ARTICLE: That Ancient Hardness

Running down Tonelagee with Adrian Tucker on Saturday, talk fell to Joss Naylor, the legendary Wasdale shepherd and fell-runner. The mist draped thick around us and had reminded us that old Joss had set the Lakeland record in worse conditions.

“He didn’t seem to have time for the map at all, I doubt he owned a compass,” Adrian said, remembering his attempt to discuss ascent of Scafell during his Three-Peaks challenge years back when he met the great Wasdale man.

imageAdrian Tucker with Joss Naylor in Wasdale

Either the many year’s running in the Lakes had given him a complete memory of the entire district or he was simply a man so observant and aware of his surroundings that even a small patch of ground in front of him would give away the right route. Like our ancient forefathers and today’s nature people, even the slightest detail will reveal the path to take, this form of “intuitive navigation” seems the most worthwhile of all navigational skills to acquire.

Reflecting on his strength, I said, “He roamed those hills since the age of five or six and probably moved around on that terrain for eight to ten hours most days of his life.” Adrian nodded, as we slurped through the wet underfoot flattening as we closed in on Glenmacnass, and continued: “Our life-styles make us unfit and we have to run just to get fit. People like Joss have lifestyles that make them fit and running makes them even fitter.”

Fit all day

That argument resonated so much with me that I thought back to Lydiard’s “morning jogs”, clearly designed more for health and recovery than fitness (the real running happened in the afternoon). Perhaps this was Lydiard’s way of ensuring fitness was just not confined to one training session per day but rather became part of the full day.

Get walking?

I have struggled to do these due to time constraints and injuries, but the realisation struck me so deep that I will now try to do a morning hill walk (just a short 30 minutes up Camaderry and back). My first Monday morning walk was enjoyable despite the poor weather. Back in my early years in Dublin, I’d walk everywhere, so while I may run much more than ever before, I walk much less something which may contribute to a higher injury rate.

Noakes write at length about the topic and whether walking can benefit running (the jury’s out) directly in Lore of Running but I think the science is not necessary here: We return to a much more basic observation that health and an active life-style are essential to make the best of your running. It is the foundation upon which you put your other training. If the foundation is better your training soars higher.

Good nutrition will allow you to recover faster and allow the blood to flow more optimally through your veins. An active life-style will give you a foundation of strength to resist the rigours of sports-specific exercise. The lack of both are endemic in our modern life and do we really need to look further for the reason why Western athletic performances has been in decline?