The Running Man on Stopping

I thought that I might stop the running diary: it has a very patchy readership – although that, in itself, is not unusual.  Day by day, post by post, the (lack of) quality within my blog remains more or less constant, yet the readership goes up and down in a manner that I just cannot fathom.  There have been occasions when I have published a post only because I have nothing else.  It has often been a toss-up as to whether to go for ‘no post’ or something I feel to be substandard.  I always go for ‘substandard’ – it’s been many years since I have felt comfortable in falling back on ‘My homework is in the dog’ – so I use what I have got, and therein lies my problem.  The posts that I do not believe to be good enough often get lots of reads and lots of likes and I am always left wondering why?  Perhaps I should write badly all the time.  (Oh come on now.  That’s below the belt!)  Nobody who writes is ever fully content with what they have written, but I have from time to time published a post that I have been largely happy with and often, those are the posts that go down the toilet quickest.  I clearly do not write for me.

Not being my own audience is my biggest problem.

I have realised that the more I ‘polish’ a post, the less it is liked.  I use my own voice most of the time now and that seems to work the best.  (I wonder what I sound like to you?  I can hear me.  I sound like a camp history teacher.  Is that how you hear me?  Hearing myself on audio or video playback makes me cringe and laugh at the same time – unfortunately, normally in the wrong order.  It’s hard to know what you sound like to other people, isn’t it?  It’s like colour.  We both know that grass is green, but do we both see the same colour?  Is my green red and your green blue?  My brother is colour-blind and I really struggle to understand it.  If he really can’t tell the difference between blue and green, why doesn’t he keep falling off cliffs?)  I wrote a series of ten-minute monologues a little while ago about a fictional village which were perfect for podcast so, to see how they sounded, I recorded a couple.  Oh dear.  Imagine Alan Bennett’s more monotone sister.  I cannot believe the sound that comes out of my mouth.  It’s the aural equivalent of watching wallpaper being stripped.  It’s like chillies in honey – whatever you are looking for, it is all there, just definitely not like you want it.

I know, also, that with blogging there is a knack to getting the title right.  Asking questions is apparently a sure way to get readers.  My whole life is a question.  I do not need readers, I need answers.  Perhaps if I just add a question mark to the end of each title my readership might go up (it can’t go down).  There must be a way of fashioning Categories and Tags to pull people in.  I should learn it, but…  I enjoy the writing.  I would like to have more readers – my wife finds it hard to understand why I devote so much time to writing this drivel for the weekly consumption of ten regular readers and four hundred algorithms.  It’s just what I do.  It is what keeps me sane.  Wibble. 

This morning I received bad news upon bad news and then I went for a run.  I realised that running is now also what I do to keep myself sane.  This running diary should, by my own ‘rules’ stop with the end of ‘Lockdown’, and I fear that it might, like Only Fools and Horses, perhaps run on just a little too long if I’m not careful.  For now, as I continue to run even as Lockdown measures begin to ease (no turning back – you heard Boris say so) the running diary will continue, but it will have less to do with running than what is rattling around inside my head as I run, and when that little voice ceases prattling on, then the diary won’t be all that stops…

Today’s thought of the day:  Colin’s First Rule of Decorating – the brush you need is always the brush you don’t have.

The Return of the Running Track of the Day: Jimmy Hendrix – Red House.

My first sad trundle into running started with ‘Couch to 5k’ – here.
Last week’s running farago ‘The Running Man On the Go’ is here.

The Running Man on the Path

I would choose, if it was safe, to run on the roads rather than the paths.  The paths around here are very much the second choice for running.  For a start they would appear never to have recovered from being bombed in the war: it would be uncharitable to call the craters that litter them ‘potholes’ – I think ‘fox-holes’ would be more appropriate: they are wide enough to defy hurdling and deep enough to conceal ancient Japanese soldiers who still do not know that the war is over.  Dodging them pretty much doubles the distance of a run.  Then, where there are no potholes, there are drives.  For some reason this village specialises in driveways that merge with the road via something with sides that appear to have fallen off a rift valley.  Those that do not treat you to an up and down of about six feet over a car’s width, indulge you, instead, in a headlong dive either into the road or somebody’s garden, as the whim takes them.  After a ‘path run’ my knees feel like they have just done ten minutes on a bouncy castle with my grandkids – the most strenuous exercise known to man.  And finally, of course, the paths have dog walkers…

I know, I know, I have been here before, but really!  What is it all about?  Normally if I am running in the road, providing I stick to the gutter – that’s quite enough of that, thank you – approaching cars ease out a little to give me room.  I always acknowledge them.  Everyone is happy.  If I am on the path and have to pass anyone – a novelty for someone who runs at a speed somewhat short of walking pace – I move into the road if I can, or cross to the other side.  None of this is possible when the rain means that the road is as slippery as a greased eel.  I stick to the path and gauge my speed, the best I can, to pass walkers at a convenient point, causing both of us the minimum inconvenience and allowing the maximum distance.  Now, I am a walker too.  I do realise that walkers do not want a shagged-out senior citizen panting all over them at close quarters.  It’s easily sorted.  We all move a little and everyone is happy.  Normally pleasantries are exchanged and the world carries on turning.  Unless the walkers are attached by a leash to a dog, in which case the path becomes a kingdom to be defended.  None shall pass.  A laird whose territory extends exactly to the end of the pooch’s lead.

Most of what passes for rational thought when I am running, is expended on where I should be in order to cause the minimum inconvenience to other path and road users: on plotting a path that keeps everybody as safe as possible and, if possible, avoids the necessity for a trip to A&E with my leg in a makeshift splint, cunningly fashioned from pieces of the larchlap fence I have just crashed through.  A walker, on seeing a runner approaching, will normally move to one side, the runner to the other and it is very easy to manufacture a point of crossing that coincides with a driveway.  Two metres is an easy distance to gauge: imagine falling over; would you crack your head on the path or on the other person’s toe-cap?  A walker with a dog, however, will glare and stop, with great deliberation, between driveways before moving to the very centre of the path, giving you the simple choice: go ‘dog-side’ and risk a trip through somebody’s hedge, or go ‘idiot-side’ and risk a high-wire act along the kerb whilst they glare at you and defy you to breathe their air.  With the road out of bounds, the ‘full stop’ is the only way out, whilst they walk by at their leisure, snorting gently from the nose.  I was actually asked today whether I was ‘allowed to be doing that’.  ‘Lockdown,’ apparently, ‘is not over yet.’  I was about four hundred yards from home.  I did not recognise my interrogators – who were even more ancient than me – but I’m guessing they were probably not from the village, that they drove here to walk the pooch – doubtless because they have run out of places to dump their plastic wrapped bundles of faeces closer to home.

I could have stopped to argue, but, to be quite frank, it’s such a battle to gain momentum that, once I’ve got it, I don’t want to let it go.  I could have said something caustic en passant, but I’m not certain that my breathing was up to it; I could have given them a withering look, but I fear they may have thought I was having a stroke, so I settled for a cheery ‘And a good morning to you too.’  They didn’t see the irony.  I must be slipping.

The whole running saga started here with ‘Couch to 5k’
Last week’s bulletin ‘The Running Man on Reasons to be Cheerful’ is here.
The next Running Man bulletin ‘…On the Go’ is here.

The Running Man on Reasons to be Cheerful

OK, I am willing to concede that ‘cheerful’ may not always be my default setting, but today’s run has found me with a certain (if slightly demented) smile on my face.  (I’m sure that you’ve got the drift by now that the day of writing is not necessarily the day of publishing – I am nowhere near that organised – so, if meteorological references do not match up with what you are seeing through your window today, I apologise.  I have posted a nice photo at the top to help you with your ‘visualisation processes’.  In truth, this disconnection may be even more profound today, because I am actually writing this down tomorrow, as it were, for reasons that may – or may not – become clearer as we go along).   Today (that being yesterday as I write and possibly even last week by the time you read it) I ran in beautiful Spring sunshine*.  The white carpet of snowdrops that glisten along the hedgerows has been supplemented by yellow and violet crocuses (croci?) aconytes, narcissi and daffodils; the sky is blue and cloudless and the sun is warm on my back.  Even the sight (site?) of an abandoned TV, three-quarters of somebody’s old kitchen and a three-legged dining room chair in the ditch at the side of the road only impacts on my mood transiently.  Spring has sprung and I am in high spirits.  I have discovered that I am capable of running and being happy at the same time.

Breathing is, sadly, a bit of an issue: the trees are pumping out pollen like their future depends upon it (which, of course, it does) and most of it is making its way up my snout.  I have tissues in both pockets and both hands and I cannot even smell the giant heap of steaming manure that has materialised in the field alongside the newly built houses – although I’m pretty sure that the ‘new to the countryside’ owners can (nobody ever fully appraises you of the fact that for large chunks of the year, all that rural England smells of is Cow Parsley and shit) – but I am not dispirited.  It is Spring and I am enjoying my run – even when the grinning ‘Community Ambulance’ driver forces me off the road and through something brown and sticky.  (I’m hoping it’s mud.  I will find out soon enough when I get home and my wife – who has the olfactory acuity of a bloodhound – gets a whiff of it**.)  I ran further than I have before and I ran quicker.  I am a man reborn.  This heightened mood could last until the very last pickings of brambles in the autumn, or until the very next ministerial broadcast on Covid – you can probably guess which is the most likely.

Which brings me on to the evening (and the reason why today is actually yesterday) and the local Covid vaccination station.  Yesterday we were Astra Zeneca’d (I’m not coming over all Royal Family there, we were both vaccinated).  It has cheered me up even further.  It was brilliantly organised and everyone was so cheerful and helpful (Thank you NHS) even when the internet failed – the site is in the middle of nowhere – and we had to sit for twenty minutes whilst many uniformed people wandered around looking perplexed.  I presume that the confusion means that it hadn’t happened before: it was waiting for me.  Well, I don’t care.  It can bugger off.  I’m happy***.

We visited four ‘chip shops’ on the way home as we decided we deserved a treat.  The first two were closed.  The third refused to put anything new in the friers because they were about to close and didn’t want to waste chips – the fact that we were there to buy them did not, somehow, compute – would we like a pie?  The fourth was open and proudly displayed the fact that it was under new ownership.  It was truly awful.  The best thing about it was the satisfying ‘thunk’ it made as it hit the bin.  I had ice cream with golden syrup and cream instead.  (Oh come on – try it.  You’ll never look back.)  A good day that ended far too late to write about – particularly as it was time to get back up to speed with ‘Line of Duty’.

Reasons to be cheerful?  Today (Tomorrow/yesterday, who knows?) there are plenty.  Don’t worry; it’s unlikely to last…

*A note from the future: today it is cold and murky.  Everything is shrouded in a thick blanket of fog.  As is usual in this country, Spring has both sprung and disappeared with an alarming synchronicity.  Somehow we have skipped onto Autumn, which means that another bout of Winter is almost certainly bound to arrive, shrivelling spring blooms and freezing the blossom from the trees, with the consequence that when Spring finally arrives again, all that the sleepy little bees will find with which to make honey will be KFC wrappers, somebody’s discarded dining arrangements and a strangely besieged helleborous.
**A further note from the future: it wasn’t mud.
***Yet another note from the future: we both had a headache the following morning, but nothing worse than that.  Still happy. 

The whole sorry tale of my attempts to run stated here with ‘Couch to 5k’
The previous instalment or the Running Man diaries, ‘The Running Man on Plodding On’ is here.
The next Running Man ‘...On the Path’ is here.

The Running Man on Plodding On

You see, when I fell back into these ‘Running Man’ posts at the start of Lockdown #3, in January, I really didn’t anticipate the possibility that I could still be at it in mid-April*.  It was quite simple initially, to write down the kind of moronic ‘chatter’ that goes on inside my head whilst the rest of my being is otherwise engaged, but I am quickly coming to the realisation that my sub-conscious is just as boring as the rest of me.  The random thoughts that once flashed in and out have settled into the rut that my conscious mind has vacated due to a toxic mixture of herbal tea, boredom and rising damp.  Somebody has pissed on my fireworks.  The problem is that what has begun to make these running posts so difficult is at the same time what first made them feasible: Lockdown – initially it gave me a raison d’être, but ever since then it has searched out new ways of gumming up the works.  What was once escape has become isolation.  I am no longer looking inward or outward: most of the time I am just not looking.

My view of myself within the world has always been as something of an ‘outsider’.  Not fundamentally different, just not quite the same.  You know, the little cupcake that sinks whilst all the others rise.  I am the semi-collapsed and chocolate-less amorphous malty blob in the packet of Maltesers: the dismembered legs in a bag of jelly babies.  Three Lockdowns and many enforced months of watching the world drift by, just out of touch on the other side of a window, has merely made me realise that it is nothing new to me.  This is how normally I view the world.  I am a dislocated shoulder: I look like the other shoulder, but I don’t quite work like it.  I can help you to tote that bale, but I won’t half grumble about it.  Alan Bennett said of the late Russell Harty that his skill lay in saying – however indiscrete – what everybody else was thinking.  I have found that it is not until after I have said what everybody else is thinking that I discover they are not.  Just me.

My head is a sponge for ‘bad’: shame, regret, doubt – once it finds its way in there, it will never be released.  It batters around like a stick in a candy floss** machine, getting bigger by the second, more and more swamped in goo, more and more difficult to swallow.  I have had many years to get used to myself.  I don’t have to like me, but I have little choice other than to live with me.  Most of what is good about me is what makes me popular with the grandkids – I’m just not very good at the adult stuff.  I do try to change the bad bits as best I can, but who can actually, fundamentally, change what they are?  In the real world, Pinocchio would still be an oafish puppet and Geppetto would still be eating frozen meals for one.  If I ever found myself conversing with a top-hatted grasshopper, I would seek help.  I don’t need a talking insect to tell me that I should be better.  I am fully conversant with the fact.

And it is at this point that my regular runs have begun to get troublesome.  Like, I imagine, everybody else over the last few months, I have spent quite a lot of time looking in on myself: quite a lot of time trying to figure out how I would get on with me if I was somebody else.  (I fear that if ever I was to attend a ‘Speed Dating’ session, I would find myself sitting at the table marked ‘Toilet Break’.)  Sadly, I don’t have any more answers now than I did a year ago – although knowledge of ignorance must count for something.  I just have much more time to ask the questions – and most of that time seems to be available whilst I’m running.  Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I am certainly ill-equipped to decide, but I’m fairly certain that unless I manage a prat-fall into a ditch soon, or rupture my spleen in a comically inept effort to sidestep an intransigent dog-walker, it is not terribly entertaining.  I will try to buck myself up.  After all, good times are just around the corner.  In England, Boris has detailed his ‘road map’ to recovery, the ‘end’ is on the horizon and, honestly, I don’t think it can come soon enough…

*When the Government hopes we should begin to move towards some kind of normality.
**Cotton-Candy, I think, for those of you with the rather less fanciful US version of the English language at your fingertips.

This whole sorry saga began here with Couch to 5k
The next episode of the Running Man ‘…Reasons to be Cheerful’ is here.
The previous episode of the Running Man ‘…Not Running’ is here.

The Running Man and the Hip

This post is not about being fashionable, it is about wearing out.  Something is going on with my hip with which I am not altogether comfortable.  I fear ironmongery is just around the corner.  I am currently teetering, arse just millimetres above the sharpened tip of the horn of a dilemma.  I cannot deny that my hip aches after I run, but it aches more when I don’t run.  Do I keep on running, bearing in mind that I just might be doing more harm than good, or do I stop running and just let the bloody thing seize up?  (Time to point out, this is a rhetorical question.  I am as stubborn as a very very stubborn thing.  I will continue to run as long as I am capable.  In my mind, keeping all of my failing joints moving can only be a good thing.  Sooner or later, something will stop me – probably an ill-judged bus – but until then, I jog on.)

I get no pain whatsoever from my hip whilst I am running.  It is one of the few smug joints that does not give me gyp during exercise.  It waits until three A.M. and then begins its toothache throb.  I am very stubborn about painkillers as well.  I do not take them.  I remember my grandma telling her doctor that she did not want to take painkillers because, if she did, she would have no way of knowing that the pain had stopped.  I kind of get that: you will almost certainly still be taking them when you don’t need to.  Occasionally my knees demand that they remain encased in supports throughout the day, but generally they are much more robust than they were six months ago.  My ankles are almost strong enough to support the rest of me unaided these days.  Also, I think that it might help all of my movable lower bits and bobs that there is quite a lot less of me for them to support now – and running is the only way, that I can actually think of, to maintain that.  I eat crap, I drink too much and in all other respects I am a total sloth; running is my only vice.

Also, I must report that spring is definitely just around the corner.  I ventured out today in nothing more than shorts (over leggings) and a T-shirt (over a sleeveless vest and under a long sleeved ‘T’).  I have shed the fleece joggers and the fluorescent jacket – although not yet the hat and gloves.  Snowdrops stand in clumps around the base of trees, peeking out from winter-long grass, trembling in the breeze; daffodil buds are pushing through the soil; all around me the birds are doing whatever it is that birds do in the spring.  Doubtless, somewhere, the bees are at it like knives.  Spring always seems to me to bring about the fastest transformation in the planet.  Suddenly everything that is not turning green, is mating.  The world renewed.  Except this year it all seems somehow wasted.  All of this wonder to witness and nobody to witness it, unless it is happening within whatever is perceived as a suitable distance from your front door step.

My run today took me over the swollen village beck, bereft of kids with nets; across the village sports field (technically known, in these covid times, as the village field); through the empty pub garden and finally the village churchyard – suddenly ablaze with the colour of dozens of new bouquets in vases – and although my heart sank at the emptiness of it all, my hip did not complain at all. 

In keeping with my pledge at the start of the year, I changed my avatar yesterday to a slightly more hairy Lockdown version of me and it made me think that it is time for a new photo to accompany the Running Man.  I think that I probably should make it clear, in order to forestall any threat of litigation, that the legs in the photo are not mine (that’s never going to happen) but they do, at least, appear to be running…

The next Running Man episode ‘The Running Man on Running’ is here.
The last Running Man episode, ‘The Running Man and the Weather’ is here.
The whole sorry saga started with ‘Couch to 5k’ here, whilst we were still coping with Lockdown 1.

The Running Man and the Weather

My last three runs have been in the rain.  This is a new thing for me.  I have played sport in all types of weather.  I once played football on a pitch that was both waterlogged and frozen.  I skidded through a large puddle near the corner flag, broke the ice on top of it and cut my leg badly enough for a trip to A&E.  It’s fair to say that the nurses saw me coming: my sport/weather record is not a good one.  My wife will not let me out to run in the ice and snow as I cannot even walk on the bloody stuff.  I am the man that always falls over on the High Street leaving all onlookers severely torn between concern and laughter.  Laughter normally triumphs.  It’s not a new thing to me.  I cannot even blame advancing years.  I have never been able to remain upright on anything even remotely slippery – and that most definitely includes wet leaves.  I have been badly sun-burned playing cricket, I have been blown off my bike by the wind whilst still in the village and I decided in May last year, when I started this running malarkey that I would not run in precipitation of any kind.  Instead I ran through the kind of early summer that my parents used to reminisce about.  I didn’t actually try to fry an egg on the car bonnet, because I’ve always been sceptical about the veracity of the claim that it is possible quite frankly, but if it was ever possible, I ran through the kind of heat that made it so. …And this week I ran in the rain.

I have discovered a number of things during the course of this wet week.  Firstly, I have discovered how much I sweat when it is not raining.  I know this because my running kit is in exactly the same state when I get home, regardless of the weather.  I always thought that as I got fitter – and I am fitter now than I was a year ago – I would sweat less, but it is not the case.  Even the exertion of getting into my kit makes me perspire.  I discovered that being fit for one thing (or in my case nothing) does not necessarily mean being fit for anything else.  I did half an hour with weights last night as we are covered in a blanket of snow as I write. (Although almost certainly not as I publish – such things are very transient in the country.)  Today I feel as if I have been run over.  I stopped doing sit ups as both my hips were ‘popping’ loud enough to alarm the cat – and we don’t even have one.  According to the internet, this is perfectly normal and not a problem as long as there is no pain.  When do they mean?  There was no pain yesterday, during the exercise.  Today I can find only one muscle that is not giving me gyp, and that’s in my ear.  Tonight I shall board the exercise bike, which I have just moved into the garage.  It is cold in there, but not wet.  I watch music videos as I pedal, and the world is good.  Unfortunately, the garage is also where I keep the beer – and it eats into my brain as I strain through the last few virtual kilometres.  It is waiting for me as I finish.  And I am waiting for it.

So, all in all, running in the wet is definitely safer than the alternatives.  Being locked down does, at least, mean that I do not have to run in the dark.  5k in the cold, wet and dark is a very daunting prospect.  Just thinking about it brings me out in a cold sweat…

The next instalment of my running diary, ‘The Running Man and the Hip’, is here.
The last instalment of my running diary, ‘The Running Man and Beats per Minute’ is here.
The whole sorry saga started in Lockdown#1 with ‘Couch to 5k’ here.

The Running Man and Lockdown (the Third)

So, here we go again, locked away until things improve, even as government advisors tell us that we may well still be under some form of Covid restriction as we stagger into 2022.  It is impossible not to be depressed by it.  The vaccine is our salvation, we are told – except that it just might not be effective against the potential new strains of an ever-mutating enemy: Godzilla, Swamp thing, Piers Morgan…  In the UK, we have all become friendless hermits, locked away in pristine homes with the ever-present smell of fresh paint and Lynx Africa; staring out of the window through metaphorical net curtains (real net curtains having been removed from all glazed units except those in ‘greasy spoon’ cafes and once-trendy French Bistros, now Pizza Takeaways) and making note of any over-sized social gatherings marching by – especially if they appear to have strayed rather further from their own homes to exercise than the law permits (eg you don’t recognize their faces and their walking boots are far too sturdy for a gentle tramp around the block).  The village has become like a Moscow suburb in the 1980’s: everybody is boiling up leftover beetroot and onion roots; we are all suspicious of the actions of others; everybody is prepared to turn in their neighbours for the promise of a supermarket delivery slot.  Every curtain in the street twitches when the Amazon delivery van arrives. 

We have a car that parks outside our house every day.  The driver walks around the corner and down the road to visit whomever it is that he does not want to be seen parking outside the house of.  I cannot tell you which house that might be; it is far too cold for me to follow him in a Homburg and a raincoat and, by the time I have dressed suitably for the weather – at least five cosy layers, plus hat, scarf and coat – and packed my flask of soup in case of unforeseen circumstance, he will be long gone.  Whether he fears the Lockdown Police, or whether he chooses to park so far from the house he intends to visit for more nefarious reasons, I cannot say.  I know only that the annoyance it causes my wife is on a par with that caused by me hanging my coat on the coat rack – it covers the radiator apparently.  I’m sure that, in these times of grocerial drought, if she thought we could spare a potato, she would ram it up his exhaust, or – if he was lucky – that of his car.

We are allowed to leave the house only to shop, to go to work (which I no longer have) and to exercise (which I do daily, as it is free, it gets me out in the fresh air and it gives me space to think – although I still have no idea of where I should hang my coat).  Now, those of you who have stoically stayed by my side since The First Lot, will know that in May of the first Lockdown I began to run and I published the first part of my Couch to 5k Diaries, which ran weekly for ten weeks and thence more sporadically through to the last entry, ‘The Running Man in the Dark’, in November; providing material for twenty two posts in all (I think – I am certainly prepared to be corrected on that or, indeed, anything else that doesn’t cost me money).  Although the running posts have appeared more intermittently since the initial ten weeks of the ‘course’ my running has continued, predictably metronomically.  Whilst the world around me has changed, I have trundled myself out onto the village streets three times a week, without fail or enthusiasm, in order to lug this ageing frame into a position on the BMI chart that does not automatically alert paramedics across three counties.  The UK emerged from the first Lockdown in June and I finished the Couch to 5k regime in August – behind the curve as always.  As a nation we staggered on through various levels of restriction – from the brief window of hope in the summer to the drifting fatalism of doom in the autumn – and into Lockdown (Episode 2) in November when my running thoughts became, once again, a more regular feature: it pays to have something to hang your ‘coat’ on.  This mini-lockdown ended in early December – although the world in general didn’t get any better for it and my own part of it spiralled down like a tumble dryer tipped from the top of K2.

Through December, I began to appreciate the joys of running in the dark.  My pace slowed as I strained to ensure that I did not trip on kerb and unlit pothole, but the streets were generally empty, save for other runners and dog-walkers.  Even burglars did not venture out, as there were so few empty houses and the streets were full of people who looked as if they just might be able to chase them.  I began to ladle on layers: hat, gloves, snood, running tights, and I filled in on an exercise bike when the weather was too bad for me to venture out (I am notoriously unstable on the ice).  Running became a refuge from fear.

And then?  Well the gentle slide into worsening fortunes turned into a breakneck plunge into the abyss.  New, more infectious Covid strains, a hastily abandoned Christmas, the NHS in crisis, lead to the inevitable Lockdown#3 and the weakening of spirits more usually associated with an unscrupulous seaside landlord, a funnel and a bottle of water.  I have run through it all.  The reality of these thrice weekly ambles is seldom of interest to me, let alone anybody else, but then in times of crisis… 

Through both previous lockdowns, my running has provided the peg on which I have hung my coat of pain and – well, I think you can guess what I am going to say…

Thursdays may well become the day of the Running Man once again.  I’m sorry.  I realise that things are bad enough already.

Remember – Hands, Face, Space and Open the Windows.  Good times are just around the corner!

The next instalment of my running diary, ‘The Running Man and Beats per Minute’ is here.
The last instalment of my running diary, ‘The Running Man in the Dark’ is here.
This whole sorry, loping saga started in May, last year, with ‘Couch to 5k’.

The Running Man in the Dark

So here we are, approaching the end of Lockdown#2 with no real idea of what the short term future holds.  5 days of Christmas cheer (although for two of those, I personally will be at work) followed by many weeks of tightened restrictions until the vaccines, should they work, become widely available, after which we can all return to our pre-covid anti-social norm.  I think.  There seems to be plenty of doubt even on that score.  If you’re protected, apparently, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t spread the disease to those that have chosen not to be vaccinated.  Well, as long as it is chosen not to, it will be hard to lose too much sleep over that.  But how long will the protection last?  It appears that nobody can say.  Maybe Lockdown will become an annual affair – straight after Christmas.  I hope not, I don’t think I can take any more DIY projects.  My current list has been satisfactorily completed: nothing has yet fallen off or over.  Corrective repairs on the previous Lockdown calamities have been completed (the author would like to extend his personal thanks to Messrs No-Nails and Hammered-In-Screw) and all areas of bodily damage taped.  I’m not sure that I could do it all again.

I have enjoyed my running over the last few weeks; it has got me out of the house and away from the paint brush whilst the sky was still relatively light, whilst the weather was reasonably benign.  When I return to work I will no longer have that opportunity.   I will have to run in the evening, bedecked in something specifically designed to startle.  My months of running to date have been characterised by my desire to not be seen.  I set off with a dozen alternative routes in my head so that I can change at a second’s notice when I see somebody I might conceivably know ahead of me.  I have worn black (although, from what I understand from the comments to my Zebra rhyme – here – I may have been better in stripes) in order to blend in; to be as inconspicuous as possible.  Only the tell-tale rattle of almost terminal shortness of breath letting people know that I was stumbling by.  That can no longer be the case.  I must strive for visibility.  I need people to see me coming.

I have to buy some new gear that will announce my presence to the evening world.  I have to look like somebody who runs.  Also, I have to focus my mind to the plod of my feet and not to the constantly evolving world of ‘For Sale’ boards that I will no longer be able to see.  I will no longer be au fait with whose lawn is better than mine, who is extending at the back, who has just had the drive done.  I’m not certain how effectively I will be able to martial the will to run without the distraction of inconsequentialities.  Three quarters of an hour can be a very long time with only myself for company.  I may not come out of it well.

Anyway, as I return to work post lockdown (again) you will be spared these semiweekly updates, at least until the post-Christmas Lockdown#3 kicks in.  I will, in the meantime, plod on, looming out of the dark, pretending to be somebody else entirely; somebody who almost certainly never runs in a bright yellow jacket and a pair of leggings that have sufficient room in the crotch to hold the Strictly Come Dancing finals.  If anything changes, I’ll let you know.  Meantime, I will return to my old schedule of posting, and we’ll all be the better for it.

Today’s new plodding playlist:

  • The Seer – Big Country
  • Angela’s Eyes – Guy Garvey
  • Pulling Punches – David Sylvian
  • Bridges Burning – The Mission
  • Far Cry – Rush
  • Sowelu – Willy Porter
  • Scumbag Blues – Them Crooked Vultures
  • Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
  • Big Love – Fleetwood Mac (abruptly halted by an inadvertent prod on the side of the earbud – with absolutely no idea whatsoever of how to get it going again).

The next instalment of the Running diary, The Running Man and Lockdown (the Third) is here.
The previous instalment of the running diary ‘The Running Man and Dentistry’ is here.
The first part of the running diary ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.

The Running Man and Dentistry

A single inadvertent chomp on a Curly Wurly and I was waving goodbye to my two week old filling.  Just a little nibble, on the other side of my mouth; what could possibly go wrong?  A second’s distraction.  Should soft caramel make a crunching noise?  No, clearly not.  Obviously my own fault, but it saddens me to know that once my tooth has been repaired, Curly Wurlys must be removed from my diet forever and onward.  Likewise the two mini Chomps I had hidden for future use.  If I’m honest, I do recall that the tooth made a very strange noise two days previously whilst I was eating a roast potato – yes, a roast potato; surely not the greatest of challenges for a newly refurbed gnasher.  Anyway, for now, here I am, running along with every intake of cool air twanging across my recently emasculated molar like a soft pick on a detuned ukulele.  It’s depressing.  Of the many things I expected old age to bring to me, I did not consider talcum powder teeth.

Running does somehow attune your head to the body, meaning that you become ever more conscious of the corrosive effects that time has upon mortal flesh.  I run in my contact lenses because glasses steam up, get rained on, fall off, and I dare not go ocularly commando because I cannot see beyond the end of my nose without something to enhance focus.  I would not recognise a familiar face until I had fallen over the owner; would not see the bus until I had caused it to stop in the most inopportune of fashions.  I am limited, even in lenses.  I have to make myself stop before crossing roads as all traffic becomes invisible to me if I am moving.  Joint-wise I am okey-dokey except for the hips, the knees and the ankles.  Everything below the waist aches after a run but, crucially, everything aches even more if I do not exercise.  Knees and ankles have long been a problem, but the hip, although late to the party, has now joined in with a vengeance.  It is the only joint that keeps me awake at night these days, although calf muscles have started to ache in the wee hours in a manner that suggests that they have heretofore been somewhat left behind in the atrophy stakes, but they are making every effort to come up on the rails now.

Anyway, my dentist informs me that I cannot be fitted in for another two weeks because I need an extended appointment that is not available until that point. What a lovely, relaxing thought, that re-fixing my recently fixed tooth will require an even more extended period of horizontal panic. I would have liked to have got this all sorted whilst I was on furlough, but unfortunately I am neither bleeding to death nor unable to eat, so there is no rush in these Covid-ruled times. I am well down the pecking order and, if I’m honest, I’m not in great pain so that’s ok. Until I cannot successfully gum on a gently wilting banana, I will live. And until the body finally decides that the downward trend of bodily vigour reaches terminal velocity, I will run – and if that doesn’t prove that the brain is going, nothing does…

Today’s top plodders:

  • Silly Love – 10cc
  • It’s a Beautiful World – Noel Gallagher
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Supremacy – Muse
  • Avonmore – Bryan Ferry
  • All my Life – Foo Fighters
  • Steel Town – Big Country
  • Cocaine – Eric Clapton (again – time for a new playlist)

The previous instalment of the running diary ‘The Running Man and Birthdays’ is here.
The next instalment of the running diary ‘The Running Man in the Dark’ is here.
The first part of the running diary ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.

The Running Man and Birthdays

My sister-in-law was born on the 25th of December and I’m sure that it is sometimes hard for her to live with.  However much she is loved (and she is) she cannot actually claim her birthday as her own.  Somebody, with a somewhat wider sphere of influence, had it first.  Let’s face it, there are plenty of people to say, ‘Oh, you were born on Christmas Day.  Do you just get one present?’ but I suspect far fewer to say, ‘25th December?  Really? Did you realise that Jesus shares your birthday?’  It must shape you.  Imagine, for instance, the difference between being born on September 10th 2001 and being born one day later.  Imagine the difference between being born on the day that Mandela died and the day that Hitler died.  Imagine the difference between being born on Thursday the twelfth and Friday the thirteenth.  Birthdays must shape lives.

So I checked out my birthday and I find out that the USSR launched a rocket on that day (Luna 1) which missed the Moon by 3,725 miles and ended up orbiting the Sun, and an Indian Cricketer (Kirti Azad) who played a grand total of Seven Tests was born – I’ve never heard of him, but that’s ok, I’m sure he’s never heard of me.  In a wide, wide world of events, all other incidents took the day off.  So now you know why I have become what I have become…

My playlist plodders today almost made the slightly longer run worthwhile:
Cocaine – Eric Clapton
Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode
Don’t Come Back – Wishbone Ash
Heroes – Bowie
Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
Everlong – Foo Fighters
Black Dog – Led Zeppelin
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix
Back in the Doghouse – Seasick Steve (Frustratingly cut short by untimely death of phone)

I’m not sure what’s left in the playlist before it starts again, but I’ll let you know…

The previous instalment of the running diary ‘The Running Man and his Playlist’ is here.
The next instalment of the running diary ‘The Running Man and Dentistry’ is here.
The first instalment of the running diary ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.