Then and Now


Source: Robbie Meriales

Towards the end of last year, a cartoon was widely circulated on social media. The cartoon was spot on, back in 1994 running was simpler, and if you believe ‘old school’ runners, better. By the way running shorts really were a lot shorter, I’ll never forget the day I was unfortunate enough to spot an escaped testicle. The chafing must have been horrendous.

As I’m old enough to remember running in 1994, yes I really am *that* old, the cartoon got me reminiscing. Back in 1994 I had two obsessions; horse riding and running. I would ride my horse before and after school, and spent my weekends shovelling shit at the local stables.  I would run the mile to and from the local stables at least two times a day, so was pretty fit. I was also lucky enough to live in the countryside, so in 1994 most of my training runs were across fields. Strangely enough I remained injury free. I miss living in the countryside, and I miss those effortless, carefree runs. I miss feeling like I could run forever.

The cartoon also got me pondering about the pros and cons of running in 1994 and running today.

Gadgets, Gizmos and Gear…All the Gear But No Idea?

Although I never listen to music while I’m out running (I personally think it’s too dangerous with all the dodgy drivers in Four Oaks), most modern running gadgets and gizmos are pretty bloody awesome. A big part of me wishes that I had owned a Garmin in 1994. With the exception of the occasional snippet taken from copies of Athletics Weekly and local newspapers, I have no record of my running or of my personal bests.  Fast forward to 2015 and I’m 100 per cent addicted to my Garmin.  I now find it difficult to comprehend running without my Garmin, and actually had a mini meltdown at the start of an event when my Garmin wouldn’t work. Bloody satellites. Perhaps I should try running “naked” more in 2015.

I wont even mention the terrible running gear I was forced to wear during PE lessons. Does anyone else remember shellsuits? In 1994, thanks to my strict school, I was forced to wear a cherry red shellsuit.

When I consider how useful most running gadgets are when used correctly, and how much running gear has evolved…running today is better.

2014… The Year of the Selfie?

In years to come, will 2014 be remembered as “The year of the Selfie”? Unfortunately, I suspect so. I’m hoping that this year, selfies or runfies will become unfashionable, at the moment the signs aren’t looking very positive. I googled “running and selfies” and stumbled across the following blog post and article… I Crashed the Georgia Half-Marathon…And Took 20 Selfies and Half-marathon runner passes time on her run by taking selfies with hot guys Amazing!!

Selfies before an event? Fine. Seflies after an event? Even better, and bonus points for a sweaty selfie with a medal. By the way I’m not a pervert, I’m just getting fed up with the staged running photos. Sefies during an event? In my opinion, not quite so fine. Please could someone explain why they feel the need to take selfies/runfies in the middle of an event? If you have time to take a selfie, are you really trying your hardest? Is it even safe? I know that running is meant to be fun, but why the mid race selfies? Are PR reps asking bloggers for mid event action shots? Luckily the selfie/runfie obsession hasn’t reached the West Midlands.

In 1994 I wouldn’t have even contemplated running with my camera (mobile phones were like bricks) and attempting to take gruesome beetroot-faced photos of my face. At 14/15 I was in my running prime, and wouldn’t have considered taking a mid-race photo. Such behaviour would have quite rightly resulted in me getting booted off the track and cross-country teams.

This one is easy…running in 1994 was better.

Strava et al

In 1994 the internet was in its infancy and Strava, Daily Mile, Garmin Connect, The Running Bug and Fetcheveryone et al didn’t exist. Fast forward six years to the year 2000 and one of the earliest running websites; Runner’s World, was pretty basic. When I returned home from a run I’d have a drink of water if I needed to, have a shower and get on with my life.  Life as a runner was simple, my post-run recovery routine was non-existent.

Now when I return home from a run I have a regimented routine. I’ll have a glass of nuun or chocolate milkshake, go to the loo, stretch and place my Garmin next to my computer. The data automatically transfers from my Garmin to my computer, allowing me to analyse my run in detail. I love all the geeky stats. I’ll occasionally share my running stats with my twitter followers. If I’ve completed a race, I might consider writing a blog.

When I consider how supportive the various online running communities are…running today is a million times better.

The Verdict

As, at the start of 2015 I sit writing this blog, the information and advice available to runners through the various online running communities, is generally amazing. I say generally, as I have recently seen some pretty shoddy advice being tweeted by so-called experts. Despite this, I am actually quite envious that new runners are only a tweet to @UKRunChat away from receiving loads of advice from more experienced runners. Back in 1994, if I wanted advice I’d talk to my PE teacher/running coach.

The choice of running gear, accessories and gadgets available to buy is now quite frankly, overwhelming. Not a day goes by without a blogger urging us to buy the latest “must own” item of running gear they have been sent to review. I’ve learnt to ignore the emails/blogs, but I imagine as a new runner, the emails/blogs are overwhelming. Experience has taught me, that all I need as a female runner, is a decent pair of trainers and a supportive sports bra. Sorry Brooks, Nike, Adidas et al. The fancy gear, gadgets and gizmos are optional extras. I’ll be ignoring the “must buy” blogs this year.

So would I go back to 1994? No, not in a million years (although I would love to travel back in time to 1994 to say goodbye to my nan). I couldn’t cope without my Garmin, without online shopping/race entries, or without the various online running communities.

I wonder what running in 20 years’ time and in 30 years’ time will be like. I just hope that I am still fit and healthy enough to be part of the 2035 and 2045 running communities. Just imagine how awesome medals might be in 2045!


4 thoughts on “Then and Now

  1. scallywag says:

    Haha great post. I think yes, that the main big extra now is the COMMUNITY. A lot more people run and you can connect much faster to others. Previously you may have been that weirdo in your village who keeps running places.

    I do think we could do with getting back to basics in some ways. Races for example seem in places to be getting out of hand. And it sometimes stings to see the rapid commercialisation of rarer pockets of the sport (ultras and mountain races), luckily Scottish hill races seem to be still exempt. I will panic when I start seeing ‘the _ fell race’!


  2. Robbie Meriales says:

    I am the original creator of the cartoon.

    Clearly the cartoon was so easy to draw. I still remember when I started running in my teens, back in 1981 or 82. Shorts were really short and I had white socks which reached up to my mid-leg. I felt naked running without a head band. Having said that I wouldn’t have dared drawn a runner like myself in the 80’s. The 90’s picture is kinder to the eye.

    I’m 49 now and I still run. The 2014 character in the cartoon represents many of the running folks I know who cannot go out without a couple of electronic chips on their person, and cannot help but proclaim the feat in the traditional Facebook status update. A few years ago I went through the iPod stage for a while, and the GPS thing for maybe a month. Now I run only with a drinking bottle and an ID bracelet. And occasionally a cheapo wristwatch/stopwatch. I only do the Facebook thing when something different happens, like a gnat flies in my mouth, I get chased by a dog, or something colorful like that. But I’m not completely old school. I am a spandex fan. No more short shorts for me.


    • phdrunner says:

      Hi Robbie, thanks so much for your comment and for creating such an awesome cartoon. I hope you didn’t mind me including your cartoon in my blog, I just loved the cartoon and could really relate to the whole then versus now comparison. This year I’m making more effort to leave the gadgets and gizmos at home when I head out running. I’m off to have a look at the rest of your cartoons, happy running :o)


  3. Robbie Meriales says:

    Thank you very much, and I don’t mind seeing my cartoon in your blog. There’s still that excitement when you see one of your creations go viral.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of the cartoons (and the book!). Cheers!


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