Way, way back in 1980 I bought a book entitled ‘Jogging from Memory’ by Dr Rob Buckman1 who had the rare gift of reducing me to tears of laughter with his prose. ‘Jogging from Memory’ is a collection of articles he wrote for various publications and it contains the article, also titled ‘Jogging from Memory’, which I now realise is the 1,000 word distillation of everything I have spent the last three years trying to crowbar into my own paean to misplaced youth – only funnier. Much, much funnier…
Dr Buckman was twenty-nine years old when he wrote about agreeing to take part in a charity ‘jog’. Thirty minutes – how hard could that be for a fit young man, finely tuned on bagels and coffee and primed for action – as long as it wasn’t too early? Sadly the realisation confronted him with a nerve-shredding ‘clang’ as he was ‘lapped by a fell-walker and two marathon runners’ within eleven yards of the start: he was not as young nor as fit as he used to be (nor, he suspected, had ever been). I could quote a hundred different brilliant lines to you – although not without being sued – but I will not because, frankly, I am not up to that sort of comparison. I can only urge you to buy the book (I’ve checked, you can still find it) and for goodness sake, sit down before you read it.
I am sixty-two years old as I write this (I think, it’s so hard to remember) and the ‘ageing, crumbling frame’ to which the erstwhile, barely out of his teenage years, Dr Buckman refers has been clinging to my bones for a number of decades now. Delaying the decline, which was taking me from man to jellyfish, was the main reason I started to run – I love my time with the grandkids and I want it to last as long as possible: they will put up with me smelling faintly of wee and boring them to death with stories from the past only as long as I can still kick a ball and climb a tree. I have rarely enjoyed running2 but I do enjoy the fact that my physical well-being is much better since I started. I still feel like an old man – god dammit, I still am an old man – but I am now an old man who can run (in a fashion) without retching before I reach the garden gate; who can keep up with the grandkids when those, much younger, around me falter; who can pull up his own socks without the need for a chiropractor; who can wear a T-shirt without looking like a hippo in a sports bra; who can breathe in deeply without attracting dogs… I have found that, though running makes me, for the most part, somewhat more miserable than my normal curmudgeonly demeanour would have you believe, overall it makes me happier by allowing me to do more of what I want to do and – who knows – might just buy me a little more time in which to do it. It also means that I don’t feel quite so bad about the fact that I drink too much, eat too much and, given the option, do far too little – I remain a human slug, but definitely fitter than the slug I used to be.
In fact, what Dr Buckman’s little piece has done is to remind me that, although at certain times in my life I have been very fit, I have never been very fit at everything and most tellingly, when I played football regularly, cycled and circuit-trained (much to the dismay of my fellow work-out’ees, one of whom memorably asked me if I was on some kind of mental welfare scheme3) I was always useless at running, but now it doesn’t matter because I’m better at running than almost everything else I do4. At my age, it’s the memory that’s the problem: ask me what I was doing in 1965 and I’ll have a pretty good idea. Ask me what I was doing twenty minutes ago and I’ll have to sit down whilst my head stops spinning. My problem is not with jogging from memory as much as remembering why – and, in fact if – I was jogging in the first place. Mind you, if you’d asked me in 1980…
1. I previously mentioned this book, Dr Buckman and my very tenuous connection to him in a 2020 post entitled ‘Odds & Sods – One of My Socks is Missing’. (You can read it here if you feel so inclined.) Dr Buckman died, although possibly to his own surprise, not whilst jogging, in 2011(I include a link to his Wiki page here). In my post I also mentioned Des O’Connor who has also since sadly passed away. I would have included a link to his Wiki page, but since it does not mention ‘Dick-A-Dum-Dum’ I have not bothered.
2. I do actually remember feeling almost deliriously happy running one bright, sunny and warm spring morning during lockdown (I forget which lockdown) but it didn’t last long and I put it down to dodgy ceps.
3. I am slightly prone to the ‘hyper’ and my mouth can run-on several feet ahead of my brain.
4. I do, of course, pretty much nothing else.