Lisa Jackson is Women’s Running’s Contributing Editor and also the author of Running Made Easy, a book aimed at new runners that was updated recently. She talks to us about the inspiration behind the book…
When did you first write the book?
Susie (Whalley) and I wrote the book way back in 2003 and it came out in April 2004 to coincide with the London Marathon. Ever since it’s been the UK’s best-selling beginner’s running book and has gone on to sell an astonishing 100,000 copies. At one point it was the 13th best-selling sports book in the world, according to The Economist – a tad surprising for a book written by a former fitness-phobe like myself.
What inspired you to write it?
I was injured before my third marathon (in Paris) and most definitely had my ‘stress face’ on as I lay on my bed flicking through the marathon brochure. I chanced upon an elite athlete saying that everyone who was doubtful of finishing (which I most certainly was!) should try walk/running in the race, so I thought I’d give it a go. The effect was extraordinary – I finished Paris ten minutes faster than I’d done Edinburgh, where I’d run all the way, and best of all, instead of needing three weeks to recover, was bounding around after three days. I got so excited about this discovery I felt I simply had to share it with the world!
What was your lifestyle like before you ran?
I guess you’d call it toxic! I worked very long hours as a journalist – till 11pm three weeks out of ever four – and often ate takeaways standing up on the Tube home. I also hated activity of any kind and would drive to the corner shop, which was a two-minute walk away.
How did you get on when you first started running?
I found it incredibly difficult as my bottom would flick against the tops of my thighs! I also wore out several pairs of tracksuit bottoms as my legs would rub together – thank goodness for Lycra! However, I revelled in being outdoors and getting away from my desk for an hour at lunchtime so I persevered.
What are the key messages within the book?
Firstly, if I, the girl who snuck to the back of the rounders queue to avoid running even 50m to second base, could become a multiple marathon runner (and ultramarathon runner), anyone can. Secondly, the book ‘legitimised’ walk breaks. Walking during a race isn’t a sign that you’re unfit or lazy, it’s a smart way to pace yourself. And thirdly, running is the most fun, life-affirming activity on the planet, especially if you chat while doing it.
What is the best way to make running as easy as possible if you are a beginner?
Start slowly – and build up gradually. Our book reveals the ’60 Second Secret’ – you begin with just 60 seconds of running interspersed with two minutes of walking and repeat that four times. Oh, and run with a friend – the gossip will make the 60 seconds fly by.
What advice would you have to beginners who are nervous about running?
Firstly, there’s no need to feel self-conscious. Everyone around you is not judging your form like a bookmaker sizes up a racehorse, they’re probably thinking about what they’re having for dinner or checking their Facebook page.
You clearly have a passion for running yourself. What makes you love it so much?
My two passions besides running are meeting new people and travelling and running has allowed me to do both. I’ve run over 120 races in 18 different countries on four continents and have made friends around the globe (I am hosting a Spaniard for the Bacchus Marathon soon who can’t speak English but comforted me when I was having a tearful moment in the Barcelona Marathon earlier this year and so I invited him to race with me in England – that’s how fab it is to be part of the running family). Oh, I love chatting and running is the only real time I have to indulge in that for long periods of time!
Some people who run say that everyone should run a marathon once. What’s your view on this?
I’m a marathon addict, having done 53 so far, so of course I’m going to agree with that person – but I think you definitely need to do loads more than one as every event is so different! But everyone has their favourite distance, and it’s just as significant to be awarded a T-shirt saying you’ve done 50 parkruns, or to do a sub-60 minute 10K or to run twice a week for a whole year as it is to do one long race.
What other advice do you have for women who want to be better runners?
Dale Carnegie once said ‘People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing’ so sit down and think about what element of running you really enjoy.