George Winter tells us about Dr Andrew Murray’s 54-page booklet that delves deep into the science of running
In 1999 Dr Andrew Murray struggled to finish a 10k run. In February 2015 – along with running partner Donni Campbell – he became the first to run 550k across the Namib Desert in nine days. In the intervening years between these two events the ultrarunning sports medicine physician, who is lead doctor for the Scottish Running Clinic at the University of Edinburgh and a Merrell Brand ambassador, has not only made several record-breaking runs; he has accumulated that most valuable of commodities: experience. Someone once said that experience is what you have in your bones rather than in your head. So perhaps it’s because he’s a medical man that Murray has transplanted years of hard won running experience from his bones to his head and written it down, the result being Running Your Best: some science and medicine (2015).
Keeping it focused
If you want glossy photographs and lengthy anecdotes, don’t buy this 54-page booklet. However, if you’re after practical no-nonsense advice that gets straight to the point, Running Your Best is an indispensable manual into which Dr Murray compresses years of running-related knowledge − both personal and clinical – presenting it in a user-friendly style. My own view is that, like all good manuals, Running Your Best should not be kept on a book-shelf. Rather, it should be in your running bag; it can be rolled up and put in your inside pocket to be read on the bus or train; it can be underlined and highlighted; and if opened at random you will find something on each page that will enlighten, inform and steer you away from illness and injury. Having treated many runners of all standards over the years, has Andrew noted any recurring themes? ‘The recurring theme,’ he explains, ‘is that most running injuries are preventable, and even once they occur there’s no need to completely stop running. Most injuries are “overuse”. With running, most injuries occur when the volume or the intensity increase too quickly, or when there are biomechanical problems, such as the way you run, your footwear, or running surface. Adjusting these factors can prevent and subsequently treat most issues.’
Step by step
Running Your Best comprises eight parts: Illness prevention and treatment; injury prevention and treatment; nutrition and hydration; travel and first-aid; the mind game; what makes champions; achieving goals; and information and records. In each section the reader is in safe hands. For instance, in the table of Andrew’s medical travel kit, his recommendation to wear compression clothes during flights exceeding three hours is based on experience. Similarly, his insights into East African running have come from actually travelling to Kenya to run and talk with the athletes themselves. Murray’s love of running is something he’s keen to share with others, and he draws on a wide evidence base of medical scientific knowledge to press home the message that lack of physical activity is one of the pressing public health issues of our time. He told RF: ‘Getting active and staying active is the single best thing you can do for your health. The average runner lives seven years longer than the average couch potato and is happier, getting those happy hormones going. It’s never easy getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, or training for that 10k or marathon, but the finisher’s medal and the happiness and health that running brings are great carrots.’ Running
Your Best is available through the ‘Lulu Publications’ website as well as other online book stores, price £3.99 as ebook, £5.99 print.