Tonky Talk

Paul finds that the time has come to take bet­ter care of his body. He’s 49…

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents - Tonky Talk BY PAUL TONKINSON

Some­times in life you need to em­brace new ideas. It’s amaz­ing how locked in I can get with my run­ning. I’ve found my routes and usu­ally I do them at around the same speed. They say mad­ness is do­ing the same thing again and again while ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults. There­fore, I’m nutty as a fruit­cake.

This is a round­about way of say­ing I’ve started prop­erly stretch­ing be­fore and af­ter my runs, and I’ve done a gym ses­sion. For years I prided my­self on not stretch­ing. I ran, I sprinted, I surged with no ill con­se­quences. I ran slow at the start and quicker at the end and then I stopped dead, had a bath and sal­lied forth into the day with­out con­se­quences. Then, a cou­ple of years ago, I started to get the odd twinge. Now it ap­pears my body is in a con­stant state of re­bel­lion. Aches burst forth ran­domly in all ar­eas. There’s a struc­tural de­fect on my right side, a slight tear­ing sen­sa­tion from toe to knee to hip and an ever-present tight­ness in the Achilles. Added to that, I’m lop­sided. To wit­ness the first walk of my day from bed to bath­room is to be privy to the move­ments of a de­crepit gar­goyle. My body is hard and in­tran­si­gent, my back is sen­si­tive, shift­ing mys­te­ri­ously, prone to sud­den spasms. For the past 18 months or so I’ve just ig­nored it. Why not? I can still run, at least af­ter five min­utes or so. The body is an adap­tive or­gan­ism that makes al­lowances for our idiocy. I run my body warm and by the end it feels loose(ish). Then I stop and ev­ery­thing goes wrong again. My life­style com­pounds it. Long drives. Long writ­ing ses­sions. It’s an id­iot’s char­ter for long-term in­jury and I’ve had enough of it. At the age of 49 I’ve got the body that my be­hav­iour de­serves and I’ve re­solved to be­gin again.

It started on hol­i­day. In Greece, I was re­born. Stretch­ing in the Greek heat on a ve­randa over­look­ing the sea was way more ap­peal­ing than do­ing it in the lounge at home. I rose and fell with the sun. Sur­rounded by na­ture, you pig­gy­back on its rhythms and habits. You run slow and long in the heat and then swim af­ter­wards, and lunge and play in the surf. At home you’re sur­rounded by bills, mess, the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of things left un­done. The run is some­thing nicked from the day.

I found my run­ning felt so much bet­ter with daily hol­i­day stretch­ing; my body felt taller, lan­guid. Then I went to the ho­tel gym. I still ran, but on the tread­mill: start­ing slow, wind­ing it up till I was run­ning as fast as pos­si­ble, and then col­laps­ing in a sweaty mess. It was af­ter one of these ses­sions that my daugh­ter saun­tered through the door. She’s 18 and goes to the gym four times a week. A bit of car­dio but loads of com­pli­cated stuff as well, by which I mean she uses the equip­ment. I’d al­ways viewed the re­sis­tance ma­chines as ugly man­i­fes­ta­tions of a dis­turb­ing van­ity but, it turns out, they can help me get stronger. I told my daugh­ter about my glutes and she gave me some ex­er­cises to help make them stronger. I shared my ham­string wob­ble and she pointed me in the right direc­tion. She’d seen my back dra­mas over the last year or so and of­fered sim­ple ex­er­cises to strengthen the area. I did them, slowly and care­fully – I started to work on my body with­out run­ning. I found that I quite en­joyed it – it made sense.

I’m a soul­ful-run-in-the-wood­still-you-can’t-run-any­more kind of guy. I don’t see the body as a ma­chine. But I know that, like a car, it needs a ser­vice from time to time. You need to lift the bonnet and have a tin­ker, re­in­force some bits of the struc­ture and loosen oth­ers. And as you put more and more miles on the clock, the ser­vices need to get more reg­u­lar, a daily tin­ker­ing. You need al­ways to be do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Un­til this year, Matt Gossage had rarely run, but he is now aim­ing to cover one mil­lion me­tres to help sup­port the But­ter­fly Thy­roid Can­cer Trust. Matt’s wife, Re­becca, has been treated for thy­roid can­cer and he wants to help other fam­i­lies go­ing through a sim­i­lar chal­lenge.

‘Any­one who has had their life tainted by the Big C knows that it’s not merely an ill­ness: it’s an on­go­ing anx­i­ety about what might come next,’ he says. ‘ We’ve been lucky, but have still suf­fered so much, so I re­ally wanted to ded­i­cate my run­ning to a char­ity that helps fight the dis­ease.’ Matt be­gan in Au­gust and plans to com­plete the dis­tance – 1,000km – within 12 months. ‘ I can’t just run for the sake of it, so the Mil­lion Me­tre Chal­lenge is giv­ing me that mo­ti­va­tion.’ Push­ing a three-child buggy is dif­fi­cult enough in it­self. So ku­dos to Cyn­thia Arnold, from Mon­tana in the US, who pushed her three kids around the Mis­soula Half Marathon in a record-break­ing 1:29:08. Cyn­thia, 34, com­peted in track and cross-coun­try events in high school and col­lege, so she’s no stranger to run­ning. The idea of beat­ing the record – which stood at 1:47:32 – came from Cyn­thia’s hus­band be­fore the birth of their third child. ‘ He said, “You should try for the triple world record in the half marathon, that would be re­ally neat for the kids,”’ says Cyn­thia. ‘ It was more of a par­ent mo­ment than a run­ning mo­ment.’ As for how her kids – aged six, three and just 11 months – felt while their mum was belt­ing along at 6:48min/mile pace? They were just lick­ing their lol­lipops, en­joy­ing the ride.

CYN­THIA ARNOLD Broke the triple-buggy half-marathon record

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