Running, but I’m not a proper runner…

Guest post by Chris Highcock

The temperature hovers around freezing as I crunch across frosty ground, walking at first in the pre-dawn then jogging gently. The dusting of snow on the hills ahead gives the world a blue wash in these secret moments that I share with the few sheep who watch me pass. My gait passes for running I suppose but I don’t feel like a runner. I just want to be here, moving easily for a while.

I come here for many reasons. There is a force of habit but that is driven by something deeper. I come to the hills and I run because I enjoy it. It is …. fun. Dirty, sweaty, liberating movement cunningly disguised as exercise.

If you read about running, or listen to runners, it will not be long before you realise that everything is measured. There are numbers in each paragraph, explicit or implied in each casual chat. Distance (10K…marathon..ultra?). Time (20 minutes… sub-3 hours….a PB). Pace (10 minute miles…6 minute miles?). Cadence (only 160 steps a minute? You need at least 180). Heart Rate..So many measures. It is a metric world.

Throw someone a ruler and what will they do? We measure and usually we measure ourselves first. How do we measure up? The proper runners do proper distances. They have good times. Their mile per minute pace is in single figures! Pitter patter…their choppy strides tell of a metronome cadence like the beat of a sewing machine. I’m not bad, but I don’t really measure up.

I have another metric though. This meter does not measure metres. This dial does not track seconds or pace. It is harder to track with the usual tools. Fun! How does this make me feel?

It was a good run because I saw the hills at dawn

It is a good run. My pace — who knows. Distance — there and back. Time — as long as it took. Heart rate — slow and easy. But there was joy! I saw the sky burn orange. Sinking into pure snow I felt my feet numb with cold. Wind knocked me about as I took in the view on a rocky summit, naming all I could see. Downhill my feet — warmer now — found a cadence that scared and thrilled me. And disturbed a grouse that croaked away as went past.

I’m not a proper runner. I don’t measure up. I don’t feel good enough. When your metric is fun the spreadsheets and training programmes struggle to accomodate. For sure fitness, stamina and skill can make things more fun. Then again it is not about the numbers. I don’t measure up to the times or distances. But how do you put a score on that sunrise or the feeling you get when you leave your worries, cares and responsibilities behind even just for half an hour.

Special thanks to Chris Highcock for today’s post. Chris is an avid hillwalker and fitness writer. You can find more of his articles at Medium or on his blog Cairn in the Mist.  I can also highly recommend his book HillFit, and excellent no nonsense minimalist training guide.

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  1. Chester Candish

    Very true Chris! I was considering buying an expensive runners watch but you’ve made me think twice 🙂

    1. Simon Whyatt (Post author)

      Thanks for the comment – definitely save your pennies! You might find this article on the same theme interesting:

  2. Jamie Mattinson

    Great read! I’ve sent out emails before about the importance of the natural pattern of running. It’s so crucial in our history as a species. I’ve written an article similar to this on sprinting before – check it out:


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