The Extreme Elasticity of the Pain Threshold – Couch to 5k week 6

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

One thing that running does give you is the time you need to really torture yourself mentally.  To reprimand yourself for things you might have done – or might not have done; for the things you should have done, but didn’t; for saying the things that you surely could have found a better way of saying.  It also gives you more than ample time to consider what on earth you think you are doing with your life – and why, from the feel of things, you are making a determined attempt to shorten it?  Can it possibly be healthy for a man of your age to feel so very close to Death’s door?  Who’d have possibly guessed that that particular threshold was barely a kilometre from your own?  If Death was your neighbour, would you invite him round for tea?  Hope that he is a little more lenient with the man who let him have the last HobNob?  Or would you try to ignore him, keep your head down and hope that he doesn’t notice you?  How would you cope with his overhanging branches breaking the panels in your greenhouse roof, or the fact that bits of his fence keep falling on your begonias?  It’s not easy to strike the right balance with a man who spends the whole day sharpening his scythe, but never cuts the lawn…  Running is intended to put some distance between the two of you, but somehow, it just brings you closer.

I have now grown used to being overtaken by younger runners, usually in groups (What is, I wonder, the collective noun for a group of runners?  A Totter?  A Gasp?*) chatting lightly as they trip lightly by the heavy footed, wheezy old man checking his heart to make sure it is still going.  It does not worry me.  Other runners are usually polite.  They cross the road when they see me ahead and stoically refuse the opportunity to sing ‘Lip Up Fatty’ as they fly by.  Later in the run I may be overtaken by old ladies walking their dogs.  That bothers me.  Old ladies simply smile as they are reminded of their long-dead fathers and offer me their zimmer.  It is difficult to get cross with somebody who is sporting a blue rinse and walking a dog so small that it could possibly be bullied by a buffed-up vole – particularly when they are probably fitter than me – so I always do the same thing: I smile and, as much as breathlessness allows, pass the time of day in the friendliest way that I can muster, before I gather up my dignity and jog on.  I might not feel great, but at least I don’t feel like an arse.

Last week I felt as though I might be nearing the fullest extent of my pain and perseverance thresholds.  This week I appear to be exactly the same distance from them which, given the incremental rise in effort required in this programme, is I suppose, ok.  It doesn’t feel ok, but given that each successive day is currently accompanied by an extra twist on the rack, it’s probably as good as I can expect it to be. 

I am still running in a pair of trainers that I found at the back of the garden shed.  I can’t face going in to town to buy new ones.  The shops that sell trainers have staff and I can’t stand pity.  Besides, these are ok as long as I wear very thin socks and wrap my toes in Elastoplast.  When I was a boy, playing football in secondhand boots, my dad used to make me sit with the soles of my feet in surgical spirit to toughen them up.  Sometimes I watch the news and wish he’d done it to my soul…

*I have just looked it up and, disappointingly, it is ‘a Field’.  Exercise and lack of imagination do seem to go hand in hand sadly. 

The Power of Two – Couch to 5k Week 5

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

I see people running in pairs and I cannot help but believe that one of them must feel that they are being held back by the other – whilst the other is trying to devise a means of suffering the kind of injury that means they will never have to do that again!  Some of them chat.  Unbelievable!  What can you possibly chat about whilst running?  Surely pain and anguish begins to pall as a topic after a while.  There are only so many times you can gasp ‘I seriously think I might die,’ and expect to elicit a concerned response.  I thoroughly annoy myself whilst running – I cannot imagine what I might do to somebody else.  Not that idle chat is an option for me.  To be honest, I’m not even sure that I am up to idle listening.  Besides, I still have Jo Whiley plugged into my ear at the moment.  Her voice is encouraging, seductive and soothing and really quite irritating after a while.  If she tells me how well I am doing one more time, I will seek her out and place a dried pea in her trainers.  An idle threat, I assure you, but as a man who has recently run some distance with a Lego Fireman’s Hat wedged under his big toe nail, I can vouch for its effect: it would certainly slow her down.  Let’s see how chirpy you would be then, Jo!  She keeps assuring me that she has ‘been there.’  Really?  When were you last an overweight 60 year-old Ms. Whiley?  When did you last look down at your sagging old body and realise that if you lived in Alaska, the Inuit would eat you?  When did you last take stock of what might make you attractive to the opposite sex and be quite happy to stop at zero?  (Should she be reading this, which quite patently she is not, I must point out that her voice has, in fact, kept me going many times when I wanted to stop.  Who could possibly wantonly let Jo Whiley down?)

It’s a very weird thing about losing weight as you get older: you don’t appear to get thinner, you just get saggier.  Somehow I appear to have more skin, but less to put in it.  Is that normal?  I’m not expecting a six-pack from anywhere here – just that my skin might put in some kind of effort to keep up with the rest of me.

Last week’s runs were a real effort after a full day on my feet at work and a thirty minute walk to and from, but I got through them.  I look at next week’s itinerary and I can’t help but think that I have already met my threshold.  It is beginning to reach the point where I know that one of us is going to have some kind of cataclysmic breakdown.  Either I will have broken the Couch to 5k’s back and there will be nothing new it can throw at me – I will have absorbed all the pain it has to offer and come up grimacing chirpily – or part of me will give-way in such a dramatic fashion that it could quite possibly push Meryl Streep into second place.  I am becoming quietly determined and it worries me.  I have barely told anyone (except for you lot) that I am doing this – they would just think that it is some kind of elaborate joke – and quite honestly, at the moment, I cannot view it as a laughing matter.  Determination is not something that sits well with me: I have always got through by simply trying to ensure that whatever washes over me, doesn’t drown me – but now I’m trying to stay afloat.  My dog-paddle is ungainly but effective (or would be if I had four legs) and happily, I haven’t sunk just yet.

One last word for Ms Whiley though: whatever she implores me to tell myself, I am most certainly and absolutely NOT a runner.  I will never be a runner.  And I will never, ever share my run with another soul – well, not unless they’re slower than me, of course…