Thursday, 18 February 2010

Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, run run run...

So, for the last week I have been running for a film company. Probably one of my least favourite jobs. And when I say "job" a place I turn up to from 10 - 6, for which I am given travel and lunch expenses.

See, media companies are very savvy, especially in "these credit crunched times" (I had to get that expression in somewhere, it's like a global tick, along with "the state of the economy"). What they have realised, is that (a) young people need a way into the industry, (b) if they are told that the only way to get this "in" is by schleping around and doing the jobs no one else will do, they are happy to this for no money. Factor (c) is that these companies like to waste as little time and money as possible, and so a runner is a cost-effective way of having someone for free to post letters / get their lunches / wipe their arses.

I find the Indian expression "Chai wallah" a succinct sumation of this role. It means "tea-bringer." See The Ancient Art of Tea Making.

Runners, like their Olympic equivalents, must be in peak physical condition: a lazy runner is an oxymoron. So, here are my top tips for runner success (cue theme tune from Rocky):

1. Always have breakfast
This may be the only meal of the day you have until you collapse, quivering, back home. Runners don't get lunch-breaks. They are too busy getting everyone else's lunch. So in case it's one of those days where it's 4 o'clock before you get the chance to sit down, it's important to prepare yourself properly for the day.
It's an old adage, but my personal choice is always porridge: so stodgy that it is sure to coat your stomach and prevent any rumbling tummies. And tea. Good to get the caffeine in early, and plus by the end of the day you will have made so many cups of the stuff you'll be sick of the sight of it.

2. Vitamins
Along with breakfast, I like to start the day with a potent cocktail of Reddoxon Vitamin C and Berocca. It makes your pee bright orange, which I think makes you part super hero. If that's not enough, I like to chomp my way through a packet of Lucozade or Dextro tablets. If you don't like the feeling of you heart beating so fast you think it'll pull an Alien, I find Red Kooga a more gentle solution. However, if this is the case, I would like to add that you are a pussy, and should probably just quit while you're ahead. And no, I am not being endorsed by Boots, they just happen to stock all the good shit.

3. Weight Training
Yes, you may laugh, especially if you know that I am particularly small for my age (i.e. an adult), but I like to think that I have guns of steel (the operative words here being, "I like to think"). You will be asked to carry things you have never considered carrying in your life. I was once asked to carry a television from the depths of Holborn to Covent Garden; at the time I had to decline, knowing that even I didn't have the upper body strength to do this, but if I had upped the weight training, I could have totally done it (she says, looking in optimistic hindsight). If you don't have time to go to the gym, here's my solution: at some point in the day, you will be burdened with a load of plastic bags, filled with goodies for the execs: use these to your advantage, my friend. Simply places the handles across your hands, palms facing down, bags towards the floor, and there you have it, an instant biceps crucnch. And lift, and down, and lift, and down. People may look at you funny, but hey, you're serving a higher purpose.

4. A Fully Charged Ipod
It goes with the territory (and the name), that as a runner you will spend a large part of your day walking around. This can get boring. The music helps. Plus, if you put on some loud, obnoxious music you can (a) drown out the pain of your feet, (b) walk faster and get the job done quickly (c) pretend you're in the movie of your life, and this is your soundtrack. At least that's what I do.

5. Clothing
Dress in layers. You know that feeling when you've been wrapped up against the cold, and then you get inside and the frostbite suddenly makes you feel like it's a hundred degrees? You're going to get that a lot. Dressing in layers can alleviate this problem. I always like to wear a t-shirt or top of some variety (or dress, I do like dresses) with a thin layer like a cardigan for inside, but always have a hoodie to put on under my coat when going on a run. If it's cold, a scarf and some kind of hat can help, and plus if it suddenly starts snowing (no joke with the weather at the moment), more of your body is protected. Ditto for gloves, and plus they shield you from the cutting pain of plastic bags. And girls, don't bother with nail polish, your nails will be a mess by mid-week, either from the endless washing up, or from the habit you will develop of biting them down to the nail-bed with nervous energy (see Vitamins)

I hope some of this helps any potential breakers-into-the-industry. If this puts you off, I'd say don't do it: the only way to get through being a runner is to keep your head down, rise above, and look forward to that glorious day when you have your very own runners to feed and water you.
Only joking. I will never do that.


  1. Hi Lizzie, love this post. I work for a Visual Effects company, we have a new runner starting next week, I may well point him in your direction for these handy tips. Good luck with your search for a job!

  2. Great, thank you! Hope he's not as much of a sadist as I am...!

  3. Chai wallah doesn't mean tea bringer. It literally means something like 'The tea one' or 'tea guy'.

    When choosing something in a shop, you can point and say 'left-wallah' - ie 'the left one, please'

  4. Thanks Shor, an interesting correction. Unfortunately, I feel your translation is even more apt to my position...

    "Where's the intern?"

    "What, the tea guy?"

    love it!


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