Last week I entered a half-marathon. I’ve just been for my first training run. The fact I’m writing this confirms I’m still alive.
This is a start.
I’d entered the half-marathon for three reasons. One, I’ve been meaning for ages* to start going for regular runs and needed some kind of incentive/deadline, two, the half-marathon practically passes my front door, and three, well, I was just feeling a bit giddy and whimsical. Spending money normally puts paid to the last, but spend money I did and I’m now paid up and registered. There’s no going back. Is there?
In my head I’ve always been quite sporty. When people ask me if I play any sport I usually reply football, cricket and the odd half-marathon**. I delude myself in this by not pointing out that injury put paid to all of these in any serious form.
In 1989.
I work from home. I don’t move about much. My most regular exercise is walking from my office chair to the fridge and back. Sometimes it can take me three days to take the rubbish out to the bins. This has been my routine since around 1998 so this morning’s run was a Pretty Big Deal.
Getting ready proved enough of a challenge. I have no running gear as such and thus assembled from the backs of various drawers and under the bed a pair of red Charlton Athletic socks, some old green football shorts and a blue Liechtenstein football training top. I looked like the flag of a small former Soviet republic.
I picked up one of my running shoes from where it has been stopping the bedroom door slamming for the last three years and eventually found the other wedged behind the boiler in the airing cupboard. Sartorially I was ridiculous but ready.
I performed some perfunctory stretches that I remembered from my teens, one of which involved kicking my heel up, catching my foot in my hand and stretching my thigh muscles. Except I couldn’t catch my foot and had to half-kneel on the bed in order to get a hold of my ankle. Jesus.
Finally I emerged from the door, walked two steps and heaved myself into a run. Immediately my lower back started aching and there was a burning sensation deep inside my left buttock. I was aware of something moving around that I didn’t recall ever moving before when I was running. It took a moment for me to realise it was my stomach.
Appropriately I didn’t stop running until I got to what used to be our local chip shop. Equally appropriately it’s burnt out. My heart was thumping in my throat. My breath was wheezy. My left buttock was still letting me know it was there. I found the lower backache eased if I bent over, so I did that for a bit.
I turned around and started running back towards the flat. By now the message was getting through to parts of my body that haven’t moved in years that their services were required again and they weren’t happy. But, grumpy as they were, they got me home, even if it was only five minutes after I’d left.
Nobody had laughed, at least not in my face. No cars had hooted at me. Nobody had called an ambulance. This was both a victory and A Good Start.
The half-marathon is almost exactly three months away. Better find something else to stop the bedroom door slamming, at least until then.
* about fifteen years
** I’ve got quite a good story about once being named as a substitute in an FA Cup tie, and played cricket against Alec Stewart, dontcha know