We are absolute beginners
NEW TO CARNETHY? – A GUIDE
Carnethy caters for runners at all levels and provides a mix of inspiration, advice, some levels of coaching and in all cases the camaraderie of fellow running mates. People join for different reasons, but when you are new to the club, what do you expect and what will you get from it?
Everyone is a beginner at the beginning of doing new stuff. Some of you are new to running in general and new to hill running in particular, or are transiting across from other disciplines to expand your repertoire, or maybe experienced but new to the club and what to figure out how to get the best from it. You may well fit one of these categories. How do you get to ‘Be running up that hill, With no problems…’ as Kate Bush once said?
INDUCTION AND INTRODUCTIONS: Everyone’s first date with the club will remain in their memory. It could be a race, a fun run, a midweek training session. For me, my induction to the club came from a background in mountaineering and a bit of adventure racing. Never really a ‘runner’ but at several race events I met various friendly folk with red and yellow T shirts with some dude with a shield on the back who were usually faster than me.
I was usually looking at this yellow fellow as I was overtaken in a race, but slowly improved and beat the grey haired ones sometimes. Then, one Boxing Day, out on the Pentlands in the rain I met a skinny wee guy, Graham Nash, with his son doing a run. A sign of experience is always the state of peoples clothing. Graham wore Gore kit, which was worn out and clearly well used. This guy had credibility to me and suggested that I look at the Carnethy website and see about joining.
WHAT TO WEAR: So what kit do you need to start? Running is a simple and relatively cheap sport to do – a pair of shoes, short and a top gets you going. Probably the most important bit of kit and a critical purchase are shoes. Road shoes with a flat tread or hard wearing trail shoes are fine for dry grass and hard trails, but the least hint of mud and wetness and you’ll be slipping and sliding. The more aggressive the tread the wetter and more vegetated ground that can be covered and give you confidence in almost all conditions, particularly when flying downhill. Softer studs do wear down quickly while hard studs are little use on wet rocks. There is quite a range of choices, so use what you have to start, or look at the picture and maybe try on these brands and stud types for a first buy.
Trail (left), grippier trail (but wear down quickly), and the full fell studded shoe (right)
The best thing for shoes is get advice from other club runners and go to a good running shop. You get a 10% discount at Run & Become and Run4it as Carnethy members. Decathlon and Go Outdoors also have trail shoes, but give less advice. Decathlon has plenty of space to run up and down trying on the shoes.
For clothing a hat or buff (see the Carnethy gear page), wicking Ts, shorts or longs, and a lightweight pertex windproof top are all you need at first, ideally with a hood. They don’t have to be expensive or have a big brand name. Decathlon (shown) and at times Aldi and Lidl have running gear. A bumbag is very handy. Might as well get a good one for later!
If you are contemplating racing then waterproofs are essential. The beginners racing page has lots of advice.
WEBSITE: Exploring this website is a great source of information and I always find it really inspiring. There is probably no better running club website in the UK. Lunchtimes usually see me looking at it to see what’s happening and trying to keep track of all the races and events coming up. Some of the feats and records achieved are seemingly (and actually) way out of my league. If you want to know what is on, or what you have missed, or want some ideas for you next challenge – it is full of useful stuff. There is a calendar of events and activities to help your planning – so check regularly to keep up with what is going on.
The internet is also needed to find out about races and enter them and sites like Entry Central, SI Entries, Scottish Hill Running (SHR), Scottish Hill Racing, Scottish Running Guide, Fell Runners Association (FRA)… among many others have race calendars and much other information. More of that later.
CLUB TRAINING: Carnethy is not an athletics club with respect to pounding around a track or long sessions on tarmac. Most running is off-road on tracks, paths, trods and bog here and there. Usually at least one hill is involved, sometimes 10’s of hills. We do several training sessions midweek in Edinburgh on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s. Anyone can attend and it is a great way to get to know folk, hear who is doing what, ask questions to learn more about who does what, where, when and how. It is good to get ideas of races that might suit you or be a challenge for the future. You will get to find out more about social events and other activities that club does like handicaps, social and journey runs, club runs, relays, specific training events or marshalling opportunities. Since any club member can sometimes guest attend, you can find yourself running alongside a running legend or a running novice. You can also chat about kit – who uses what, what to avoid, opinions of food, where they buy stuff from, recommendations and maybe even second hand stuff looking for a new home.
For club training it is worth carrying waterproofs, hat and gloves in winter, plus a head torch from October to April. Have a change of clothes to keep warm after, and a few pennies for a beer or refreshment in a pub afterwards.
ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS FOR GIRLS/LADIES: So the prospect of turning up for the first time and meeting a bunch of hairy legged blokes might not be your thing, so to ease you into the club there are a bunch of girls that do a social ‘Ladies Run’ catering for all abilities on Monday nights. The dates are advertised on the Ladies Runs page so this could be a good way to get to know a few friendly faces and learn a bit about the club that way.
SKILLS: There is quite a lot to running that you will find out over time. Running skills to develop include the 5s’s – speed, stamina, style, suppleness, strength and often most importantly psychology – i.e. what goes in in your head to keep you going. All these are needed to run faster, further and for longer. These can be developed over time at the Club Training sessions and on Social runs, along with personal training. Other skills aren’t about running itself and include map reading, navigations, route planning, food choice and eating on the run, ablutions on the run, sorting out injuries, medical emergencies. This list goes on.
The web is full of articles on running – some of which are good, some indifferent, some journalistic claptrap. There are lots of guides to improving fitness and there are also some good books about that capture the spirit of running in its purest form. Suggestions are all based on preference but my personal top 5 that I enjoyed recently and include:
Feet in the Clouds – Richard Askwith
Born to Run – Christopher McDougal
Eat and Run – Scott Jurek
Ultramarathon Man – Dean Karnazes
The Corbett Round – Manny Gorman
The Art of Running Faster – Julian Goater
If you haven’t read any books on the subject these are merely places to start. Ok, I said top 5 and there is 6 listed, and you will have read a great one that is not on the list. I have also read some rubbish books. There are literally/literary thousands of others and reading about other adventure sports can be equally inspiring and valid, be it sailing, cycling, climbing or even ballet! Lessons from other sports and disciplines can be equally valid.
The club does organise courses mainly on first aid and navigation. We welcome people with career skills or qualifications through national bodies so if you think you have something useful that could help others develop or could be useful in an emergency please let the club secretary know. For example, we have doctors, lawyers, medics, MICs and MLs, web experts… etc.
RACES: OK, so you are in the club and want do your first hill race. Folk who haven’t run much may be a bit in awe of the idea of doing their first hill race which has more complicated rules that you don’t see when slapping tarmac in road based race. Words and phrases like ‘Mandatory Kit’… ’map, compass’… ’full body cover’… ’foul weather routes’… ’weather forecast’… ’SHR rules’… ’Entry Central’… On a hill race, you have to have satisfied the rules to start the race, and comply with them during the race. These might be extremely simple – ‘run to top of the hill and back down’ which can last 20 minutes, while others require having a bum back or small rucksac with full waterproofs with hood, gloves, fluids, food, map, compass, whistle and phone and take over 5 hours. For beginners, the first option is probably a good place to start. All this can cost a fair amount so attend the club training and see what folk recommend or can maybe lend you. The club handicaps are a good induction to formal Races and worth doing to gain experience.
For some races – particularly relay events – or events, the club sends teams and in some of these cases the club subsidises costs – such as race fees or accommodation. This can be useful if you are short of money. Contact the club captains if you want to represent the club. Also, Facebook is useful to get a lift organised if you don’t have a car.
If you do a race, please have a go at sending a write-up of your experience to the firstname.lastname@example.org who will be very pleased to receive it! Send photos too, preferably email sized rather than high resolution.
EVENT ENTRY: Since running is getting so popular and there are many many races in the race calendar ranging from hard as nails epic multi-day races to wee intro fun runs in the park, the message is the same… plan ahead, book early… or the race may be full. Read any race notes on kit, logistics or rules and adhere to them for full enjoyment. Tell club mates you are going as it can be useful to have someone you know in the race and also a way to share lifts and stories.
SOCIAL RUNS, NIGHT RUNS, JOURNEY RUNS, GROUP RUNS: The club website calendar and individuals on Facebook will arrange days out. If you are thinking of running further and for longer, exploring areas you haven’t been to, want to experience the hills in a pure way, then these events are great and a good induction into longer runs. My first run over 20 miles was the Circo of Edinburgh. I didn’t think I would get past the first leg to Portobello and expected to get the bus home from there. I completed the route with a few others and was amazed that I could beat my longest run by a half marathon.
If attending these for the first time, check with the leader/organiser what kit to carry, food needs, duration, route and escape options, how you will get to the start and how to get back at the end. Get the phone number of the leader or a run-buddy so if you decide to leave the run or get lost, you can call them and let them know. Don’t be put off by the apparent distance and duration since they are not races, but important time on legs.
SOCIAL EVENTS: Another to look out for on the website are social event that the club organises. These come in many forms – some requiring running, drinking, eating, camping, dancing or dressing up. Some social events include just one of these while if you are lucky, others include all of them! We also run free talks in the winter which are both interesting and inspirational.
RESPONSIBILITY: When new to hill running it is worth remembering that it is your own responsibility for your safety, and to look out for others. In social events or club training, find out who is the leader. Take their phone number. If you have problems, let them know or tell someone. If you lose the group, give the leader a call straight away.
On longer runs, if you are struggling to keep up then let the leader know. Discuss escape routes and agree a plan to either finish or how to abort and confirm with the leader that you are off the hill safely.
On a race, carry the kit noted earlier or mandated in the race rules, and some food.
Don’t come to any event on an empty stomach.
SUMMARY: SO, if you are just starting out, go for it. We all started somewhere and in the in the words of the late David Bowie and Kate Bush:
But we’re absolute beginners
With eyes completely open
But nervous all the same…
Oh, we’re absolute beginners
With nothing much at stake
As long as you’re still smiling
There’s nothing more I need
Be running up that hill,
With no problems…’