This week’s entry is about running.
Look, I’m not delighted with the title either. It’s meant to be a reference to ‘light jogging’, and I am well aware readers may misinterpret the second word to be either ‘dogging’ or, heaven forbid, ‘flogging’, but when the only alternatives I could come up with were ‘Going for a Blog’, ‘Blogging In Public’, and ‘Blogging Bottoms’, you can appreciate my dilemma.
Anyway, I’ve decided to start running again.
Well, strictly speaking, I never gave up. I distinctly recall running for my train to Newcastle a couple of months ago, and have a vague recollection of running to my car the other day when it was raining, but I haven’t run for exercise, or pleasure, in some time (and, in the case of the latter, never, because no one actually enjoys running).
I used to run quite a bit. Only a few miles, around Sandbach, but I got relatively proficient at it. I mastered the whole ‘right, then left, then right again’ routine, to a point that I was moving at a pace faster than mere walking, and after a few months of repeating this exercise a couple of times a week, I even reached a stage where I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to vomit up a lung afterwards.
Then, partly because I was running on pavements, and partly because I had always bought relatively cheap trainers, I began to develop the crumbling spine of an eighty-year-old (at less than half the age). And, if I were to list the medical complaints which scare me the most, my top three – in no particular order – would be my back, anything to do with my gentleman’s equipment, and man-flu (many people would also include their eyesight, but mine went a long time ago, and I’ve given up hope).
Recently, however, I decided to give running another try. This is not a decision I particularly relished, but if I am to halt my ever-expanding waistline, before it gets ridiculous, playing an hour of badminton every Friday simply isn’t enough (particularly when I immediately recover any burnt calories in the pub afterwards).
I got on to the topic of jogging, whilst talking to a colleague at our Christmas party in December, and since she runs regularly, I decided that this made her suitably qualified to offer advice. Admittedly, I was that drunk at the time, I’d have accepted running advice from Jabba The Hutt, but you get the idea.
Jabba The Hutt – not built for speed
She suggested that, if I was serious about running (I’m not), and I didn’t mind the expense (I do), I should think about going to a specialist shop, and she recommended a place in Alderley Edge. I was initially reluctant, but when she informed me that they film you running on a treadmill, then scientifically analyse your gait, to ensure you purchase the right shoes, this convinced me that they knew what they were doing.
Having mulled it over whilst at the bar, I returned to our table and announced that I was going to follow her advice. I had no great desire to have someone watch me running (I was worried they might laugh, and shout things like “is that how you run?”), but a few minutes of humiliation, seemed a fair price to pay for a (partially) functioning spine.
It was only then, that she (almost dismissively) revealed they make you run in your underwear. The subsequent conversation went a little like this:
“I beg your fucking pardon? They do what?!”
“You have to run in your underwear, so they can properly analyse your gait.”
“My gait is staying very firmly in my trousers, thank you very much.”
“No, seriously, it’s the only way they can assess you.”
“Was it a man who told you this by any chance? I bet he couldn’t believe his luck when someone finally fell for it.”
My decision was reversed. There was no way someone was filming me running in my pants. I would just buy a decent pair of trainers, and they would surely be fine.
However, following a particularly worrying spasm of lower back pain about a month ago (caused as a result of dancing in the shower – the truly embarrassing part being we don’t even have a shower radio, so fuck knows why I was dancing), I once again reconsidered my position, and decided to spend my birthday money on some proper running shoes, to prevent further damage to my back.
I still did not want to run, semi-naked, in front of people, but so long as the treadmill in question wasn’t placed in the shop window, and would remain – along with my underwear – entirely concealed from the public, then maybe I was going to have to accept what the experts would be telling me – and they would be telling me to run in my pants, apparently.
So, a couple of weekends ago, I mentally prepared myself to run on a treadmill for the very first time, selected a pair of particularly ‘secure’ boxers (without a button fly – the embarrassment levels would be high enough anyway, without my lolloping penis making an unwelcome appearance), and off I went. I also opted to wear shorts, rather than jeans, in a vain attempt to look the part (not that jeans would have immediately exposed me as a running novice, mind, and wearing shorts in freezing temperatures just made me look a twat).
When I entered the shop, I was greeted by a pleasant lady, who asked if she could help. I briefly explained about my history of running, and recent back pain, to which she – as anticipated – suggested that they film me on their treadmill, in order to analyse my gait.
Once I had confirmed that there were no treadmills in the window, and I was reasonably confident that my semi-naked jogging would be suitably clandestine (although I made a mental note to ask for the original footage, as I didn’t want my partially-clad derriere appearing on www.gulliblerunnersinpants.com – don’t bother clicking, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist), I reluctantly agreed.
She gave me a pair of ‘neutral’ trainers to start with, and we disappeared down to her basement of jogging-porn, to make our little film together. For security, I took Ollie with me, as I felt certain she wouldn’t try to seduce me in front of my son (regardless of the fact she was at least ten years my senior, and no woman has ever tried to seduce me, child present or otherwise), and I sat him down on a chair, while she got the camera ready.
“Ok, pop yourself on the treadmill when you’re ready.”
“Shall I take my shorts off?”
“Don’t you want me in my pants?”
“I beg your pardon?”
At this point, I made a mental note to give my colleague a severe bollocking, when I got back to work on the Monday.
She then passed me to her male assistant (presumably appalled by my offer of stripping), and he asked whether I was used to running on treadmills. Ah, time to embarrass myself further.
“No, I’m a virgin, sadly.”
“I mean a treadmill virgin. Not an actual virgin. That’s my son over there. Oh, I’ve had sex before, don’t you worry…”
“Just start walking.”
Now, those of you familiar with treadmills, may not recall your first time on one, but if you do, hopefully you found it as awkward as I did. I have been walking for roughly 36 years now, and never have I felt so weird doing it. I’m not sure what went wrong, perhaps it was the fact I had just tried to strip off (in front of my son), but I forgot how to walk. The closest I have found online, is this:
After about thirty seconds, the assistant gradually increased the speed, until I was running at a fair pace. Not sprinting, but fast enough to make me nervous, because it suddenly struck me that I had no idea how to stop. I panicked, and visualised my face slamming into the controls, before the machine catapulted me into the camera behind me.
I was also becoming increasingly conscious that I should perhaps have worn a sports bra. It was all rather distracting.
In the end, my fears were unwarranted, because the guy came back over, and despite making some quip about me being a better runner than I was a walker (smart-arse), he gradually slowed the machine, until I was back at walking pace, and then stationary. I had survived.
The lady then returned, and we all watched a thoroughly uninspiring movie of my legs in action. She reassured me that there was nothing unusual about my running style, nor my gait, and actually complemented me on having ‘excellent calf muscles’ (see, ladies, I do have something to offer), before suggesting three pairs of trainers which would be fine.
I was going to opt for the middle-priced pair, because the first ones I had tried on were above what I was happy to spend, and the cheapest were bright yellow (plus, I didn’t want to appear miserly, by immediately choosing the cheapest), but Ollie then pointed out that these would be good for my safety, when running in the dark, and he thought they were ‘cool’. Besides, although they were the cheapest pair of the three, they were still the most expensive trainers I have ever purchased, so the decision was made.
And here they are:
I have not yet taken these bad boys for a spin (gone running), because my new MP3 player was faulty and had to be returned, but so long as their maiden voyage is more successful than that of the Titanic (and I rather feel that, if I do run headlong into an iceberg, I’m doing it wrong), the prospect no longer fills me with dread.
Oh, and as for my colleague’s lies – about running in underwear – I was determined to get to the bottom of it (excuse the pun), so I confronted her the following week, and told her what had happened.
She immediately started laughing, then explained that it was her podiatrist who had made her run in her underwear, not the shop in Alderley Edge. It transpires that, whilst I was at the bar, deciding to follow her advice, I had missed a change in conversation.
“Oh God, you didn’t try to take your clothes off, did you?”
Erm, no, of course not.