Austerity and the LDWA
Gordon Brown (Prime Minister at time of writing) has told us that we have to tighten our belts. Given that most runners are using the very first holes in their belts I can only assume that for us specifically he means we should spend less money.
Marathon running can be expensive. The entry fees are going up all the time. You insist on buying shiny new trainers so that the photos (which also cost a bomb) will look good. You spend the evening in an overpriced italian restaurant where they
charge £2 "corkage" for tap water. You walk through the expo and insist that you need a pair of toe socks or another long sleeved running top to add to the other 12 air-tex billboards that you parade when running through your local park. Before you
know it you have dug a hole in your pension fund that you may regret in the extra years you are exercising yourself towards.
But is does not have to be this way, there is an alternative. One that will not require you to re-mortgage your house or sell one of your livers. And it is much closer than you think.
The Long Distance Walkers Association www.ldwa.org.uk is a goldmine for challenging runs. Every single week there are events ranging from 10-50 miles up and down the country. Though primarily aimed at walkers they usually welcome runners to all their events. These events are very different in nature to other "races" that you may have done. In fact they are not classed as races but as challenge events where the objective is to get around and have fun rather than to post a great time.
So, with a recession looming and destitution a possibility, why not try one of these great runs. Here is how they differ from the normal marathons that you may be more familiar with.
A typical marathon costs £30, has to be paid online long before the event, is not refundable or transferable and often incurs another credit card payment fee and requires you to recall one of the 17 passwords that you use for online payment.
LDWA events cost less than £10 or much less if you are a member and you can pay on the day with the extra spare change you now have since you stopped going to Starbucks every morning. Zero interest rates mean that your money is currently more
value to you stashed under a mattress and therefore cash payments on the day are the way forward. Joining the LDWA will save you a further pound on entries.
Do your bit for the environment and sit on trains that would otherwise be empty. You’ll often have to get up in the dark and navigate yourself to a London station and get a train to the middle of nowhere and then try to find the small clubhouse in which
most of these events are based. Trains are very cheap at 5.37 on a Sunday morning and makes a great change to flights and hotels with their hidden wi-fi charges. There is less time spent in airports and the temptation to buy needless electronics and
perfume branded in some "celebrity" chav at some semi abandoned train station in Kent is much less.
Marathon expos, like Ikea and Selfridges are cleverly designed so that you wander around in circles trying to find an exit that is not marked. By the time you finally exit you realise that you are carrying an electric skipping rope, 20 energy gels in a flavour you don't like and an innovative running top with extremely tapers sleeves that cause your hands to expand so you can paddle through the air costing £49.99. LDWA events on the other hand sometimes have a small box of sew-on badges that you can buy for £2.
Food and Drink
For your £30 in a marathon you get up to 12 cups of water or orange flavoured energy drink. If you are lucky you may get a gel or be able to snatch some sweets of small children along the course. LDWA menus are often extensive. In 4/5 checkpoints
along a typical course you can expect home made cake, biscuits, sweets, sausage rolls, Bombay mix, tea, coffee, crisps, cheese and pickle sandwiches, soup, marmite on toast, bananas and juice. The end normally has bacon sandwiches or burgers. If
anything you are probably going to put weight on running marathons with the LDWA. No need to tighten that belt just yet.
Though you may take more stuff on an LDWA event the chances are that you already own most of it and so really you are only justifying previous investments. You don't need things like a waistband specific to the brand of overpriced sugar you consume every 30 minutes as suggested by the manufacturer. All you need is a rucksack to shove your rain jacket, compass, light, food and phone in.
Marathons are run in miles. Everyone knows that and these are usually displayed as you run so you can obsess about you split times and generally make yourself
miserable. LDWA events are actually run in paragraphs.
At the start of each event you will be given a few sides of A4 (plastic cover not included so remember to take one) which become the equivalent of mile markers. You navigate yourself through the English countryside and one by one the paragraphs fall. Some are obviously longer than others and some are made longer by poor navigation but that is part of the fun. You can mark your progress without having to look at your watch every 3 minutes. The last paragraph is a landmark, and you can often smell the bacon.
Marathons are great for the first and last miles where it is actually in the city of interest. The remaining 24 miles if all too often on A roads or though dodgy industrial estates. Not that you are really looking, since you are too busy looking at your watch.
LDWA events take you on a journey through our very underrated countryside. Route descriptions often force you to look up and take note of some of the beautiful hill views and forests. There are often hidden treasures such as castles and villages that
you would never have noticed from running 26 miles of road.
It is normal to study a road marathons profile before the race and commit to memory every slight distortion in the 3rd dimension. LDWA events you don't know where you are going until you get there so this is not an issue. You often end up running further than the advertised distance but don't panic. The LDWA will not charge you extra for this.
Lots of grass and trail but that makes your shoes last longer. Off road runs such as this are great training without smashing yourself up too much. Running on soft surfaces up-hill is great cross training and will reduce chances of further injury
Running is a truly social sport, there is no doubt about that. It is easier to socialise on these races because at no point is anyone really busting a gut. It is difficult to judge whether to talk to someone or not in a road marathon as you never know how
they might respond. They may not be able to speak, or be really annoyed by your chirpiness as you overtake.
This is not a problem in the countryside. Everyone is out there for a nice brisk stroll through the mud and are happy to talk all day (and all day is what you have).