I’ve always been a runner but in the last few years (mainly for transport and medical reasons) I’ve dabbled in the world of the cyclist. I’ve bought the road bike, the clip shoes, the helmet and I’ve donned lycra that fits tight around the old Jatz crackers. I’m aware that I completely suck on the bike, but I love cycling so much that I’m just happy cruising around Spanish/Italian/French/Moroccan hill towns, drinking cappucinos and wearing tights with my male friends. In short, I like amateur non-serious cycling. If I took it seriously maybe I wouldn’t like it so much. Here is a list of reasons why sometimes I’m just glad that I’m a runner.
1) Running at the elite level is clean
Lets face it, there are less drugs in the average London super club at 2:00am than there was in the pro cycling peloton in the 90s. Cycling is one of the few sports where the main ascent climbs have actually got markedly slower over time as they have cleaned up the sport.
Now, I hear you ask, how do you know that the elite runners, primarily the Kenyans and Ethiopians do not use performance-enhancing drugs? I guess I have no proof, but to be honest I’m not even sure a lot of the elite African runners can afford proper running shoes, let alone EPO. I mean, we’re talking about a culture whose main carbohydrate is Ugali, a mixture of water and maize flour, which is basically glue. I’m pretty sure these guys don’t have access to a flashy Italian doctor scheduling an intense program of EPO micro dosing.
2) Minimal Lycra
Obviously women love to see a man’s package and I’m all for the occasional airing of the “lunchbox”. It is just that sometimes when people are enjoying a meal at a cafe, and my friends and myself have have rolled into town with our tight-fitted bib shorts, I get the feeling that we’ve just put a lot of people off their food. Although I have no doubt that emaciated blokes with massive shaved legs are every girls’ dream, I think sometimes too much lunchbox can effect… well… lunch. Running is nice in that you can have a post run coffee without looking like you’re smuggling a sausage wrapped in clingfilm.
Even with the most expensive running kit that money can buy, running can never compete with the cost of cycling. Even with the cost of the bike and maintenance removed, the cost of bike clothing is for some strange reason about three times as expensive as running clothing. All my running friends have a drawer full of freebie running shirts from the last 5 years of races, whereas my cycling friends are shelling out over £100 for the latest Rapha jersey. For example, Rapha make a gilet (which is basically a sleeveless shirt) for £120. Yes, you heard that correctly… £120. To be honest, for that money I’d want it to be made out of Justin Bieber’s pubic hair. Actually, no I wouldn’t. In fact, that is just a nasty thought. Now, Rapha would defend their cost arguing that it was made from a “technical fabric”. At that price I’d want the fabric to be so technical it was able to compete an advanced Sudoku on a 4 hour ride. And the crossword.
You can, however, save plenty of money on cycling kit by purchasing cycling clothing from recently disgraced cyclists! I bought a George Hincapie (banned for 6 months in 2012) gilet at a very nice discount. And I hear Livestrong clothing is very cheap right now…
Running is simple. With the exception of the Garmin GPS holders standing in the freezing cold trying to get a signal (but instead just getting GPS pneumonia), everyone turns up, everyone nods and everyone starts running. Occasionally someone refers to their watch, but on the whole, no one faffs and nothing breaks. You can only dream of this simplicity in cycling. Welcome to the world of punctures, dropped chains, worn break pads, stiff gear levers, broken derailleurs, snapped pannier racks, twisted spokes, torn bar tape, and getting run over by a truck. In cycling you can lose 3 hours of a 4 hour ride to punctures. I’ve been on long rides where after the 4th puncture everyone has just given up and gone home. I’ve never ever aborted a run in that way…
5) Crashes during races
My housemate used to go out and race in London on a Sunday and about one in every three times he used to come back covered in a mass of bandages and “road rash”. This just doesn’t happen in running. I’ve never had any of my running friends talk of “total unavoidable wipeouts” at the local park run. I can just imagine my friend Paul going:
“And then the veteran guy took the 3rd turn too fast and brought down the young guy and there was nothing I could do but go down. Hopefully my grazes will heal by next week.”
Although there is a slight exception to this rule in that I tend to have one “spectacular fall” every year. This doesn’t involve anyone else, and is mainly down to my “limited co-ordination”. My last fall involved overtaking a pedestrian and running face first into a bus stop. I may have fallen on the ground and grazed most of my bodily surfaces, but it was my pride that was injured the most. As I my girlfriend says:
“Who goes out running and runs into stationary objects?”
I do. Apparently.
Cycling is mostly something that makes me very happy. I love being on the bike for both commuting and long bike trips but there is still the odd occasion where a run-in with a driver leaves me fuming. I remember when I got my motorcycle licence. The guys running the course spent the whole time slagging off cyclists (in some cases with good reason) as being the “scum of the road”. Of course as I wanted to pass, I didn’t reveal that I was a cyclist. And when I did pass, the instructor commented that I had “excellent road awareness and bike handling”. I replied that “that will be because I’m a road biker”. Awkward silence… I think it would be better if I said “I’ve gone round to your house and done a poo in your bed”. I actually thought he was going to fail me.
Running is great in that you don’t have to end a session screaming at someone that there is “NO SUCH THING AS ROAD TAX” and that they are a “FAT BULLY IN A ONE TONNE CAGE” and then question the sense of your actions as they storm towards your stationary, clipped-into-bike figure.