and how many candles are on the cake, you can celebrate in miles, kilometres or minutes, or number of fire engines that arrive to put out the blaze.
6/ Set a record
You don’t need to run the fastest or the furthest to set a world record; you just need to achieve something that hasn’t been done before. In 2015, 86 new running records were verified by Guinness World Records. Runner’s World writer Meghan Kita set one of them: fastest marathon (female) dressed as a fast food item (a hot dog, as you can see, left). Find out how the process works at guinnessworld records.com/set-a-record.
7 Bag the Majors
Perhaps the toughest thing about ticking off all six World Marathon Majors is getting into the perpetually oversubscribed races in the first place, but consider it a lifetime project. If you succeed, you’ll gain entry into the hall of fame and earn the Six Star Finisher Medal (worldmarathonmajors.com).
Here’s the order: Tokyo (February) Boston, (April), London (April), Berlin (September), Chicago (October) and New York City (November).
8/ Bare your soles
Running barefoot evokes a sense of freedom that all runners should experience. Whether it’s silky sand, smooth asphalt or springy grass, you’ll awaken thousands of neural connections in your feet, heightening your awareness of your body and your surroundings. ‘We have become so disconnected and unresponsive to all that is around us,’ says John Woodward, a running coach who has been going barefoot for more than 30 years. ‘Going barefoot encourages a mindfulness in the way you move.’ While there are many fitness benefits, such as increased foot strength, greater ankle mobility and a softer landing force, for Woodward the greatest payoff is opening the link between mind and body. ‘It’s where the joy and the fun begin,’ he says. Bare your soles safely and effectively on Woodward’s weekend running courses in the Lake District (naturalrunning.co.uk).
No, keep your kit on…in running terms, a streak means running every day. It could be for a set period of time, such as one month or 100 days, or indefinitely; it could be for 10 minutes or five miles. The world’s number-one streaker is veteran British athlete and former multiple world record holder Ron Hill, who has not missed a single day of running at least one mile since December 1964. ‘I would recommend streaking to everyone,’ says the 78-year-old. ‘It’s a good discipline for health and training.’ For a little social support, join the Run Every Day in January campaign, which challenges you to run away the winter blues for 31 consecutive days and raise money for the mental health charity Mind (runeverydayjanuary.com).
10/ Run at night
Even a well-trodden route can feel deliciously different under cover of darkness. A head torch and high-viz kit are wise, and it’s safer and much more fun with friends. Better still, try an organised night race.
Wild Night Run A series of six 10K to half-marathon off-roaders in the West Country. wildrunning.co.uk
Kielder Dark Skies A 10K in England’s first desginated ‘dark sky park’ on trails through Kielder Forest. highterrainevents.co.uk
Grim Challenge Blackout An eight-mile autumnal jaunt along forested trails. grimchallenge.co.uk
FANCY THAT Dress up as Indiana Jones (and a giant boulder), a velociraptor or the Hulk. The choices are many (and strange)
MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT It may take years, but it’ll be worth the effort BERLIN