Alternative Running Role Models #2 – Willy the Wimp

imageI’ve probably covered a few thousand miles since I started running around 2008. However, I reckon if I took the number of miles and doubled it, that would be the approximate number of children’s books I’ve read since becoming a parent in 1999. I’m probably a bit out of touch now, but I reckon I could get quite a high score on Mastermind with the specialist subject of “Children’s Picture Books, 2000-2010”. There’s one character in all of those books which I think left a lasting influence on me, helping me to realise that pretty much anybody can become a runner and that character isWilly the Wimp

Willy is a chimp who happens to be a runner. Not a sprinter or a marathoner, but someone who relaxes by lacing up his trainers and running around his local streets. I’ve only recently noticed that Willy’s serious enough about running to get some gait analysis and invest in a pair of New Balance shoes. However it’s hard to tell from the illustrations whether they’re neutral, stability or motion control.

Unfortunately Willy lives in a neighbourhood where his runs are often interrupted by a gang of “suburban gorillas”. It’s tempting to think that he goes on to order some weights and take up body-building to help him to stand up to the tyranny of the Suburban Gorilla Gang. Us runners will know better – Willy’s simply got to the stage as a runner where he finally heeds the advice that to make the leap to the next level, he needs to build his upper-body and strengthen his core. After some serious pumping of iron at home, Willy emerges a better runner. Author Anthony Browne realised that the subsequent smashing of Personal Bests wouldn’t really impress his target audience so he added a nice sub-plot where his bulked-up body sends the Suburban Gorilla Gang packing in fear.

If you haven’t read any Anthony Browne books then what have you been playing at? The illustrations are often surreal with little visual puns that will reveal something new every time you look at them (and if you’re a parent or spend a time with young children, you might have to revisit the same book a few hundred times). If you become a fan of Willy he goes on to have some other adventures as a Wizard, a Champ and with his friend Hugh. Personally I’m still (maybe misguidedly) hoping “Willy Makes the Transition to Barefoot” will be published soon.

Willy the Wimp, New Balance shod suburban runner with an increasingly stable core, we salute you.

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Not in the slightest bit contrived running photos #2

ImageLast year I went on a “Marathon Masterclass” with coach and all-round running guru Sam Murphy. At one stage during the proceedings she had us doing intervals around the track at Crystal Palace and joined each of us in turn to provide a bit of feedback on our running form.

Having once seen a YouTube video of me in “action” at the Hastings Half Marathon, I suspected I ran more like a slightly unorthodox road walker but Sam thought my style was pretty good, although I was “certainly a heel striker”.

Although I don’t remember making a conscious decision about this, post-marathon I shifted to what I think is now more of a mid foot strike and at my last visit to Sweatshop, the gait analysis confirmed this (unless I put it on just for the camera).

What I do know is that I don’t run like Runner’s World’s ultimate running role model on the cover of this particular edition. At some point, presumably the editorial team sat around and chose this image as the best way to attract the attention of shoppers down the Newsagent’s. Our cover star looks happy, is not sweating, doesn’t have scabs on her knees from a recent fall on the trails, as well as not having hands caked with sticky stuff following a mid-race gel malfunction. And in the end, it seems that such factors are a whole lot more important than the strong suggestion that, with a heel strike that severe, surely she’s not actually running?