(I wrote this post because Hayley told me to. It’s a bit of a theme…)
I have a lifelong phobia of “sport.” I was (and remain) the fat kid with glasses and no co-ordination. I fall over my own feet on a daily basis, and if a ball comes towards me, I squeak and hope it misses.
In recent years, I’ve found myself living in a village of runners. What started as a few isolated cases has spread to epidemic proportions in our isolated community. Road runners and fell runners; fun runners and ultramarathon maniacs. I happily ignored them all. Running wasn’t something I did. Ever. I was happy walking the hills, admiring the scenery, clocking up distances slowly but surely. Walking is therapy, not a sport, so my sport-free philosophy remained intact.
Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. She runs, and cycles, and does stuff with balls. For fun, so far as I can judge. Her life is full of sport, and she does like to get the whole village involved. I’ll call her the Gamesmaker, because she went off to volunteer at the Olympic velodrome this summer, proudly dressed in purple, and came back buzzing with even more sporting enthusiasm (also, have you read the Hunger Games? You should never ever mess with a Gamesmaker…)
A couple of things happened over this damp golden British summer.
Firstly, the Gamesmaker offered to take my Guides fell-running. I can only assume I was day-dreaming at the time, as I didn’t say no fast enough. I have a deal with my Guides that they have to try anything once. Which of course means that I have to try it too…
I searched for a prior engagement for that night, but failed to find one. I wailed, protested, and pleaded. Did the Gamesmaker understand that I couldn’t run? Did she want my death on her hands? She serenely ignored my tantrums. My Guides and I ran, one May evening. Nobody died. Nobody cried, even. Secretly, I was kind of proud of myself.
The second thing was that my daughter took up fell-running. Suddenly, my skin-and-bone nine year old was tearing past me up hills, and shouting, “Hurry up, mummy!” There was talk of training, races and carb-loading. Needless to say, this was all our friendly local Gamesmaker’s fault too; she set up a family running group, and invited my poor sweet innocent girl along. You may be beginning to spot a bit of a theme here…
I admit it, the idea of running kept popping into my head as the weeks went by. I’m happy to say I resisted, although it got harder to dismiss it entirely. The Gamesmaker must have sensed my defences lowering. Her final manoeuvre was a complex and cunning bluff. She appealed for someone to trade childcare so she could go for a run. I’ll pop round and watch the kids, I said. Just don’t make me run… She texted back: bring your trainers, and we’ll go out. I scratched my head. Perhaps my message had been ambiguous? I hit the ball into her court, accused her of bullying me. She rallied; it was just encouragement, nothing more. Her ploys worked. I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to say no. So I went running. For the second time. Slightly running, as I prefer to describe it. For the next two days, I whined a lot about how much my legs hurt, and it was all the Gamesmaker’s fault.
That was four weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been working my way through the Couch to 5K programme. It goes slowly, building up in tiny steps. I needed that, because the idea of running terrified me. The first run on my own was the hardest. I had a head full of reasons why I couldn’t do it. I’m busy, I’d just get injured, I can’t run, and oh, did I ever mention my biggest fear: that people might see me wobbling along, red and sweaty. But a little voice inside my head kept nagging me along. I made it to the end of that first run. By the time I’d showered, I was thinking about the next time…
It turns out it’s impossible to hate yourself while you’re running. Even the ache afterwards seems to chase the demons away.
Today I ran for five minutes without stopping. Twice. I’m 38 years old, have two degrees and three children, but I am ridiculously proud of this tiny achievement.
In most areas of my life, I’m very goal oriented. So far as running goes, I’m deliberately only looking one step ahead, to my next run. An infinite, yet undefined goal. Faster, higher, stronger.
The Gamesmaker casually threw details of a 5k race in November into a recent conversation. I pretended I hadn’t heard her, but who knows…