Some Immutable Laws of Life – 5k and Beyond

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash – Still not my own legs, but almost tatty enough.

Well, the strange thing is that I am still running and that I do now appear to have worked my way up to 5k, whilst still finding that 30 minutes marks the exact limit of my endurance.  Now I am not listening to the nagging insistence of the Couch to 5k app, time actually does seem to pass a little easier.  I am able to clear my head a little.  Unfortunately, as with all voids, it is always on the look-out for something to fill it.  This is the sort of stuff that floods into my brain as I run.  It does at least take my mind off the running. 

  • Despite what is said in the eulogies, nobody that is both bright and beautiful has friends.
  • You will always feel stupid at an interview.
  • You will always feel fat at a Spa.
  • Nothing that was funny in the pub will ever be funny anywhere else.
  • Bathroom accidents only ever happen at somebody else’s house.
  • A standard shopping bag doubles in weight for every one hundred yards you carry it.
  • Beyond the age of sixty it is impossible to experience any kind of pain without fearing death.
  • If you only want half of a Buy One Get One Free offer, no-one will ever offer you the free half.
  • According to aerodynamicists, the bumble bee cannot fly – these people design aeroplanes!
  • It is not cool to wear sunglasses indoors – especially if you walk into the hat stand.
  • She almost certainly is too good for you.
  • There are no recorded instances of anyone ever eating a jam doughnut without getting it down their crotch.
  • You do not get better as you get older, you simply become less discerning.
  • The only person that ever loves a loser is the winner.
  • A picture is never worth a thousand words – unless it is a picture of a thousand words.
  • Breakfast meets Brunch where the price goes up.
  • Vertical stripes do not make you look taller – although they do make the ground look further away.
  • If you have just won at Monopoly, you can be sure that nobody likes you.
  • Toast is always hot until you eat it.
  • No Man is an island – unless you count the Isle of Man.
  • There is only one Willy Wonka and that Willy Wonka is Gene Wilder.

I may collect these thoughts together and publish a book, like Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, but with fewer jokes.  If you want to add any thoughts of your own, please feel free.

They Think It’s All Over – Couch to 5k The End of the Long Run

Photo by Daniel Reche on

Well, it actually is all over.  I would love to be able to tell you that it all ended in a blaze of glory, but I cannot.  It was more a splutter of indifference.  My knees hurt, my ankles hurt, my hip ached, my calf is sporting something that looks like a huge swollen bruise, and my bladder has still not learned to cope with the amount of water I have to drink in order to deal with thirty minutes of mouth breathing.  This morning I can hardly walk.  Getting fit has reduced me to a physical wreck.  I don’t think that I am well enough to be fit.  I am at least thirty years older than when I started this, ten weeks ago.

My big question now is, will I continue running?  I don’t know, there are a number of factors to consider:

  1. Do I enjoy it?  –  No, I don’t.  I can honestly say that not for a single moment whilst running have I ever thought to myself, ‘What good fun I am having’.  Running is torture, so why would I want to continue?
  2. Do I feel fitter?  –  No, I don’t.  Currently I would struggle to locate a non-aching bone in my body.  I can run for thirty minutes where ten weeks ago I would not have managed thirty seconds – but I’m still struggling to understand why I would really want to.  This country no longer has sabre-toothed tigers, so there’s little point.  If push comes to pull there is little of danger that I can’t stroll away from.
  3. Do I feel thinner? – Yes I do.
  4. Do I feel better for it? – No, I feel thinner.

So will I continue? – Almost certainly yes, unless I can find some way to stop without losing face.

I clocked my final ‘Couch to 5k’ thirty minute run at 4.85 kilometres, which is far enough away from 5k to make getting there a further challenge for me, but close enough to make in achievable.  This week, step by painful step, I begin eeking out my misery towards that goal.  An extra 150 metres (is that correct?) – I should get there in a matter of weeks – and then, I suppose, I will have to try and speed up a bit. 

My last run was in the rain and I found it so much more comfortable than my plods in the sun.  I have been considering taking water with me – but I think the extra weight will involve extra training, so I will stick with the chewing gum which I always regret after about five minutes.  Spitting it out is not acceptable – I work in the High Street, I have to contend with an ice-rink of the stuff in wet weather – and, although I run past a couple of bins, my eyesight is by then so bleary that I could not trust my aim at all, so I chew until my jaw aches (I wouldn’t want to leave my face out of its share of pain) and drop the tasteless little bud into my bin a few minutes after I get home – just as soon as the palpitations stop.

One thing that the Couch to 5k regime has taught me is that when I publish three blogs a week, I do not get adequate time to read those of other bloggers, so, although I do intend to keep you aware of my progress – to 5k and beyond – I probably will not do so with quite the regularity or verbosity of the last few weeks.  I hope that it means I can get to read a little more of what you all have to say and, therefore, bore you to death on the comments boards instead.

Anyway, this week ten post is really just to thank you for sticking with me through this – I’m guessing it was probably more painful for you than I – never forget, They also serve who stand and allow the little ginger bloke to whinge interminably. 

This post will be the last outing for the unknown runner’s legs at the head of the page, but they will not be replaced by my own legs at any future point.  Outraging Public Decency still, I think, carries a prison sentence and I would not be good in prison: I am allergic to woollen blankets, porridge, communal showers and dungarees with arrows on.  Mind you, if I ever managed to escape, I would at least know exactly how far away I could be in thirty minutes…

Devon Loch*, that’s all I’m saying – Couch to 5k week 9

Photo by Daniel Reche on

It’s not much of a hill, but my house is at the top of it.  It means that wherever I run, the second half of that run is always uphill – or else I don’t get home.  It is of no relevance, I just wanted you to know.

On my last twenty-eight minute run of week 8, I kept going by convincing myself that when I reached ‘the end’, I would continue to run for another two minutes, in order to prove that I would be ok this week.  When I got there, I couldn’t do it.  The problem is that I currently run until the bell rings to tell me that I am half way home, at which point I turn around and retrace my steps: I know exactly where I should be when I finish and my entire focus over those final minutes is on getting there.  When I cross that line, everything collapses around me – including me.  At that point, I am no more likely to run a further thirty seconds than another thirty days.  I am done.  It’s like asking a man who has just climbed Everest to shimmy up a step-ladder from the summit and fit a new light bulb.  If you aim to make the perfect apple crumble, does anybody actually expect you to put crushed nuts on top?

I ended last week in a bit of a panic.  Circumstances beyond my control pushed me from a Wednesday run to a Thursday run.  This meant that in order to maintain the regime, my final run of the week had to be on Saturday.  On Saturday I work all day, I have a long walk to and from, and I was due to see one of my daughters and two of my grandchildren an hour after getting home.  Could I fit a thirty eight minute session (including warm up and warm down) into that gap (particularly as my getting ready/psyching myself up/drinking lots of water/going for a last minute toilet break routine takes at least thirty minutes)?

Well, I did it.  The stress of the situation took my mind off the normal certainty of failure and – other than the failure to tag an extra two minutes on – I managed ok.  It was earlier than I normally run and the weather was very warm.  In my panic to get on with it, I forgot my knee supports, my chewing gum and my water, but I reached the end without any hint of stopping along the way.  It was the work of seconds to cleave my tongue from the roof of my mouth with a screwdriver after I had staggered home.  This week, I have discovered that the entire duration of a run is spent in an internal discussion with myself over the advisability of ‘just stopping for a few seconds’ and I fear that at least half of it is argued out loud.  People with dogs cross the road when they see me coming.  People without dogs hide behind trees…

I have now completed two of my thirty minute runs.  Tomorrow I will have finished ‘the course’ and a smugger person you will not be able to find.  It remains to be seen whether I will be able to gather together the motivation to keep going now.  I will keep you informed.

For my run, my musical ‘soundtrack’ consists largely of tracks that are five minutes long or more: during a thirty minute run I know that I should get through six songs.  There are, though, one or two shorter ones lurking therein and I cannot articulate the pain I feel when one of them starts to play.  It boots my meticulous planning right out of the window.  I cannot adjust the timings in my head and breathe at the same time.  After a short track has played, there is no way of calculating when I will enter the last five minutes of my personal hell – other than the voice of Jo Whiley telling me that I am just entering the last five minutes, of course – but the fury drives me on, so the shorter songs stay on the playlist.  I haven’t yet had a run without at least one shorter track puncturing my schedule.  When I do, it will surely infuriate me further.

One further thing I discovered this week.  I really should not have tracks with quiet intros on the playlist.  When they play, I can hear myself breathe – and that is very bad indeed.  Nobody should sound like that unless they are wearing an aqualung.

Today I met some old friends whom I have not seen since before lockdown and they commented on my loss of weight.  Like an idiot I told them that I have been running (I have previously told no-one outside of my family and my tiny roster of WP readers).  They were utterly appalled.  They could not have disapproved more if I had wee’d in their cocoa.  After we parted, I kept checking over my shoulder, in case they had reported me to the police.  I anticipated disinterest; disapproval on such a grand scale left me wondering whether I really was being reckless beyond the point of criminal culpability.  At least I won’t be so easy to catch in a chase now.

*Devon Loch jumped the last fence of the Grand National in 1956 comfortably in front of the rest of the field.  Inexplicably, it then fell attempting to jump a fence that did not exist in the finishing straight and did not finish.


Incremental Gains – Couch to 5k week 7

Photo by Daniel Reche on

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. 

Couch to 5k – an off-peak update.

Photo by Daniel Reche on

For those few of you who were kind enough to feign interest in my original Couch to 5k post, an update.

Week two and the jog/walk ratio has been cranked up a little: the jogs are longer (although definitely slower) whilst the walks have become a breathless stumble.  Definitely felt that I was moving backwards today: towards the end I was overtaken by a tortoise yelling ‘Up yours Aesop!’

My knees, which have loudly complained about mis-use since my late twenties, are shredded and steadfastly refuse to support my body without reinforcements of their own, but I plod on (although, for saying so, I fear that I probably leave myself open to being sued by The Plodder’s Union).  Throughout every run the mellifluous tones of the iridescent Ms Whiley assure me that it should all be getting easier, whilst I actually feel that death might be a release.  I believe that my lungs may have been harvested in my sleep and replaced with those of an asthmatic shrew.

I have never had a talent for running, but in my prime I had more than sufficient stamina to see me through three football matches per weekend.  These days I fear that I would struggle through a Subbuteo tournament without a substitute flicking finger.

Anyoldwayup, what I’m hoping for is an improvement next week because on the 15th I return to work and, whilst my job is not madly active, I am on my feet all day and I have a couple of miles walk to and from where I park my car, so an evening work-day run could become a whole new ballgame – or ignominious defeat, as it is known in this household…