Sunday Times - - COUNTER CULTURE -

ANY of us will be glued to our TV sets as we watch close to 20 000 ath­letes, in­clud­ing 7 000 novices, run the Holy Grail of en­durance events — the Com­rades Marathon. In its 92nd year, the world’s largest and old­est ul­tra­ma­rathon race has in­spired many who never saw them­selves as ath­letes to be­come run­ners. I imag­ine that the biggest TV view­ing hap­pens at the 11th hour when the gun is about to be fired for the cut-off. I re­call men­tally try­ing to push an ath­lete over the line through my TV set (ob­vi­ously to no avail). These are the ev­ery­day peo­ple who de­spite not hav­ing the DNA of an Olympian, de­cided they wanted to achieve this goal of con­quer­ing Com­rades. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are still wear­ing their orig­i­nal poly shorts, while oth­ers have the lat­est run­ning tech­nol­ogy on ev­ery bit of their body. Some have carbo-loaded, while oth­ers are strictly Ban­ters. Re­gard­less of who they are, they are the ones who in­spire many of us to put on our run­ning shoes in the mid­dle of win­ter to start our own run­ning jour­ney.

The re­al­ity is that we are ac­tu­ally all born run­ners. Hu­mans are the most ef­fi­cient en­durance an­i­mals on the planet. Our abil­ity to run on two rather than four limbs and our unique ca­pac­ity to ther­moreg­u­late (keep cool) by sweat­ing has given us an evo­lu­tion­ary ad­van­tage over most an­i­mals.

Yet, we have fash­ioned our lives to be less and less phys­i­cally ac­tive. For many of us, close to 60% of our wak­ing time is spent sit­ting at a desk, in front of a com­puter, watch­ing tele­vi­sion, or on our mo­bile phones. Phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity, which plays a part in heart dis­ease, type 2 di­a­betes, and breast and colon can­cers, is re­spon­si­ble for as many pre­ma­ture deaths glob­ally as to­bacco use.

As we wait to catch a glimpse of our fam­ily and friends run­ning up Polly Shortts on TV, we should be in awe of ev­ery ath­lete on the road. But we should also rec­og­nize that even if you are one of the over 50 000 peo­ple do­ing a 5km parkrun ev­ery Satur­day, or the road races run­ning clubs put on ev­ery weekend, you are con­tribut­ing to your longevity and ev­ery sin­gle step counts. — Dr Craig Nos­sel, Head of Vi­tal­ity Well­ness


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