I have still not returned to running. I will soon, but currently sloth-life pulls too hard on me. Somehow, since the Lockdown has started to ease and I have returned to employment, my current two days per week appear to leave me less free time than my previous five. I have neither time nor energy to press the clutch far enough to allow me to get my arse into gear. In order to address my problems, or at least understand them, I decided that a ‘Why I am not running’ list was in order:
- I am a lazy git. OK, I’ll get this out of the way first. It is, after all, the ‘Big One’. I try very hard not to be lazy – well, as hard as being very lazy allows – but God knows it is tempting: it’s blowing a gale outside, scything down with icy rain, turning just dark enough for me to stumble through a heap of freshly deposited horse doo-doo and wind up on my arse on somebody’s front lawn, but just think how much better I will feel if I just get out and do it. Mind you, just think how much better I will feel if I simply stay exactly where I am, with Columbo on the telly, a giant-squirrel sized bag of dry-roasted peanuts in one hand and a tumbler full of Scotland’s finest in the other. Also warm and dry. I may be lazy, but I am not entirely stupid. If I concentrate hard enough, I can imagine the aches and pains. Pour a gallon of water over myself and block my airways with a furry doorstop and no-one need ever know that I have not actually ventured outside of the house.
- I am not entirely stupid*. I realise that, at my age, it is imperative that I get exercise. I just wish that it wasn’t all quite so tiring. I realise that looking as godawful as I do mid-run is good for the soul. I realise that thirty minutes a day is not too much to ask of me. Thirty minutes to exercise heart and limbs, to clear my mind and to put my life into some kind of perspective before diving under the shower and wishing that I had remembered to put the head back on it after clearing the limescale from the tiny little nozzle bits. Then I think ice cream and coffee, and the world no longer seems so monochrome…
- I have many reasons to keep myself well, but… I am the King of ‘but’. Everything makes perfect sense, ‘but’… I know exactly what I need to do ‘but’… I am also prince of ‘if’ and archduke of ‘except’. If ever there was a Nobel Prize for dithering, my ‘if only’ would be a shoe-in for the big one.
- My age. The balancing act that inhabits the space between what will enable me to and what will prevent me from reaching my next birthday: another doughnut might just kill me, but if you stand between me and it, death may still occur, although it won’t be mine. Each action requires balance between its capacity to point me either towards, or away from, death. A life without risk may not actually be any longer, but it will certainly feel it. Think of anything you love (I don’t know why I decided to allow free-choice there, as we are all, in fact, thinking of chocolate and wine) and consider the choice: you can live ninety years with it, or ninety one without it. Maybe if you continue to run, you could push your sinful lifespan up to ninety one as well, but if you don’t, you will be able to fit in so much more chocolate. How much time is a small pleasure worth? Put a Mars Bar in the fridge overnight and then eat it carefully layer by layer. Now tell me that wasn’t worth losing a couple of days for.
- My aching limbs. Even I have started to struggle with this justification for indolence as everything now aches just as much, if not more, when I do not run, although somehow, if I haven’t run then I can’t help but feel that I am not to blame for it: my knees feel as though they have been bent along a plane in which they were never intended to operate, but I haven’t been running, therefore it is not my fault – I can live with that.
- D.I.Y. The jobs I have to do. The jobs that running prevents me from doing. ‘No, I haven’t finished the painting, but I have put several centimetres between myself and death.’ ‘No, I haven’t stopped that socket from fusing out the whole neighbourhood each time you attempt to make coffee, but on the other hand, my caffeine intake is well down.’ ‘Yes, I do realise that it is only a thirty minute run and it really shouldn’t absorb half of the day, but just think of how much more healthy I will be for a couple of hours.’ ‘Fix the shelf? Tomorrow maybe – I’m knackered.’
- Lassitude. A wonderful word that I learned some fifty years ago through the wonderful ‘The Ascent of the Rum-Doodle’** and which has fizzed about whichever part of my brain is responsible for improbable excuses ever since. I will never admit to being a lazy git***, but suffering from lassitude, I can’t do anything about that, now can I?
In reality, like an errant monk evicted from the monastery on the grounds of uneven tonsure and the failure to adequately decorate the first letter of every diary entry, I will emerge into the real world next week, blinking in the unaccustomed glare of sunshine on May frost and, DIY tasks left firmly behind me – whilst I ponder how I am going to afford somebody to come in and put it all right – I will without doubt, almost certainly, probably, possibly start to run again and you will be able to look forward to settling down to five hundred finely-honed words on ill-fitting trainers or the advisability of supportive undergarments with loose-fitting shorts – unless, of course, you have something – anything – more invigorating to do…
*‘The Ascent of the Rum Doodle’ by W.E.Bowman. If you have never read it, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
***Of course I will, and did at the start of this piece – denying it is just too much like hard work.