I hadn’t heard that for a long time, at least a month or so. “Run Forrest run”, the street heckle of adolescents vying to impress their peers in a world where shouting catchphrases from a film that was screened before they were even born is the pinnacle of a street heckle. C’est la vie, kids will be kids. Last Monday we were out for a speed session. Running is often thought as a pastime where the ‘jogger’ pulls on their trainers and plods around the same route three times a week before going home for a hearty breakfast or piece of cake depending on the time of day and day of the week. Fortunately the reality is far more interesting and technical. There is a maxim in running:
“the only way to run faster is to run faster”
Is this intuitive or counter-intuitive? If I tried to run faster then I would run out out of steam before I’d finished my allotted route for the day, so runs are broken down into different types. A typical set of runs for the week might be the ‘long run’, perhaps on a Sunday morning this is the longest and slowest run of the week used to build up endurance. A ‘tempo run’ might then be next, from a technical perspective this is a run where the pace is just below the lactate threshold ie you are still flushing out the lactate quicker than it is building up in your legs. It is fast and it is hard and it is maybe 20 minutes long. Another run might then be some kind of technical speed run, this could be sprints over short distances, sprints up hills or sprints around a running track. Basically a burst of speed followed by a jog or walk rest period all broken down into sets. This is what we were up to that day.
There is a wide pathway between two warehouses near where we live, it is about 150 metres long and has bollards at each end with four equally spaced lampposts along it. It’s a short warm up jog down to this path from the house and then we do some plyometric exercises to work down the lampposts to the bollards at the far end. High-knees, heel-flicks, sides-steps right foot leading, side-steps left foot leading and then striding out like leaping gazelles down to the bollards. Our speed session here is a pyramid set of sprint to the first lamppost and jog / walk back, turn and sprint to the second lamppost then jog / walk back, then the third lamppost, then the fourth then back down to the third, second and first. Then rest and repeat. We happened to coincide this week’s run with lunchtime at the @MarksandSpencer warehouse where a flock of yellow hi-viz vested workers were crowded around a picnic table in the carpark’s designated smoking area. “Run Forrest run!”, the lone cry came from that direction as we hurtled toward lamppost number three.
The best comedy is fear based we were told a couple of weeks ago by a stand-up comedian, he had told us how he prepared for a gig by watching the audience. Picking up cues and generalisations on class and maturity and education to try to pin down what he thought they were most afraid of. This, he said, is where the humour lies: in taking peoples fears and playing them back to them and exaggerating them for the laughs. All laughter is fear based.
What generalisations could I make about our audience? This wasn’t a group of adolescents on a street corner vying for popularity among their peer group, their ends, their homies. This was the frontline of the retail powerhouse of the high street, this wasn’t just any old warehouse employee, this was after all an M&S warehouse employee.
“Run Forrest run!”, the peak and pinnacle of heckles on a bright Monday afternoon, from a grown, mature, functioning member of society. Perhaps working in a warehouse is no different from being at school? Clocking-in, clocking-out, performance tested, being told what to do, bossed around? It’s been a long time since I worked in a warehouse for extra cash whilst studying for my A Levels. Perhaps things were different then, perhaps Forrest Gump hadn’t been made back then, perhaps nobody ever ran past while we sat outside in the sun.
Around that time I was attending Aikido sessions at a nearby village hall. It was a small club, almost all the regular members were black belts, first, second, third, fourth Dans with a handful of other belts. In the summer we were occasionally disturbed by the local youth banging or jeering through the open windows. On occasions like this merely closing the curtains would make the problem disappear – the common heckler outfoxed by a curtain. Now you see it, now you don’t. On other occasions where this didn’t work, Sensei would invite the youngsters in, to sit at the back and watch our group of judo-suited, barefooted and be-skirted performers dance the dance of Aikido. This usually upped the ante for us as well as the throws and holds became more exaggerated and acrobatic. Often times the kids would laugh and squirm and be gone in five minutes, but occasionally some were fascinated and would stay and watch. This was a great lesson for me in the craft and practice of Aikido, not just as a practice but as a way of being as well. There are no attacks in Aikido, everything is a deflection of an attack, using the inertia of the attackers force to deflect or throw them away in a circular motion. Thus hecklers are invited in to become part of the ceremony rather than confronted, their fears are allayed and they are heard and welcomed into the community. It is there for them if they choose to take it. I wonder how this can be translated to the hecklers on the street or the M&S Car Park, I can hear your fear from seeing something different but it is here for you if you wish to find out more and overcome those fears.
“Run Forrest run”, perhaps this can be your running mantra, after all he ran right across America as I recall in the film, that’s a long way from smoking on your lunch break in the M&S Warehouse car park.
Come join us on Saturday morning at #Parkrun, 09:00 Hanley Park, there will be over 350 of us there waiting for you.