A bad runner’s journey into bad running, part 2 – how I run

(You can read part 1 first, if you want.)

When I first started running, I naturally fell into what I considered to be a proper running pace, but I found that I was not able to run as far as I wanted, and it wasn’t until I made a conscious effort to slow down and concentrate on distance that I was able to achieve 5 km without stopping (the goal of Couch to 5K).  They advise that to start you should run as slowly as possible; the slowest thing you can actually call running.  After a while I realised this was really good advice for me.

I haven’t really concentrated on my technique very much.  The main thing I tried was swinging my arms a little more than I thought was natural.  This seems to give the lungs more room and make diaphragm cramping less likely.  A lot of people I see running keep their elbows bent sharply with their forearms held high, but that hasn’t worked for me so far.

I sometimes find that my lungs start to protest as I get to about the 1-2 km mark in a run.  My brain immediately starts to make plans to stop and thinks up appropriate excuses – “You’ll probably feel sick if you keep going”, “you may not make it to 5 km if you don’t stop for a walk now”, and similar things.  I found that if I just ignore those excuses and keep running (and maybe ease off the pace a bit), after a little while the tight feeling in the lungs passes and I finish my 5 km very successfully.

I run in a place I love: at the beach, around low tide, in the early morning or late afternoon.  Our beaches here aren’t usually crowded, and early or late in the day is the time when many native birds are active, especially raptors.  (My favourite to watch is the white-bellied sea eagle – sometimes they’re amazing enough to make me stop running and just watch as they glide along.).

I run on the moist part of the sand – between the thick, dry sand above the high tide mark, and the hard, wet part that the water has recently been on.  This seems to give the right combination of stability of surface and underfoot cushioning.  I often have a swim or surf before (in the hotter part of the year) or after (in the cooler part of the year).

I run with as few accessories as possible: sunscreen (when necessary), a swimming rash vest, running skins (compression shorts), my Garmin fitness tracker and GPS (I currently use older models that don’t have the functions combined), and my car key on a shoelace around my neck.  In winter I have worn a light fitness jacket, but in this climate it’s not really necessary in all but a few weeks of the year, and causes me to overheat at other times.

I don’t wear shoes.  This means I need to keep a watch out for any sharp shells on the beach, but I haven’t found that particularly tricky, and I find I heat up less.  Until I started training on the road, I hadn’t really experienced any pain in my feet or legs due to running in bare feet (more on this later).

I don’t carry a phone or MP3 player.  I love music, but I don’t like things being in my ears when I’m sweating.  I prefer to listen to the sound of the waves and the birds.  Sometimes I sing (or some rough facsimile thereof), or recite music in my head, especially some of Neal Morse‘s longer pieces.

A bad runner’s journey into bad running, part 1

(I’m trying to get motivated to write a little more. This post is a little off-topic from my usual fare; hopefully it will be of interest to some.  There will probably be 3 or 4 parts.)


This is my story about running.  I don’t claim it should be the norm for anyone.  If I lapse into 2nd person as I write, please be assured that it’s not intentional, and is not intended to be advice to anyone.  If you decide to follow my example, please see your doctor first to make sure it’s advisable for you to do so.

Why running?

The short version: I want to grow old well, and the only representative male in my recent family history died too young of a heart attack.

The longer version: Both of my grandfathers were sugar cane farmers.  My maternal grandfather ate two heavily-salted eggs every morning, was almost never sick, and lived to 95, still in full possession of his faculties.  Unfortunately, because my mother was adopted, that grandfather is only of assistance in gauging lifestyle and diet in my family, not genetic disposition to heart disease.

My father had rheumatic fever three times as a child, which wrecked his heart so badly that he’s had five open-heart surgeries for artificial valve work, starting at age 37.  So his experience wasn’t really useful in thinking about my health risks.  His father, however, was apparently healthy until one day he just dropped dead of a heart attack without warning.  He was 57; my father was 26; I was less than one year old.

So, I hit 40 knowing that my closest male relative died suddenly only 17 years older than I was, and realised that that wasn’t the way I wanted to go.  We had recently moved from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast for a change of pace, and I was enjoying a more active lifestyle, but I decided that running was the next step in putting in place some better habits for the future.

First steps

I decided to ask friends and family for advice.  My younger brother has run marathons, and several of my work colleagues were runners at various levels.  So I asked them for tips on getting started and found out about Couch to 5K, a program designed to get couch potatoes fit enough to run 5 km (or 30 minutes) without stopping.  I decided to give it a shot.

I like to do things at my own pace, so I decided from the outset that I wasn’t going to be held to their 9-week schedule.  When we first moved to the Sunshine Coast, I couldn’t run from one end of Kings Beach to the other without stopping.  So I knew it would be a slow process.  But I kept plugging away little by little and eventually started achieving distances in the 2-3 km range.

Edit: part 2 is here.

New site

Since I’m no longer working for myself, I’ve moved most of my old content to this new blog. The same entries should generally be available, although there may be some issues with paths not matching and images not showing by default. If there’s something you’re particularly interested in, use the search to see if it’s there, otherwise let me know and I’ll try to dig it up (or you could just use the Wayback Machine). The best way to get in touch is Github or Twitter, but you can find me through other social media and coding sites as well, usually under the moniker “paulgear”.

Anyone but the majors

(Warning: Contains political content about the upcoming Australian federal election – although not the type you might expect…)

Annabel Crabb hit a nerve with this article opening recently:

You’re one week into a federal election campaign that is going to sprawl malevolently over one sixth of this calendar year. So I imagine you may be reading this in the comfort of your own home panic room. Or maybe you’re living under the surface of a local billabong, respiring shallowly through a straw and emerging only under cover of darkness to scavenge for picnic scraps. All perfectly understandable.

So for a cheery break, I want to talk about endangered animals.

It appears I’m not the only one who is highly frustrated by the current political climate. The double disillusion meme about Shorten vs. Turnbull only scratches the surface of the problem: we have an excess of self-serving, short-sighted narcissists vying for our votes, and a distinct lack of real leadership.1

So I’d like to take this opportunity to remind Australian voters that preferential voting is a key weapon in our arsenal to bring some humility to our so-called representatives.

All you have to do is this: put everyone but the majors before the majors on both the Senate and the House of Representatives ballots. It’s that simple. Still pick the parties which better match your views, but make sure you leave the ones who actually have a chance of getting elected to the end. The new above-the-line preferential voting in the Senate makes this nice and easy.

In the Senate, this has a great chance of actually electing minor party members, as happened during the last federal elections. In the House of Reps it’s far less likely that the non-majors will be elected, but at least those electorates which have prominent independents might see some change (in the way of a swing away from the majors).

Which government would be better for Australia? A Turnbull-led LNP with complete control over the Senate, or a Turnbull-led LNP with 8 minor party senators, 5 of which have to be won over to get any legislation through? A Shorten-led ALP with a clear majority in the House of Reps, or a Shorten-led ALP who needs to get the Greens on board to change anything significant? I think the latter choice would be far preferable in each case.

  1. In our recent local elections, I got so fed up with this that I instituted a new personal voting methodology: I would vote in order of whose face I had seen least often on advertising signs. In the event of a tie, I would vote based on who had seemingly spent the least on hair, makeup, and wardrobe for their advertising photos. This method was 100% successful in predicting the exact opposite of the vote count in our electorate.

An update to "What's in my Podcast Roll?"

I blogged previously about the podcasts I regularly listen to, and the topic came up again this week on the SAGE-AU mailing list, so I thought I’d update it with my current thoughts.

Regular listens from the previous list

  • SANS Internet Storm Centre daily podcast [feed] – Still my “must listen” podcast.
  • Risky Business [feeds] – They have done a little cleaning up on the NSFW content, but they could still do with a little more.  The RB2 feed has been expanded to include “Serious Business”, a light-hearted look at general current affairs with Dan Ilic, an Australian comedian based in the U.S.
  • Packet Pushers [feeds] – Getting a bit too frequent for a full-length (60+ minutes) podcast, but still interesting; they’ve diversified content and now include “Network Break”, a shorter, business-/news-focused show, and “Datanauts”, a “silo-busting” show on data centre topics in general.  One disappointment is that Michele “Mrs. Y” Churbirka’s “Healthy Paranoia” is inactive at the moment.
  • Linux Voice [feed] – Desktop/mobile/freedom-focused Linux podcast from the ex-Linux Format/Tuxradar team.  Sometimes not as technical as I would like.
  • DevOps Cafe [feed] – good interviews, not too frequent.
  • The Cloudcast [feed] – Broad coverage of cloud topics, from both business and technical perspectives.  Some of their guest spots are a bit light on content, but overall still pretty good. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the amount of content.
  • Andy Stanley – A profound Bible scholar disguised as a catchy communicator. Multiple podcasts:

Added recently

  • Quirks and Quarks [feed] – weekly science show which features interviews with (mostly) doctorate-qualified scientists talking about their studies.  Compelling stuff – I never miss an episode.  They take a break over the Northern Hemisphere summer, which almost gives me withdrawal symptoms.
  • Software Gone Wild [feed] – Software-Defined Networking from Ivan Pepelnjak, a long-time networking expert.  Discusses interesting projects; not afraid to call out traditional vendors for their hype and vapourware.
  • Arrested DevOps [feed] – Deals a lot with of cultural and organisational issues relevant to the DevOps movement, as well as technical topics.

Podcasts I’ve dropped

Source: libertysys.com.au