Are you a Run-Faffer?


Cap/image from

I lay in bed early this morning, trying to sleep through Mrs Run Don’t Run making heavy weather about whether to go on her usual Sunday morning bike ride or not. It involved a lot of text messages, peaking outside to check on the iciness of the roads, and then, once the decision had been made to get the bike out, a lot of careful weighing up and mind changing about food, drink and the most ideal kit selection. As soon as she returns, I’m planning on immediately heading out on my long run, but you can be fairly certain that it won’t be the smooth handover of a carefully drilled triathlon relay team. For I am a run faffer. To faff is “to muck about, wasting time doing something not necessary.” It’s a real word and a genuine affliction- it must be because it’s in the Urban Dictionary!

The thing is, you might be one too, especially at this time of year. Check out the tell-tale signs:

1. Over-careful route planning – you want a route with no hills, which you’re not bored of, which needs to be familiar enough to avoid getting lost, with no likely puddles to mess up your box fresh new trainers, and it has to end outside your house after exactly 9.5 miles because that’s what your programme says. Cue consulting of maps, cutting bits of thread to measure distances.
Potential Faff-Factor: 60 minutes

2. Deciding the kit you wear has to match, or at the very least, doesn’t clash. This informs the perfect choice of socks. However, you can only find one.
Potential Faff-Factor: 20 minutes

3. Taking extra care over your hydration needs, especially before a 3 mile recovery run. Insisting on filtered water, from the fridge, in your favourite “lucky” bottle which is nowhere to be found, although other vessels are available.
Potential Faff-Factor: 10 minutes

4. Killing the time waiting for your breakfast to go down by snacking.
Potential Faff-Factor: 180 minutes

5. Easily locating your iPod, but then having a last minute wish for a new playlist (cue switching on of creaky old computer, loading up of massive music library, hand-picking of new tunes, sorting into gradually increasing BPMs with a nice bit of slowing down towards the end for your warm-down)
Potential Faff-Factor: 60 minutes

6. Announcing every run, no matter how trivial, on a range of social media.
Potential Faff-Factor: 10 minutes

7. Last minute clothing shuffle when the promised “mild conditions” turn out to be permafrost.
Potential Faff-Factor: 15 minutes

8. Watch-fiddling – entering a new work-out, switching from imperial to metric “for a bit of variety” then spending 10 minutes stood outside, losing the benefits of tell-tale sign 9.
Potential Faff-Factor: 20 minutes

9. Doing a thorough warm-up (the most beneficial faff, and naturally the one I’m least guilty of).
Potential Faff-Factor: 15 minutes

10. Reading running blogs about faffing, thinking “Yes, I do some of those, but he’s missed out the most important faff which is…..” then not being able to remember your log on name or password to add it as a comment under said blog.
Potential Faff-Factor: 10 minutes

So are you a run-faffer? Can you suggest even more ways I can take even longer to get out of the house?


Very Cross Training

Halfway into my six week exile from running, I’m not doing too badly on keeping active, aiming to have bundles of new found strength when I finally get to lace up those running shoes again.

One of the most convenient rediscoveries has been the bike, a neat zippy hybrid that I’m embarrassed to admit has been abandoned under a sheet of tarpaulin for most of the past year. As well as improving your running, there’s a strong belief that cycling can preserve some running fitness during a period of enforced inactivity. So the new regime has forced me into cycling my commute to a workplace that has the previously ignored luxury of secure indoor bike storage and showers. Having no confidence in my bike-fitness, I aimed for just one attempt a week for starters.

The commute is just over 13 miles, much of it through the centre of London and on my first couple of attempts I managed it in 1:13, not bad considering the leaden legs and numerous traffic light stops. On Monday this week I felt I was flying, knocking 7 minutes off my “PB” and enthusing me to go for a bonus commute on Friday. This time I thought I’d try a different route, tapping into what’s left of the 2012 legacy by riding down the River Lea. Just as I passed the eerie silence of the Olympic Park, the ride became unnaturally bumpy – the back tyre was showing signs of distress. After pumping it up, it quickly gave up the ghost yet again and as I pumped it up again I could hear and then actually see the air escaping through a very obvious hole in the rubber.

Five miles from home, seven miles from my destination with the most basic of puncture repair kits I was stranded in a desolate bit of London I now know to be called Fish Island, desperately considering my options:

1. Chain my bike up outside Hackney Wick station and collect it after dark. Suddenly feel particularly helpless and clueless, I phoned a friend who reminded me that Hackney had a bit of a reputation when it came to bike thefts. This advice along with the lightweight bike lock I was carrying (which I noticed someone had already tried to saw through) put paid to this option.

2. Wheel the bike to the nearest bike store. This was the sensible option although would pretty much write-off my morning’s work plans.I’m fairly confident London Fields Cycles was the nearest possibility so after some Google-mapping I started to wheel the bike in the right general direction. However the tyre was so flat it wouldn’t rotate properly so I had to carry the bike for 1.5 miles over my shoulder, cursing and sweating.

2.5 hours after enthusiastically setting out, I arrived at work, helmet and high-viz jacket still on, bike 8 miles away. My right shoulder strengthened (glass half full conclusion) or with a newly acquired rotator cuff injury (glass half empty). I do now have a brand new rock hard rear tyre fitted and am not too dejected to have cancelled my future bike commutes. However, for a few hours on Friday, the grief caused by bike mishaps seemed a whole lot worse than the personal malfunction that’s kept me off running for weeks on end.