The usual advice to beginners is that all you need to start running is a pair of training shoes. Rubbish! Shoes might help but, as the popularity of barefoot running demonstrates, they aren’t essential. Neither – and this point is aimed mainly at the girls – is a sports bra (but it is more comfortable with than without).

No, what I am talking about is the real top 10, the things you really can’t do without. Forget your GPS watch, your isotonic supplements and your micro-fibre silver-lined socks, these 10 are crucial.

In the time-honoured, reverse-order tradition, here’s my countdown of the items you really need to be a runner.


10. Legs

Before you start yelling prosthetics at me, I didn’t say what type of legs, did I? But you do need them – a minimum of two, but four also works well.

9. Lung

Notice I’ve used the singular. Of course, the norm is a pair and if you have a choice, go for the norm. Don’t economise here and look after them well once you’ve got them home.

8. A heart

More or less essential for sending blood around the body (not having one could cause your heart-rate monitor to give confusing data). Very importantly, it takes a lot of heart to run when it’s hailing on a pitch-black January night.

7. Sweat

If you don’t sweat when you run, you will get hotter and hotter, and then you will overheat and explode. It would make a mess and hurt an awful lot (I have simplified the science, but you get the picture).

6. Clothes

Technically it is possible to run without clothes. Indeed, we have evidence that it may help you to become an Olympian. It may, however,  result in arrest, frost-bitten bits and ridicule.

5. Washing Machine

A consequence of numbers 6 and 7.

4. Food

You don’t eat enough, you’re going to die. Don’t cut it too fine. Eat most days, and eat to excess at least once a week. After all, it has been statistically proven that a fat runner is faster over all distances than a dead runner.

3. Surfaces

We’ve all heard about concrete being really hard and grass being nice and springy. Older runners will wax lyrical about the advantages of modern tracks over cinder ones. Forget all that. It doesn’t matter which surface you run on – try running with no surface at all! You’ll soon see what I mean. Let me know if you get anywhere.

2. Reasons

You could run simply because you enjoy it. Or to catch the antelope you need for your supper. However serious or lightweight your reason, you won’t run without it.

1. Excuses

Beginners learn these quickly. Old hands have a stock ready for every race, season or competition. Used wisely they’ll work time and again, but like overuse injuries you need to rest them from time to time. Never, ever, be without one.