12 Sep

A Weighty Matter

lower body shot of runners

What is a healthy weight for long distance running? Or shall we talk about religion or politics instead?

Yep, weight is a very uncomfortable subject for us all, runner or non-runner. Thousands of everyday people have turned to running to get rid of it, whilst elite athletes strive to find the optimum weight to achieve their best performance.

At one end of the scale(s) is Darren ‘Dibsy’ McClintock who weighed a life-threatening 40 stone a year ago. At the weekend he completed the Great North Run in a respectable 2h 43m a massive 19 stone lighter.

At the other is 8st 2lb Eilish McColgan, twice an Olympian, a European medallist and a recent victim of the shallow, image-above-everything mentality that dominates social media. Despite being one of the country’s premier runners, she was called out for being 'too skinny' by internet trolls.

The Scot, never one to shy away from confronting her accusers, fired back: "I doubt they would comment on someone slightly larger than 'average'. I'm a healthy athlete and human. Go body shame elsewhere!”

Both runners face their challenges and both meet them admiringly head-on.

There are plenty of valuable online calculators measuring Body Mass Index (BMI) that help inform you on a healthy weight. Taking it further, those who are really keen on running at their very best, there is Stillman weight calculator to help ascertain the ideal weight for runners.

At this point and risking the wrath of readers, I have to admit your writer is very, very lucky in this area. I have huge appetite for food and a reputation for it. But I have never had any problems with gaining weight and middle-aged, I still find myself at the ideal weight for long distance running. Annoying, I know.

However, I do have an unfortunate tale to tell. In my first foray into marathon running, I combined the higher mileage with a sudden change in diet and the result was a stone lost in weight. Not being someone who owned a set of scales, it was not something I was immediately aware of.

One or two of the group I played football with had seemed strangely overly concerned with how I was, same too for some work colleagues. It was only when the official pictures from the London Marathon dropped into my email that the penny dropped.

The sunken cheeks, the stick-thin arms, I had overdone it. And it explained the injury-strewn lead up, the fatigue, the weakness…I had starved my engine of the fuels required and I suffered for it. Having reunited with my lost stone within months, I found my best running form ever, clocking PBs across distances.

Weight loss is not the simple answer to quality running. I’m with Eilish McColgan, just be a healthy human, first and foremost and the fun times will come.