Get Inspired: RUNNING

Get started with runbritain  | parkrun UK  | Run England 

Gaze out of your window for 15 minutes or so and there's a pretty strong chance you'll see at least one jogger whizz (or amble) by wearing tight, bright clothing.

A decade ago you'd probably have struggled to spot someone in Lycra all day, but the streets of a more health-conscious Britain now swarm with runners following a visible explosion in its popularity in recent years.

Little wonder it's taken off: running is free, you can do it anywhere, and it burns more calories than any other mainstream exercise.

Have you still not caught the running bug yet? What are you waiting for?

Why is it good for you?

As the NHS  says on its website, "regular running can reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control."

Did you know?

Britain has a rich pedigree in running, not least when Roger Bannister clocked the first sub-four minute mile. The former doctor and academic achieved this milestone on 6 May 1954 at Iffley Road Track in Oxford. Though his record only lasted 46 days, the historic feat is still much talked about and lives on in people's memories

Beyond specific medical benefits, it is widely accepted that running is brilliant for your mental wellbeing - yes, it makes you feel good!

Mara Yamauchi, Britain's second-fastest female marathon runner of all time, has run thousands upon thousands of miles. She says: "Running helps to get rid of excessive adrenalin and other stress hormones.

"It can really help with staying calm, relaxed and keeping things in perspective - and free your mind from daily worries and problems.

"Many people say running is their best thinking time. Running somehow clears your mind of distraction, and allows you to see things clearly."

Get involved

If you want to run, then getting started couldn't be easier - some comfortable sports clothing and a suitable pair of trainers will do the trick.

Why I 'parkrun' - Sarah Holmes

Sarah Holmes

"I recently completed my 200th parkrun. Most of these have been at Albert Park in Middlesbrough, where I also volunteer on a regular basis. I'm not a natural runner and have arthritis in both feet, so I'm not fast, but I've enjoyed my Saturday mornings in the park for more than five years. During this time parkrun has grown so much but the original spirit still shines through. It's a great event for everyone, no matter what age or ability, and has a true sense of community. Amazingly, it's still free! I can't remember what I did on Saturdays before, but it's a super way to start the weekend, either as a volunteer or as a runner"

However, if you're feeling out of shape, or recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, do see your GP before you start.

Likewise, if you've not been active for a while, you may want to build your fitness levels gently by walking for health before you move on to running.

When you do start running, to avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it's important to ease yourself into it slowly. You can increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.

For more information on running - advice, training, races, clubs you can join - a good place to start is runbritain.  You could also find your local athletics club on the British Athletics website  - there are more than 1,400 throughout the country.

parkrun UK  is a great place to start if you want to run with other people. They organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs all over Britain that are open to everyone, and there are now 250 weekly parkruns in the UK, and over 437,000 registered parkrunners - Sarah Holmes (see left) among them.

Their events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and people of every ability are encouraged to take part. All you need to do is sign up  in advance.

History

In many ways, running is as natural to us as eating and sleeping.

It is thought that human running evolved at least four and a half million years ago out of the ability of the ape-like Australopithecus - an early ancestor of humans - to walk upright on two legs.

Meet Angela Copson. She took up running aged 59 to raise money for charity, and is now the fastest Over-65 female marathon runner in the world

The theory proposed considered to be the most likely evolution of running is of early humans' developing as endurance runners from the practice of persistence hunting of animals.

It is believed that competitive running grew out of religious festivals in various areas such as Greece, Egypt, Asia, and the East African Rift in Africa.

The Tailteann Games - an Irish sporting festival in honour of the goddess Tailtiu - dates back to 1829 BC, and is one of the earliest records of competitive running. The first event contested in the ancient Olympic Games was the "stadium" race, a sprint of about 192 metres, with recorded winners dating back as far as 776 BC.

Running has always been the core of most events at modern Olympics.

Are you inspired to try Running? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.