Return of the Mummy – Couch to 5k Week 3

Photo by Daniel Reche on

Being yet another Couch to 5k update.

I am swaddled, if not exactly from head to toe, then certainly from thigh to ankle.  In addition to the knee supports which I have worn since week one, I now have strappings on one thigh and one ankle.  I am currently running in full length ‘joggers’ owing to my resemblance to Nora Batty if I wear shorts.  It can only be a matter of time before my other ankle, which does have a record of giving up the ghost in a fairly dramatic manner, will decide to join in the fun and I will become a running lycra tube.

It’s ironic (I think – I’ll check) that my legs are not my biggest problem when I run.  (I use the word ‘run’ in its loosest possible sense.  ‘Lurch’ is probably more apposite.)  My problem has always been my breathing.  My post-jog ‘pant’ would rival a forty-a-day bloodhound.  That, currently, is not improving – although I have developed methods of dredging oxygen into my lungs in a slightly more dignified manner that does not involve propping myself up on a lamppost and retching.  My legs (shattered joints aside) seem to be relatively happy with the situation.

I have bought myself an arm strap for my phone and a pair of Bluetooth earbuds – one of which is currently working – which has helped.  As soon as I have resolved the earbud situation I will be happy – it will stop me running in circles.

My runs are getting longer, my mid-run walks less desperate, and I’ve begun to refine my musical selection a little so that the beat is not quite so erratic and I do not appear to be having a seizure every time the tracks change.

I have one more run this week before the next regime ‘step up’ and I hope that I can approach that without having to brace any further joints.  I have to, they’re running out.

The previous instalment of the Couch to 5k diary, ‘An Off-Peak Update’ is here.
The next instalment of the Couch to 5k diary, ‘To Dream of Couscous’ is here.
The Couch to 5k diary starts here.

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…

The first part of the Couch to 5k odyssey is here.
The next instalment of the Couch to 5k diary, ‘Return of the Mummy’ is here.

Couch to 5k

Photo by Daniel Reche on

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words.  Well, I am in no position to comment upon the veracity of that statement, but I’ve got a thousand words going begging, so that is are what you’re getting from me.  I feel that we are friends now, you and I; I can tell you things.  I am in my sixties, overweight and the most physically exerting thing I usually do is to open the breadbin.  These things you already know.  What you don’t know is that having downloaded the couch to 5k app on my phone many months ago, I have finally opened it this week and embarked upon the journey that will turn me into an Adonis.  It is a voyage for which I am in no way prepared.  I do not own trainers of any kind, certainly not specialist running ones, so I’m currently wearing a natty pair of striped espadrilles.  They are matched with over-long swimming shorts, a baggy ‘T’ shirt and a pair of wrap-around sun glasses so that nobody knows who I am.  I look like a man who really should not be jogging.  Who needs a picture to realise that it is a sight that once seen, you will never be able to un-see?

If you are not familiar with the app, it leads you slowly, slowly, slowly from zero exercise to regular 5km runs via an ordered run/walk routine, which in my case, amounts to a regular curse/gasp/stagger.  My ‘companion’ on these jaunts is the lovely Jo Whiley, who I thought (correctly) would be quietly encouraging, but who, I now realise, I feel quite embarrassed to be out and about with in the state I am in. 

As a child and young man, I was always ‘sporty’ and I played football until well into my fifties, but I have never been a runner.  I can sprint over short distances in a heavy-footed, forward-stumble kind of a way (think hippo) but my endurance is shorter than a bus driver’s temper.  At school I learned the benefits of being a plodder when our sports teacher, an ex-para, whom I always suspected of being a member of the Hitler Youth, would send us out on a 1500 metre run at the start of ‘Double PE’.  Following the run we all trooped inside for tortuous circuit exercises – except for the last five to finish, who had to run an extra lap and, crucially, if they did the last lap slowly enough – possibly with a short stop for a fag behind the hedge – missed the circuits altogether and turned up just in time for ‘crab football’.  Guess where I was?  In my prime I could, on occasion, speed myself up to an ungainly lope, but these days I am a one-gear lumberer.  My ‘jog’ is generally slower than my walk.  At times I do have the feeling that I am actually going backwards, but I plod along.

I have tried to find routes where I will not encounter anybody I know, but I live in a village.  I know a lot of people.  I have discovered not only that wrap-around sunglasses do not sufficiently disguise me, but also that when I am jogging, I myself recognise no-one.  People speak as I pant my way past, but I have no idea who they are, and I cannot hear them because Jo Whiley requires me to have my headphones in.  In consequence, I reply to anyone who looks as though they might be greeting me, which can startle those who are merely watering the geraniums and have no idea who I am.  I have no idea how far the run (warm up, eight jogs, eight walks and warm down) might take me (hint: nowhere near as far as you might imagine) so I simply head off and when the little bell rings to tell me that I am half way through, I retrace my tottering steps.  I pass the same people twice.   They see me coming (I am not the kind of sight that they can ignore) and scuttle inside if they are able.  Geranium waterers suddenly sense the onset of rain; dog walkers find imaginary dog crap that they just have to clear up; solitary walkers pretend that they have lost their dog.  I try to keep my head down – this is pure expedience on my part.  The paths around here are pretty much as pot-holed as the road.  I am concerned that I might trip.  I am much more concerned that I might trip within sight of somebody that knows me.  Most of my near-neighbours believe that I am useless enough already.  It would be too much if they were to discover that I can’t even jog in slow-motion without floundering.  Especially if they have to help me up.

And here’s another thing!  I carry my phone a) because Jo Whiley is on it, b) because my music is on it and c) in case I can’t get home – and it’s a real pain.  If I put it in my pocket it bangs against my thigh at every step and pulls my shorts down, when I hold it in my hand it leads to a partial garrotting at every step.  Should I carry on with this malarkey, I fear that I am going to have to buy equipment: shoes that do not look as though I should be strolling along the promenade at St Tropez; shorts that do not start at my knees and end at my ankles half an hour later, and some means of attaching my phone to a portion of my body that doesn’t move about too much even at full speed (e.g. in the last couple of yards when the biscuits are within sight).  Well, they did tell me that I might shed a few pounds.

Anyway, it is all out in the open now.  I will try to keep it going and I will keep you informed, but don’t expect a photo.  A thousand words is definitely worth not seeing the picture…

Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes (the more things change, the more they stay the same)

Covid 19
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

I am conscious that whilst we are all ensconced within our siege-homes, counting out frozen peas and rationing the loo roll, what I write might just turn into a bit of a plague diary. I don’t intend it to – although I have just been out in the back garden to bury some Parmesan. My life is mundane enough, without the added constraint of being held captive within these four square walls (if only they were – I’ve spoken to the builder). Looking out of the window is pretty much all that is left for me… so, y’know…

What is going on out of the window as far as I can see is almost exclusively dog walking and jogging. I do not have a dog. I always thought that I would like a dog, but I’m not over-keen on shit, so I’m not convinced that it would work out well. Responsible is my middle name (it isn’t really: my real middle name is far worse) so I would always clean up after the pooch, but I’m pretty sure that I would begin to resent it sooner or later. Unequal partnerships trouble me. Would the dog clean up after me in similar circumstances? Also, there would always be the nagging suspicion that the dog deliberately chose the most embarrassing time/place to start its scrunched up shuffle before delivering its little gift on the policeman’s shiny toecap… Owning a dog would allow me to walk though. It is permissible to walk a dog. If I had one, I would probably hire it out. I have toyed with wandering out with a joke shop dog poo in a bag, so that if I was stopped by the police, I could just claim that my canine best friend had wandered off whilst I cleaned up after it and thus avoid the fine for walking without purpose. Although I would then have to go into an over-elaborate search for my non-existent pooch, possibly resulting in a fine for not keeping the bloody thing under control. Also, I would have to give it a name. Kevin probably… Most likely I would claim to be deaf and defy the policeman to get close enough for me to hear him. ‘I can mostly hear people at about one metre away…’

We are, apparently, allowed one short exercise stroll per day, always retaining the two metre distance from fellow amblers. Problem is, when I tried it, in order to maintain the exclusion zone, my route became so erratic that I was exhausted before I had travelled more than two hundred metres and I had to return home for a cup of tea. Ah, tea! Did I mention that I am having to drink tea? And instant coffee? Man, in whose world does that taste like coffee? I hope the run to the off-licence can be classed as vital. Which brings me to the joggers. I could always, I am told, go out for a socially distant jog. Are they kidding? With my nipples? I might be able to see the attraction of jogging if only those people doing it didn’t always look so bloody miserable. When did you last see a happy jogger? Why do these lithe and lycra-clad super-specimens always look so shagged-out? Nobody likes a mouth-breather!

For my part, after a day of gardening, I wobbled off around the block on my bike. The health benefits of such actions are enormous:
1. I didn’t die – so I feel really good about myself.
2. I can legitimately treat myself to a large one this evening because… well, just because.
3. There is no number 2, so I will have to repeat number 3.
So, thus finishes my first day in lockdown. Three weeks to go before Boris decides whether I can go back to work. I should be fit as a flea by then, although I may have to beat my liver down with a broom.

On hearing ill rumour that Londoners may soon be urged into their lodgings by Her Majesty’s men, I looked upon the street to see a gaggle of striplings making fair merry, and no doubt spreading the plague well about. Not a care had these rogues for the health of their elders! Samuel Pepys, London 1664