Rocking race struck a chord with Keith after stroke scare

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RUNNING. A bit like climbing mountains, sailing single- handedly around the globe or trekking to the North Pole, it’s the kind of thing many of us prefer to leave to someone else.

Pounding the streets in all weather, sweaty armpits, creaking knees. Running may well be good for us, but sitting on the couch eating a tub of Pringles and watching Britain’s Got Talent is an awful lot easier.

This weekend, there’ll be no escaping the running hordes when more than 5000 joggers hit the streets of the Capital for the first big race on the running calendar, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

For many it will be their first ever race, a chance to put the hours of training to the test in a proper competition.

Some may well not finish. Some may limp home with blisters and aching knees, wondering why they bothered. Others will dash comfortably over the finishing line, barely a drip of sweat, sights set on the next outing.

The rest of us may well stand on the sidelines admiring the runners’ big hearts and blistered feet, perhaps wondering if this running malarkey might be something they could actually do. The question, then, is how?

Perhaps the first thing to avoid would be emulating pop twins Jedward, who last month managed to complete the Los Angeles marathon despite having done no training and not a jot of nutritional preparation. While they survived on sheer hyper-active energy, according to first-time half marathon runner, Keith Scott, hitting the streets in your running shoes can really be less traumatic than many of us might think.

After all, he’s doing it after just a few months’ training, almost a year after he found himself lying in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke.

“It was March last year,” recalls Keith, 30, of Morningside. “I was at home with my girlfriend and I started to feel a bit dizzy. I was trying to eat lunch but struggling to hold the fork. I was forgetting my words, a bit confused.”

At first, Keith, who works in administration at Edinburgh Napier University, thought he was simply suffering a delayed hangover from a weekend on the town. But as his condition deteriorated it became clear that something more sinister was happening.

“I was quite healthy and fit at the time, so the last thing I expected to be told was that I’d had a mini stroke,” he adds.

Doctors found a hole between two chambers in his heart, which is thought to have allowed a clot of blood to pass up and into his brain. He recovered from the stroke, and surgery in August healed the hole, but the experience left Keith reflecting on his health and fitness for the future.

“I’d been told to rest but by Christmas I was thinking ‘I should really be doing stuff’. I’m a big music fan, so I thought the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon would be worth a go.”

He’d only ever managed a 15-minute run in the gym before. However, with a new pair of £30 trainers and an online nine-week running programme, Keith set off, alternating running days with days off, and fast runs with slower outings to help build his strength and develop endurance levels.

“I tried to vary my route so I wouldn’t get bored,” he explains. “There were days when I didn’t feel like doing it and some days of sore legs, but usually I’d put on my iPod, head off and feel better for doing it.”

Like many runners on Sunday, Keith set his goal not only to complete a half marathon but to raise money for charity – he’s running on behalf of the Stroke Association.

Having a goal to focus on can help many new runners overcome days when the last thing they want to do is head off for a run, agrees James Brandon, a one-time 20-stone self-confessed couch potato, who turned the tables and now trains Edinburgh Leisure running groups.

“The hardest part of running for a lot of people is making that move off the sofa,” he explains. “I tell people the benefits of what they’re about to do – it’s good for their health and it doesn’t cost as much as going to gym. Once you’ve bought a pair of reasonable trainers, it’s free. If you set a goal – whether it’s signing up for a 5K or a 10K – it gives you something to work towards. Some people like to know they are doing this for a reason, to run a race or raise money.”

He launched the Pink Ladies running programme last year, a series of training sessions in partnership with Race for Life to get women jogging and training for the event in June.

The eight-week programme took beginners who could barely walk and gave them the confidence and ability to run a 5K race. At the end, 53 women took part and went on to complete the race event.

“Many were women who had never run before,” adds James. And he insists that, if he can run, anyone can.

“I started running in 2006. I found myself at 20 stones. I was a young man, just out of university, but I had a lot of weight to shift and going to the gym wasn’t working for me.

“One New Year I decided that I’d sign up for the Bupa Edinburgh Run. I trained and trained and shifted five stones. Now I do the race every year.”

While James, who works as a community liaison officer with Edinburgh Leisure, runs Pink Ladies for women runners, he points out that the service offers various running groups, which target both sexes and various running abilities – from beginners upwards.

“The great thing is it’s free, it’s outdoors and a few months of training are all you need to get up to a reasonable level.”

Hamish McAndrew, manager of running shop Run4It in Lothian Road, is braced for a boost in trade on the back on Sunday’s half marathon, driven by new runners inspired to try hitting the streets themselves.

He says he’s witnessed a running boom in Edinburgh, possibly fuelled by people ditching expensive gym memberships in favour of much cheaper running shoes.

“There definitely seems to be a lot of interest in running in the city,” he says. “I’m seeing those people that used to train for 10K races now coming in because they are moving up to do half marathons and marathons, and a new generation of first-time runners.

“People see other people running and start thinking they might be able to do it too.”

Getting started, he says, involves nothing more than slipping into the correct pair of running shoes. “You do need to get the right shoes to help avoid injuries and make the running experience more comfortable,” he adds.

“Getting the right shoes depends on the distance you’ll be running and the goals you give yourself.” Other than that, he adds, running is low-cost but high on benefits – from helping lower your heart rate to keeping weight in check. Hopefully, people that don’t run now see the half marathon and are inspired to try it.”

• Edinburgh Leisure organises various running groups, including Pink Ladies. Go to www.edinburghleisure.co.uk. Run4It also has running groups, details at www.run4it.com. Sponsor first-time half marathon runner Keith Scott by going to www.justgiving.com/Keith-Runs-A-Half

STAGE IS SET

MORE than 5000 runners will hit the city streets on Sunday for the first ever Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in the Capital.

The race embraces the rock and roll spirit, with live music and DJs to keep the runners – who have been encouraged to dress as their favourite rock god – motivated along the way. The race takes in a 13-mile route that starts and finishes in Queen’s Drive, in the shadow of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Half marathon training programme for beginners

Week 1

Sunday 30 mins walk/jog

Monday Rest

Tuesday 15 mins walk/jog

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 15 mins walk/jog

Friday Rest

Saturday 15 mins walk/jog

Training Objective: Getting over the inhibitions and mental preparation

for a regular training pattern. The amount of

running is irrelevant – it’s more about being “out there”.

Week 2

Sunday 40 mins walk/jog

Monday Rest

Tuesday 15 mins walk/jog

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 15 mins walk/jog

Friday Rest

Saturday 15 mins walk/jog

Training Objective:

As week 1

Week 3

Sunday 50 mins walk/jog

Monday Rest

Tuesday 20 mins jog

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 20 mins jog

Friday Rest

Saturday Circuit in a park – run 1 min continuous then walk 1 min recovery x 10 each

Training Objective: Starting to run short distances continuously

Week 4

Sunday 60 mins jog/walk

Monday Rest

Tuesday 25 mins easy

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 25 mins easy

Friday Rest

Saturday Circuit in a park – run 1 min continuous then walk 1 min recovery x 10 each

Training Objective:

Gradually increasing time on the feet – a mental strategy of run 5 mins/walk 1 min for the long run will help you get through 60 mins.

Week 5

Sunday 75 mins run/walk

Monday Rest

Tuesday 35 mins easy

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 35 mins easy

Friday Rest

Saturday Circuit in a park – run 1 min continuous then walk 1 min recovery x 10 each

Training Objective: 15 mins added to the long run – using the 5 min run/ 1 min walk strategy

Week 6

Sunday 75 mins run/walk

Monday Rest

Tuesday 40 mins easy

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 40 mins easy

Friday Rest

Saturday 10 x 1 min running up shallow hill – walk back down recovery

Training Objective: Consolidation week – slight increase in the midweek runs

Week 7

Sunday 75 mins run/walk

Monday Rest

Tuesday 45 mins steady

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 60 mins steady

Friday Rest

Saturday 10 x 1 min running up shallow hill – walk back down recovery

Training Objective:

The long runs are going to start to get you tired – refuelling after the Sunday run & mid week hour run is essential – it’s tough but it will start to build the endurance you’ll need for the race.

Week 8

Sunday 45 mins run/walk

Monday Rest

Tuesday 45 mins run

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 20 mins easy

Friday 20 mins easy

Saturday Rest

Training Objective: Recovery week!

Week 9

Sunday 90 min steady run

Monday Rest

Tuesday 50 mins easy

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 60 mins easy

Friday Rest

Saturday Rest

Training Objective:

An increase in both the long run and total running time in the week. Emphasis is still on building up the distance. Tapering at the end of the week so you are fresh to tackle your first 2-hour run at the start of the next week.

Week 10

Sunday 2 hours easy

Monday Rest

Tuesday 30 mins run

Wednesday 30 mins run

Thursday Rest

Friday 20 mins easy

Saturday Rest

Training Objective:

You’ve done a big run – the rest of the week is recovery time as you plan your next landmark – a half marathon race. Choose one that has a lot of runners so that you get the full atmosphere of a big event.

Week 11

Sunday 90 mins

Monday Rest

Tuesday 10 min warm up – alternate 1 min fast/1 min slow x 10

Wednesday 60 mins

Thursday Rest

Friday 30 mins run

Saturday Rest

Training Objective:

Speed session gets you used to running a little quicker than the predicted half marathon pace.

Week 12

Sunday 45 mins easy

Monday Rest

Tuesday 30 mins easy

Wednesday Rest

Thursday 30 mins steady

Friday Rest

Saturday Rest

Training Objective:

Sunday’s run is a confidence booster. Plan a route with friends who can support you – take water out and generally pander to your needs. Make sure you eat plenty the night before and immediately after the long run.