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The only guide you will ever need to get into running as a Cambridge student

Running can be enjoyable, I promise


So, you are thinking of getting into running but you don’t know where to start. Unfortunately, this is one of those things in life that you can massively overthink; you might believe that finding time in a busy Cambridge schedule is impossible. My advice (and I know you definitely haven’t thought of this idea) is to just start.

However, when I say just start so simply, so easily, that is exactly what I mean. Just start, without all the other unnecessary details. There is a belief that going for a run you need to: Track it, time it and record it. I believe if you want to get into running and stick at it you do precisely the opposite; all you need to start running is yourself and a pair of trainers (and music – you’re insane otherwise).

You never know what’s nearby – there is a really nice green and woods behind Homerton College (so it’s only nearby if you go to Homerton!)

I don’t deny that there are many benefits to tracking running – if it works for you it works for you – but when you are starting out it has the potential to do more harm than good. Cambridge University (and any university for that matter) is an environment where your academic progress is followed and scrutinised constantly, and when faced with moments where your ability to improve stalls you can be left feeling discouraged. Therefore, it can be liberating to not have to monitor your progress on something like running and, instead, run purely off on how you are feeling.

“I run off mood” is what I find myself saying when people ask if I track my distance, times etc. Without tracking it, there is no pressure yet the rewards will be the same. You can congratulate yourself for getting out, getting some fresh air, and exercising, without having to endure any self-criticism for having not met any goal you had in your head. Run for as long as your mood dictates.

Switch it up: alternate between rural and urban areas

I have been told that if I don’t track my running I won’t see progress. But not all progress has to be seen, progress can be felt. This makes your running experience purely individual, it is about you and no one and nothing else. If you start running and keep at it, it is inevitable you will improve. You will get faster, stronger and more disciplined – you do not need an app to tell you that!

Some days will be better than others: you may be Mo Farah one day and [I don’t know, someone slow – there’s no such thing as a famous slow runner] the next; you may walk for a majority of it; you may go out and only want to run for a much shorter distance than you anticipated. This is all okay.

Measuring progress also creates the illusion that you have had days where you have failed when realistically you haven’t failed at all. Without tracking, you can simply conclude that today is not your day, what counts is that you tried to get out at all. Denying yourself the opportunity to criticise your running makes it more of a hobby and more enjoyable; it will be an escape. You will welcome more energetically those moments when the mood to go for a run strikes you and you can shrug your shoulders the next day when going for a run doesn’t work out.

This is a picture from when I ran to Grantchester and took a break to sit by the river

As we start Week Six you may feel like you need something new to rid yourself of any lingering “Week Five blues”. Why not go for a run? Even if you feel like you have achieved absolutely no work all day at least you can say “I went for a run” and that is, quite simply, a good thing.