“The worst thing about being injured is that physios will tell you to wear your running shoes all the time,” says Richard, the guy in charge of marketing here in the UK. “And you realise 90% of your wardrobe is sports clothing. The constant reminder of what you want to do, but can’t…it drives you crazy.”
We couldn’t have Sports Month and not speak to Richard. He’s run ten marathons, co-founded Putney Running Club and is currently the best person we know to talk about why prevention, when it comes to injury, is much better than a cure.
One bad landing
“I was running down the Thames Path and I landed badly on my ankle,” he tells us in one of our meeting rooms, wearing the aforementioned bright orange running shoes. “At the time the physio said I had a tear in my achilles. That was ten months ago and now I’ve found out that I have a hairline fracture in the ankle, tear in the ligament at the front of the foot and damage to the tendons on the side. But at least my achilles has just about healed.”
“You tend to think you’re invincible before you get injured. I was never good at stretching before I ran. When you’re used to running 26 miles, and you go for a short run, you think ‘it’s just four miles’, so you put shoes on, walk out of the door and start running. And running quickly.”
“If I could go back, or when I do go back, I’ll definitely put a lot more focus on taking care of myself,” he says. “But I know it’s the same for a lot of runners, we end up being reactive. We don’t take salt supplements until we’ve suffered from cramping, we don’t drink enough until we’ve felt what real dehydration feels like. I’d be much more proactive now. Ten minutes stretching is definitely better than ten months not running.”
It’s something we hear a lot here at Urban – the ‘next time I’ll take better care of myself’ – and whether it’s people who could train smarter or someone burning out at work, we’re all about figuring it out before something forces you to listen to your body.
From 0 to 10 marathons in five years
“Looking back, I was putting my body through a lot. My schedule was Kettlebells on Monday, TRX on Tuesday, an eight mile run on Wednesday, Thursday was Kettlebells again and then finally Friday was my day off. The weekend was anything from a 13 to 22 mile run and maybe a warm down run or rest day.”
Sounds insane? Yes, don’t worry, it does to us too. Even the seasoned runners in the office are with you. But it’s easier than you think to get there. “If you do it once a week, you improve slowly, so you should try and do it two or three times a week. Plus, run with people, because if you’ve got someone to chase and you’ve got targets, then you improve fast.”
“You just need a reason to run,” is Richard’s answer when we ask what it takes to get there. “With anything physical, you get people who run and stop and say they can’t go any further. But if you said ‘I’ll give you a million pounds to run another mile’ they would. So obviously we can all do it, we just need a reason to.”
“People who join our running club, they’ve come out of relationships, quit their job or had family problems. They’ve had something that’s pushed them into running and when they start seeing improvements they want to do it more often. It’s surprising how fast you go from turning up in denim shorts and signing up for a 5km race, to your first marathon.”
To add some context here, even injured, Richard still has the lean marathon-runner look. So when you ask him what his reason was, you’ll be surprised when he pulls out a picture of how he looked five years ago. “I’d stopped doing as much sport as I did at Uni and was feeling pretty unfit. I decided that the best way to fix it was to start running. So I signed up for a half marathon, dragged myself round a park run and lost 20 kilos in the process.”
The easy way to do what the professionals do
Many of the people at Urban HQ didn’t join knowing exactly what the benefits of massage were. Lots of us were coming from demanding jobs or intense sports programmes. We needed massages, but we didn’t know it. We do now though, and Richard’s no exception. “I’m going to have more sports massages,” he says, “especially after a long run or marathon. I tend to spend three days hobbling around the office afterwards. If you think about it, all of the professional athletes, no matter if they run or play tennis, have sports massages all the time. And it’s not one of those things that you see someone famous do and think ‘oh i can’t afford that’ or ‘that’s not really realistic’. If I can afford it, know that it helps and have access to it, not having it seems insane.”
But it’s not just the physical benefits of massage that we’ve come to know and love, often the emotional ones are just as important. “You’re angry that you’re injured and usually the way you’d get over it would be to run, but you can’t,” Richard says when we ask what the most frustrating thing is about his injury. “Running is therapy. So even though I’ve seen it happen with other people, I think I was surprised just how much it’s affecting me mentally. So I’ve started having deep tissue massages to relax after stressful days instead of putting my shoes on. It’s not the same, but it helps.”
We asked Richard for two last tips. One for any of you reading this from the comfort of your sofa, and another for people who are already, well, up and running.
“I see lots of people getting out of breath when they’re running,” he tells me (I’m going to break anonymity for a moment and admit that I’m in the sofa crew). “You should try to run at the pace you can talk at. If you can’t maintain a conversation, you’re running too fast.”
And for those who are maybe looking at their first marathon? “Start seeing your feet as transport. Fitting in long runs is one of the trickiest parts of training, so I started running to or from work and would often find it quicker than getting the tube. Or leave a change of clothes in a pub and run there. It doesn’t always have to be around a park.”
Who are we? We’re Urban Massage – on a mission to make wellness rituals convenient and accessible without compromising on quality. So, from just £49 an hour, you can enjoy a range of massages from an expert therapist at a time to suit you. Download the app or go to urbanmassage.com to book 60 minutes of restorative me time.