James, if you are reading this, please tell me that it gets easier. I have no ducks to distract me on my run (or geese) and I have discovered what a very long time twenty five minutes is. I realise that when I started this, twenty five seconds would have found me, hands on knees, hawking into the gutter – but if I’m honest, I still feel like that after twenty five seconds, it’s just that I now grit my teeth and plod on for a further twenty four and a half minutes, hating every second and feeling like John Hurt must have done just before the Alien exploded out of his chest. Today I swallowed a fly after about three minutes and spent the next twenty two coughing. People were giving me so much space.
Jo Whiley’s voice in my ear keeps telling me that I must be finding it easier now, that I am probably running faster. No. No, twenty five minutes of running does not feel easier than the sixty second bursts I was doing seven weeks ago. In fact it seems about twenty five times as hard. No Jo, I am not running faster. I could not slow down if I tried. I would need a reverse gear and my knees would not cope with it. If I’m honest, I am beginning to regret choosing to be accompanied by Ms. Whiley. She is just too bloody cheerful. I really should have chosen Sarah Millican, but I feared that she might make me laugh – and I cannot afford to squander perfectly good oxygen on that malarkey, thank you very much.
I have developed a blind and sullen bloody-mindedness that propels me through each run, even though the attitude of ‘I’ll do it, even if it kills me,’ does not provide quite the same level of motivation now as it once did. Although I remain to be persuaded that it won’t actually kill me. At my age, death is certainly closer to being within my grasp than fitness.
In addition to the silken tones of Ms Whiley, I am accompanied on each run by the nagging little voice of my own devilish antonym-ish Jiminy Cricket repeating the words, ‘Why on earth are you doing this? Nobody gets credit for being a fit-looking corpse.’ I have always hated grasshoppers. They pretend to jump, but I think that really they fly. I find it hard to trust anything that rubs its legs together to get a girlfriend. Locusts are in no way lovable. Even with a top hat and cane. I do not need a supernumerary orthopteral conscience. I have more than enough trouble with the one I’ve got, thank you very much. Anyway, despite its chiding voice of caeliferan common sense, I will not give in. Who wants to be a real boy when the puppet gets all the laughs?
I have my Bluetooth headphones back in operation and, working on the policy of incremental gains as employed so successfully by British Cycling for many years, I figure that the loss of the weight attached to dispensing with almost a metre of copper wire must be worth at least a couple of dozen yards on my clock at the end of the run. As I explained earlier, when I am struggling, I cannot actually help myself by running slower, but there are a few things that I have learned on my thrice weekly lopes around the village that help me breathe (albeit painfully). I have learned that, if it is at all possible, it is better to run on the road than the undulating path/driveway/path route offered by the pavement. It doesn’t sound much, but the unevenness of the path is somehow incredibly draining. Besides, there’s always the chance that I might get knocked-over on the road and not have to finish the run. Driveways, however, must always be utilised when crossing the road – lifting the foot high enough to tackle a kerb is a totally unjustifiable expenditure of energy. I have discovered that whenever I think that it might be a good idea to speed up just a little bit, I am unerringly wrong. It is always a bad idea for me to speed up. I have discovered that pretending that I am not at death’s door fools nobody, but simply uses up energy: I will finish much quicker if I just give myself up to exhaustion and shame. If I can just shift this monkey from my back I should be flying…
I realise that you are in no way interested, but I have discovered that the tracks that give me a little ‘pep’ when they play during my run are:
- Cocaine – Eric Clapton
- Ribcage – Kasabian
- Everlong – Foo Fighters
- I Feel Free – Cream
- Trampled Underfoot – Led Zeppelin
- Survival – Muse
- Fool’s Gold – Stone Roses
- Sowing the Seeds of Love – Tears for Fears
- Check Out Time 11 AM – Sparks (I’m fully aware of what you might be thinking. Just check it out – it’s on YouTube!)
If I’m honest, the list probably says more about the speed I run than the music I like to run to.
If you would like to suggest anything else I should try, please feel free.
The previous Couch to 5k instalment, ‘The Extreme Elasticity of the Pain Threshold’ is here.
The next Couch to 5k instalment, ‘The Look’ is here.
Couch to 5k begins here.