New running extreme – future or fad?
Every year all throughout the summer thousands of people hit the gym and work hard to meet fitness goals and achieve that ideal summer body.
Running has always been the cheapest form of exercise, requiring literally just a pair of shoes and somewhere to go. Britain is not renound for being a particularly healthy country, but in the past few years it seems it has become ‘a thing’.
This surge in fitness activities has put ‘anything for a free t-shirt’ to a new level.
A popular one this summer over everyone’s Facebook feed was the Colour Run, a five-kilometre run where you are doused with coloured powders at each kilometre. In its third year, The Colour Run boasted 2 million participants in 2014 alone.
Spreading across cities and parks around the UK there is also Parkrun, the Saturday morning 5k. There have been almost 7.5 million of these free weekly 5k runs across the UK to date in 348 locations, with a Parkrun even as far North as Inverness.
And in London there is now even a City Jogging Tour that could see the city walking tour a leisure activity of the past.
Noticeably, there is also the surge in army style obstacle courses- we all know someone who has done one or have briefly even considered doing one ourselves. If so many people can do it, why can’t I?
Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and even Zombie Evacuation and Nuclear Rush; there seems to be no end to proving you are not just fit, but ‘survival of the fittest’ fit.
Now that summer is almost over, it does not mean that the running has to stop. But has running itself now become not enough?
In this modern age where everyone’s lives are documented for the world to see, the pressure to appear the best you can possibly be is mounting, and running could simply be the next craze to prove yourself.
Or does it mean that the pressure to keep fit and live active and healthy lifestyles is finally working?
Sports Marketing Surveys (SMS) Inc. revealed that the UK’s running population reached 10.5 million in 2014, making running the number two sport in the UK, after swimming, in terms of participation.
SMS Inc. also revealed that on average people actively go for a run 72 times per year- that’s one to two times per weeks.
A Minister of Fitness has even been appointed in the past decade to try aid and boost healthy lifestyles in the lead up to and after the 2012 London Olympics.
Aiding in proving the popularity of the sport is the figure that almost half of these runners partake in competitive events at least once a year, and that while shorter distances remain the most popular 10% of the adult running population competed in a marathon, half marathon or triathlon in the last 12 months.
Additionally, everyone has seen the Change4Life adverts that try persuade and help you towards a better lifestyle. And there is the government lead ‘Moving More, Living More’ initiative, which had big plans to keep the people of Britain motivated and encouraged after the Olympics.
Even in Stirling there are the ‘Boris Bike’ style bicycles promoting green transport and healthy lifestyles. It could be argued that the results of a healthy nation can be seen on our own doorstep.
A new study by the Royal Holloway University of London shows that the number of people choosing to run to or from work as an alternative mode of transport has tripled in the last two years.
But what about then being considerably sweaty when you arrive at University? The gym does not have that many showers available, and nobody wants to be bright red and smelling when they arrive at class. And the need for textbooks and laptops makes running to university, or even work, often too impractical.
Additionally, the SMS Inc. report also concluded that only one in five adults run four or more times a year, and that only 25% of under 18s qualify as active runners. How does running four times a year really make a difference?
Is it becoming clearer therefore that any rising interest we see in running is merely a fad, and will be replaced with something else before we know it?
And despite there being a rise in the number of runners, there has been no noticeable change in the health of the people of Britain.
The UK has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe and the developed world. The British Nutrition Foundation released figures showing that 63% of men and 54% of women overweight or obese.
23% of children aged 4 to 5 year olds in the UK are overweight or obese, along with 33% of 10 to 11 year olds.
The government said 1.4 million more people were playing sport each week than when London’s Olympic bid was won.
However, Dame Tessa Jowell said the key idea behind the London Olympics being a legacy has been a failure. Cuts to funding for school sport has left the opportunity the Olympics and the Commonwealth games had on inspiring a generation of children into sport and healthy lifestyles redundant.
But a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said more needed to be done to attract people from all backgrounds. Running is the only thing that is free- maybe it will not just be a fad as the cost of living becomes tighter.
Running is not always going to be for everyone, and caution needs to be taken before we can use the ‘when I was young I went outside to play in the summer, not play video games all the time’ line.
With all these different programmes, challenges and mentalities it seems that running could just be to stay. But with figures, statistics and general observation perhaps suggesting otherwise, all we can do is wait and see.