On the Spot – John McKenna

When did running begin for you?

My first memories date back to primary school: a herd of us traipsing around the ‘double-block’, stalked by Brother Kelly in his red Ford Orion. At intervals he would pull ahead of us, stop, then climb out clutching a short leather strap in his nicotine-stained paw. With a twinkle in his eye he would proceed to apply it gleefully to whichever boy was unlucky enough to be lagging behind at that moment. It was a different time.

Thus began the cross-country years. I went over the wall when I was sixteen, got my first proper bicycle, and thought I had put running behind me forever.

A couple of decades later I moved overseas for a while, had no bike, and so started running again. Alas, a further decade of injury and frustration followed before things finally clicked around five years ago. Someone suggested I strengthen rather than support my weaknesses; I bought into the then fashionable ‘minimal footwear’ movement and, perhaps aided by a touch more maturity, I began to string weeks and eventually months of training together, discovering a new obsession in the process.

In 2015 I moved to Godalming and joined a club. It’s all got a bit out of hand since then.

Why do you run?

I hesitate to say this to an audience of runners but… I’m still not sure I ‘like’ running. The woman on the front of Runners World is having a smashing time but generally I am either sweaty, tired, cold and/or needing the toilet. However, I know I need to do it; I know it’s the one thing I’ve been able to stick at and I know I feel better when I’ve been (the first and last of these applying to both running and the toilet).

I find running hard, but… I’m not terrible at it, it gives me a focus and I get great satisfaction from achieving my goals. I also like buying shoes.

What race or moment in your running career holds the most significance and why? 

One Wednesday evening in early April when I plucked up the courage to go along to Farncombe Day Centre for a taster session. It opened up a new world to me. I’m not sure why I resisted for so long.

Who is your running inspiration? 

Nobody has inspired me to run. Lots of runners inspire me though: Penny, Chris, Nikki, Kat & James… listen to pretty much any Harrier for long enough and you’ll learn something about them which makes you think ‘wow’. I’ve heard this may also be true of non-Harriers but I’m not so sure.

What event, past or present, would you like to take part in and why? 

It would probably involve cars but if we’re talking self-propelled then the Tour de France. If we’re talking still achievable then the Western States Endurance Run (a 100-mile trail race in northern California). Why? Because people make such lovely films about it on youtube. Surely it can’t hurt that much?

What golden piece of advice would you give to other runners? 

I have thought so much about this and still have no real idea what to write or, more accurately, what to choose.

We are all, even those of us who stick to 5k, long distance runners, so… be patient. If you are starting out, be patient when going faster or further. If you are experienced, be patient on race day. If you are injured, don’t rush back. There really is time*.

* Not for me obviously, I am getting old – it’s now or never! 😊

What’s next? 

Short-term: The South Downs Way 100 on 9th June, attempt number 2.

Long-term: All my efforts so far have been focused on continual improvement. The next big challenge will be remaining motivated as I endure the inevitable slow down.

Who would you like to nominate? 

Rosanna Gethin

Posted in Runners Blogs.