I totally understand that pounding the streets isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I get why people find road running boring and agree that the repetitiveness of your weekly parkrun can become tedious but like most things in life, you get out what you put in and any given situation is what you choose to make it.
Rather than just going through the motions, not really enjoying a single second of your flat, unscenic, multi lap road race as you plod to the finish line to take a selfie for Facebook pretending you had a great time while smiling with your medal, why not think outside the box and make it more fun, more challenging or both?
I’ve chosen a whole host of different ways to spice up races in the past few years, each one different in its own way, all of which have made things a whole lot more interesting and given me an extra challenge while increasing my enjoyment factor. One of the simplest yet most effective ways of doing this is to carry something.
I guess the thing I’m known for most is running while carrying a car tyre and this past weekend marked one year since I set the world record for the fastest half marathon carrying a car tyre when I ran 1:35:58 at the Great Birmingham Run. I introduced Tarquin (yes the tyre has a name) to my running group for the very reason I’m writing this article and several of our members have now done various different races with it. I personally have carried it round some obstacle course races, at parkrun and I even managed to win the Milton Keynes Mo Run 5k with it.
As well as a tyre I’ve also raced carrying a sandbag of 20 KG and 30 KG. This really does provide an extra challenge but on the occasions I’ve done it it’s been because I’ve been accompanying people who are slower than me so it’s meant I’ve been able to run with them and still get a good workout from it myself.
To install increased teamwork my running group (Parklands Tough Running) have also made up two wooden sleepers complete with four handles that we’ve carried together around several races. This has set about a new challenge which has brought us even closer together, made us stronger and significantly upped camaraderie.
Another simple yet affective way of upping the amusement levels is fancy dress. Depending on how elaborate you go with your costumes will depend on how much tougher the challenge becomes. My outfits have mostly been quite lightweight but it always adds an element of happiness for what might otherwise be a standard run.
I find the best thing about racing in fancy dress is the reactions you get from your fellow competitors and the crowd. It’s something you can feed off to improve your performance. I’ve raced in a morph suit, as Spiderman, Santa, a Dalmatian and a snowman. I also unsuccessfully attempted to beat the world record for the fastest marathon dressed as a postman, which also involved carrying 10 lbs of weight in my postbag.
But my favourite way of all to increase the challenge and improve the fun in a race is to run while pushing my children in their buggy. It is an inspired way to get your kids involved in your sport at the earliest possible opportunity and the perfect way to share your passion with your little ones installing a family vibe into what could otherwise be a lonely and uninteresting journey. Seeing the smiles on their faces makes you realise why you do what you do and gives a reminder of just how great running can be.
It’s also possible to get some good speed up while pushing a pram if you’re on the right course. I’ve managed a sub 19 minute 5k in the past on my way to victory in a Virgin Action fun run. I must admit I do enjoy overtaking runners as they look to one side in disbelief as I fly passed with my son or daughter. It does seem to give them some extra fight though as they dig in to hold on for as long as they can which is always a good thing.
So the next time you think a race looks boring or you fancy giving yourself a bit of an extra challenge consider your options. Think the quirky way.