By Richard Mayer, 42 years

Personal bests (age in brackets) – 400m 54.5 (19); 800m 1:58.5 (19); 1500m 4:01.65 (21); 3000m 8:47 (25); 5000m 14:48 (25); 10km 30:38 (26); 15km 47:12 (23); marathon 2:30:49 (35)

(School & Clubs: St John’s, Wanderers, Wits, London Irish and Lydiard Athletics Club)

(Provincial and Country representation: Transvaal Under 21, 1988, Middlesex, 1994, Central Gauteng Junior-Veterans 2002-2006 and Veterans 2008-2009)

(Positions: Head Coach Wanderers 1997-2007, mentor of 2000 Olympic marathoner, Johannes Maremane, SA coach to Ekkiden relays, Japan, 2002, and past member CGA and ASA coaches committees, Chairperson Lydiard Athletics Club)

As someone who has run practically every day for the last 26 years, since I turned 16, I can strongly recommend this way of life to any young person.

No matter what your level of talent, a tell-tale sign that you have become a serious runner is that when you have missed your daily run, you feel guilty when you go to bed. Sometimes you will have to miss your run through circumstances beyond your control and it is important to know when not to run. If you have a temperature or ‘flu, to run would not only be a bad idea, it could fatal because you could suffer a heart attack if you run when your body is below strength. Likewise, if you have a serious injury, it would be best to stop running until it has healed or else what is a normal injury could become career-terminating.

There are many reasons why you should run. Running promotes not only physical health but runners are also happier, more optimistic and less prone to minor psychological problems, such as depression, than non-runners. Regular runners tend to be intelligent, disciplined, goal-directed people with high levels of self-esteem. But, ultimately, one should only make running an everyday part of your life if you enjoy it. Serious running is a too demanding and all-consuming activity to be part of your life if it is not enjoyable. That being said, running is often an acquired taste, which repays effort, dedication and commitment and it often takes time to fully enjoy its pleasures.

If you are not enjoying your running, the problem might be that you are running too hard and placing too much pressure on yourself when you run. An attitude which pays dividends in running is to take a long term view and accept that results do not come overnight. Don’t try to push too hard and on your steady long distance runs, if you cannot talk, you are running too fast. It is often a good idea, particularly in the early stages of your running to run with other people, who will give you much-needed companionship and moral support on your regular runs.

Opportunities for running with other people come not only from making arrangements with school friends and the time trials held at about 5:30 at Rand Athletics Club on Tuesdays and Randburg Athletics club and Wanderers on Thursdays. There are also road races in Johannesburg nearly every Sunday. For safety reasons, it is probably best for girls to run with their fathers or friends and safety can be guaranteed on indoor tracks (such as those at Planet Fitness Wanderers and the Isle of Sandton).

Some people say that running is an addiction. Obviously each person is different but in my experience running could more accurately be described as a discipline or commitment. Even when running has become a daily routine, there will be days that the weaker parts of you will not feel like running. If you make sure that your stronger self prevails, I can assure you that you will never come back from a run or a track session without a strong sense of achievement and the “feel good” sensation produced by endorphins, the natural chemicals your body produces when it exercises.

If you are naturally a motivated person if you really don’t feel like running on any particular day, it could be because you are getting sick or are already sick and don’t know it. An early warning sign that you should not run on a particular day, or at least train very easily, is if your resting pulse is 10 or more beats higher than usual when you wake up. Taking your pulse every morning when you wake up is thus a good way of keeping tabs on your general health and readiness to train.

If your reluctance to run is merely a product of laziness or poor motivation, get yourself into your running kit and hit the road before you can think about any more reasons not to run. I have always found that once I have laced up my shoes, I will always go for a run, except for one occasion when I was really exhausted and by deciding not to run, I avoided getting sick. If these tactics do not work, try to visualize yourself enjoying your run and getting through it. If the first minute or two of your run is tough, don’t worry, it sometimes takes 5 to 10 minutes to warm up and get into your run.

So, give everyday running a try. Keep running through exams (when running is a good way of unwinding and de-stressing) and hold your routine the Christmas holidays and into the New Year. For the motivated and talented, provincial track and cross country colours are a goal one can aim for but whatever your standard, I can assure you will embark on a journey of adventure and self-discovery which will greatly enrich and enhance the quality of your life. You will meet and make friends with people from all walks of life and you will go to places which, but for running, you would never have seen.

Runners tend to be sincere, wholesome people and many of the friends you make in running will be friends for life. For runners, school is not an end but a beginning. After school there is the challenge and camaraderie of club and university competition. A prerequisite of running after school is to join a running club, whether a college or ‘varsity club or an open club like RAC.

Learners at Hyde Park High are privileged that in Marko Bucarizza you have a coach who is not only a fine role model as one of South Africa’s most promising middle distance athletes, but who is profoundly committed to nurturing the athletic talent entrusted to him.


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