The Great iPod Debate. To Mp3 or not to Mp3?

Of all the debates that rage around the forums of the popular running websites, none of them annoy me more than the constant bitching from self-styled ‘running purists’ about the evils of the mighty iPod.

Apparently, it poses the greatest risk to public safety since the Black Plague arrived back in the 1600s.

And no-one is safe either. Perfectly innocent runners across the UK have had months of training rendered useless by someone high on Kylie staggering across their path during a race, the repetitive beats robbing them of their senses and leading them to bring bloody carnage to previously pleasurable 10ks.

Dearie, dearie me. While these people are entitled to their opinions, I really think they need to develop a sense of proportion. Or learn to accept that while their old Perry Como 78s don’t make for great company on the road, those of us with (slightly) more contemporary tastes have plenty of reason to take an iPod along for the ride.

The thrust of the fuddy-duddys’ argument, if you can call it that, seems to be that iPod wearers are somehow detached from reality, and therefore more likely to get in the way of non-iPod wearers. Well, I’ve taken part in enough road races to know that after a few miles, most people are in a world of their own anyway – and most of the people who’ve cut me up, barged me, or dropped a water bottle in my path in races have been non-iPod users anyway.

The second part of the argument is that iPods rob running of its sociability. Now, I can see the point here, in a way. But for all the races I’ve run without my iPod, I can only remember 2 where I got into conversation with someone. And even then, it was a 10 minute chat about the goodness of the weather and what sort of pace we were maintaining.

That’s why I’m happy to stay firmly in the iPod camp, for training as well as racing. After all, I cover 20-30 miles most weeks, which means several hours of solitary running. Taking my favourite running songs with me is an important part of staying motivated, as well as pacing myself.

And then, come race day, making any sort of change to the things you do in training is pretty foolish. I wouldn’t leave my favourite running shoes at home, or switch away from a Camelbak full of Taut in favour of that dreadful Lucozade Sport stuff. So why would I change the habit of a lifetime and dispense with my iPod?

Me, Stevie Nicks, Edddie Van Halen and Jimmy Page have covered a lot of miles together. And that’s the way it’s going to stay.

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The Walk/Run Strategy. Am I A Running Fascist For Hating It?

While I’m far from being a fan of books about running, one or two may have fallen open, completely by accident, when I’ve been browsing in Waterstones.

And while I can find huge amounts to disagree with in most of them, the thing that always baffles me the most is the popular belief that a mixture of walking and running, in training as well as races, is a good idea.

Now, I understand the logic up to a point: if you’re not fit enough to run solidly for 20 minutes, why not take a one minute walk break every 5 minutes? Well, yes, OK. If that’s what you’re happy doing for the rest of your life, be my guest. But what you’re then doing, in effect, is training yourself to stop whenever you feel like it. And I don’t see how that kind of habit can ever be broken, once you’ve started it.

My attitude to the sport is that running is running, and walking is walking. I’ve managed to become a reliable, if not especially fast, long distance runner by having the attitude that if I’m going for a 6 mile run, I’ll be running for 6 miles. Even if I really feel like stopping, which still happens from time to time, I won’t let myself, unless there’s an urgent medical reason.

I’ve trained myself to keep going regardless of how good or bad I feel. I don’t consider walking an option when I’m training, so it never becomes an option in races. And after all, we’re talking about building mental strength here, as well as physical strength.

So, whether you’re new to running, or have been doing it for years, but still use a walk/run strategy, I’d like to ask you to consider an alternative. If you can only run for 10 minutes without stopping, then why don’t you just go out for a 10 minute run. When you get used to that, why not start making it a 12 minute run – but non-stop.

Alternatively, if you’re quite happy to run for 40 minutes, albeit with the odd walk break, why not just lessen your overall pace, but aim to keep running for the full 40 minutes?

And before you think I’m being gung-ho or stupidly macho, I would like to add just one more thing. While I don’t think it’s acceptable to walk/run, I do think it’s a good idea to abandon a run in the case of illness or injury. So if I’ve had a cold, I won’t even think about running. Similarly, if I’ve got a twinge from a potential muscle strain, I’m prepared to decide during my warm-up that going for a run is only going to make things worse, and abandon the whole idea. Because listening to your body is always a good idea.

In much the same way that training yourself to stop whenever the going gets a bit tough, is a really bad idea.