Mark Atkinson, Author of ‘Run Like Duck’ tells us more about his running and his writing:
I started running by accident in 2011 when I realised I was gaining over a stone in weight with each of my wife’s pregnancies. With a couple of kids under two and my weight at least three over what it should be, I would soon need to waddle after them when they found their feet. Having failed at gym membership and been too awful to play team sports I fell into running when a school mate asked me to go for jog one wet wintery day. It went terribly but I kept at it, setting my sights on the unimaginable distance of a 10k race several months ahead.
When I managed the 10k it got me wondering if maybe I could go further. I entered a half marathon and after a couple of those decided to really push my comfort zone and enter a marathon. Like my first jog, the marathon was horrendous. The pain was unlike anything I’d ever experienced and I barely beat the cut-off. I was passed by someone twice my age, in fancy dress, with a 100 Marathon Club top on. Rather than give up I made an unspoken vow to join him and started on the long road to 100 marathons, with some ultras thrown in for good measure.
Along my journey I’ve made more mistakes than wise choices, and have learnt by trial and error what works, and how to finish the race when it all goes wrong.
Like all aspiring runners I started a blog. Like all running blogs it had a typical readership of one. Including me. It was awful. Even I didn’t like reading it as I wasn’t even sure what to say. There are only so many ways you can rewrite “I went for a run”.
Later I became am ambassador for Milton Keynes Marathon. In return for a free race entry our role was to promote the event on social media. The ambassadors typically include first timers, inspirational runners and the multi marathoners as the hardened voices of experience. Being mostly in the latter category (I’ve never inspired anyone, except maybe to move away from me to avoid the post-run sweat stench) I started to blog a lot of advice for newer runners in a hope they might avoid all the mistakes I’d made. It coincided with various queries and requests for guidance from aspiring runners and clubmates in person as well.
A lot of these approaches came from new acquaintances who’d see me awkwardly running and struggled to connect the man with the tales of running stupidity/achievement such as they were: “You mean YOU have run dozens of marathons? Really? You? And back to back marathons? Actually you? But…. But… you shuffle around like an angry gorilla and your feet point off to the side like a duck. If you were a racehorse I’d have you put down. Wow. I’m shocked. If you can run a marathon then surely anyone can. Any hints?”
People started reading the blog. People liked it. A few suggested I should write a book. So I did.
The book is a humorous guide to running for the beginner onwards, with advice from my progression/obsession from couch to 100 marathons and ultras.
Whilst autobiographies by Mo Farah and the like are fascinating, they always felt remote and related to another species – super fit people. How would any tales or advice from Usain Bolt on breaking the 100 metre world record relate to the average runner just trying to get around their first parkrun?
There also seemed to be very few running advice books that represented the typical runner and were approachable. Most were either very dry and factual guides on carbohydrate intake per mile, or deeply spiritual books on finding your inner peace and hugging trees, lacking any useful advice. The book is an attempt to recreate the random chats and snippets of guidance you glean when running with clubmates and accidentally learn something in the process of laughing at a shared tale. I hope the book will help people. I hope it will make them laugh. I hope it’s at least a few months before I see one in a charity shop window.
It was recently voted the No1 Christmas Running Book in the Running Awards, fighting off competition from the like of Scott Jurek, Lisa Jackson and Ben Smith of the 401 challenge. More recently it made number one in category on Amazon so seems to have struck a chord with readers and exceeded my expectations!
You can read more on twitter @montythemole or on the blog www.runlikeduck.co.uk
The Facebook page for the book is www.facebook.com/runlikeduck