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Anyone can run…

by Craig A Rodway - flickr.com
Running is the simplest and most popular exercise. How to go about it and not lose your motivation to more practice as early as at the first training session? Where to look for information regarding practicing, competitions, equipment and… company to run with?

What is this all about?

Running is the simplest thing you can do to feel well, improve your shape and experience the kind of sporting emotions that are aroused by competing. Is it true that anyone is able to run? Of course it is. Even asthma sufferers run, of course having previously consulted their doctor and obtained his guidance. Do you know that Robert Korzeniowski, Polish Olympic multi-medallist, who is now only a runner for pleasure, struggled not only with distances, but also with his asthma? His is not the only case. Ernst Van Aaken, a famous coach, said that anyone could be trained, the only thing is to match running to a person’s individual abilities. And he claimed that it was enough to “run long, run daily, drink little and don’t eat like a pig”. And while we are at eating… if you have problems with being overweight, start from marching, preferably with sticks, which is called Nordic walking. Running when you are grossly obese can end up in an injury.

Steady, ready…

Those who start running for pleasure and go on for some time, will sooner or later enter some sort of competition, even to see how that is. In Poland, if you want to take part in a longer distance run, in most cases you have to be 16 or over and have parental consent. But major running events are accompanied by smaller ones, for young people. Their organisers always offer different divisions into age groups and distances. Unlike in France, for example, in Poland, if you are underage, you do not have to present a medical certificate to be allowed to take part in a sporting event. It is enough to sign an appropriate declaration relating to “starting at your own peril” at the event office. Therefore it is advisable to take out an insurance policy. Those who organise certain events, such as Bieg Ultra Granią Tatr  (70 km in the Tatras, at an altitude exceeding 2000m and with an elevation gain of over 5000m) require taking out an extreme sports insurance policy and, just like the French UMTB, possession of at least one mountain qualifying race. More and more foreign runners are taking part in Polish races. The races are organised better and better, especially those that are a cyclical event.

If only I felt as encouraged as I feel discouraged…

Being in a lazy mood happens to everyone and regularity is fairly important in running. Group motivation is the best. Apart from athletics sections also running groups are present in Poland, not only in big cities, and they are intended for amateur runners. These sections prepare its members to a start on a running track, from sprints, such as 100m or 200m, to middle distance running events, that is for example 3km. Running groups also prepare for racing, for example road running whose distance is from some kilometres to marathons, but no pressure is put on results, whoever wants to join practice, just for keep company while running – go ahead! And who says that you may not set up a running group with your chums? More and more groups like that (community groups) are appearing on Facebook, for example Julian’s Racing Brigade. The action “I run because I like it” has already been joined by 60 running groups in 60 localities all over Poland. Even foreigners join in, those who are planning to stay in Poland for a longer time. Usually there is no problem making yourself understood in English.

I am dead beat, what to do

It happens. Runners also say: I have got trotted off my legs, I have got up against the wall, I am done for, I have run myself out… Beginners can easily overwork themselves or tire their muscles and joints in some other way, for example by protracted walking over an asphalt surface wearing indoor running shoes or so-called sports footwear for EUR 7 from a supermarket. Later on your feet hurt like hell. The only thing worth investing in is a pair of good running shoes. In Poland you can find something good for already as little as EUR 50. Another thing you can do is go to a shop, try on a shoe, then put it back on the shelf an buy it cheaper… over the Internet. In many running shops in Poland (they do exist!) you can have a special test (for example Foot ID), owing to which the shop assistant will tell you which shoes are good for your feet and even for your running technique. On this occasion you will get familiar with “mysterious” terms, such as pronation and supination… More and more running shops organise their own running groups and meetings with competing racers. Participation in that kind of events is usually free.

A marathon online

Everything about running (and I mean everything) is just there, online, especially on the three biggest webpages and social networks – Maratonypolskie, Biegajznami and Bieganie. Those who love outdoor running will probably prefer the portal Biegigorski or Trailrunning (Salomon’s training groups – joining the group is free of charge). If there is no running shop where you live, it is online that you can find information on how to practice, how to prepare for a particular distance, how to choose shoes and what brands, best places for running, who to run with (yes, yes, that too!). After your practice or race you can share your impressions on a forum. Do not fret, runners are not unresponsive, you can count on being praised and advised. All of that may start and end online, but between two clicks you are becoming somebody different, you are becoming a runner.

Help others get tired

The several hundreds of running and spin-off events that are organised in Poland every year need volunteers. It is a great opportunity to have fun in great company, see interesting places and gain interesting and potentially useful experiences while on holiday. What about the places? Poland’s mountains (races in the following mountains: Bieszczady, Tatras, Stołowe, Karkonosze, Beskidy, Gorce…), towns (too little room to list them here), forests, valleys, seaside, beaches, lake shores and across the lakes and even – underground (underground relay racing in Bochnia’s Salt Mine, the only such race in the world!). That’s a wide range to choose from. Their organisers often provide a meal, overnight accommodation, commemorative T-shirt and even issue references. The dates of those races are to be found on the above mentioned portals together with detailed information regarding each of them. You can also search your country’s running portals, you are sure to find information about interesting races abroad on one of them, including those organised in Poland.

Run, Forrest, run!

You will find short filmed tutorials about running techniques and practice on Youtube (just when you thought that anyone could run…). Emily Mortimer, British actress, had to learn fast running for the purposes of the film “Transsiberian”, and she was a slow learner… There have been a number of films about running or with running in the background. The most famous of them are “Chariots of Fire”, “Marathon Man”, “The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner” and… “Forrest Gump”. There is also a slightly bizarre film “Run, Lola, Run”. Also a Polish film entitled “Wszystko będzie dobrze” (It’s going to be all right), where a young man is running for the intention of… no, I am not telling you. Anyway, motivation to run is diversified. There are those who want to lose weight or get into shape for something else, for example mountain trekking, others run for the intention of something or for somebody… You can also run to keep somebody company, to compete and to get medals… It is interesting that those who participate in most of the street runs organised in Poland, most of the time from 5-10km onwards, get medals just for reaching the finish line. A wonderful souvenir! Sometimes these medals are truly exceptional, for example a huge 3kg horseshoe on a chain for those who finish the "Bieg Rzeźnika" (Convict Run). Youtube will also show you footage filmed during this extreme race.

Run till you can... and longer... and longer

Running is not only… running. Some people need thrills. Quite a dose of adrenalin is secreted in the course of foot orienteering. You can practice this in some sport clubs, for example in Cracow (at KS Wawel). Here you have to think, get a compass and find your direction on the map. In Poland many foot orienteering competitions are organised, some of them being extreme. Picture yourself running with your team in the woods at night and looking for your control points, then you get on your bikes, then, when it is already light, you hit canoes, then you run, climb and shoot… Each competition has its “special tasks”. Sometimes it adds up to over 100km, but there are competitions where you struggle for some days and cover even 500km! But there are also “light“ versions. And the Convict Run mentioned before is a 10km-long trudging through… marshlands! First you jump into a lake, then you run a bit and then it is only drainage ditches and quagmire. This race is organised in August by the Lubliniec Commando Unit (near Katowice). There are army equipment shows and backward running championships. And there is a mini Convict Run  for younger enthusiasts! There is a similar race called Bieg Śladem Wygłasłych Wulkanów (Extinct Volcanoes Trail Race) in Złotoryja.

For the interested and inquisitive

Compulsory or facultative reading – depending on your attitude to the issue. Worth reading are: “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” (Haruki Murakami), “Born to run” (Christopher McDougall) about the mysterious Tarahumara tribe, and “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek, who is a vegan and a famous ultramarathon runner. The two last titles are very inspiring! Jurek proposes a lot of recipes for interesting and healthy dishes which will boost your energy before, endurance during and regeneration after your run. This list is, of course, not exhaustive. As regards Polish language books, the most valuable are those written by Jerzy Skarżyński, the running guru (for example “Biegiem przez życie” – Running through life). Why not read running magazines, those most important on the Polish market are: “Bieganie” (Running) published in Polish only and an international magazine “Runner’s World”.


Łukasz Smogorowski