The Running Man on Sundays

Being ‘a runner’ at last has come as something of a surprise to me: I have always been a runner last of all things.  Covid has changed me and although I do not now, and doubt I ever will, enjoy running, without question I do feel better for doing it and I will continue to do so for as long as I am able.  What I will not do, if I can possibly avoid it, is to run on a Sunday, because the paths are thronged with weekend dog-walkers and I spend so much time leaping up and down kerbs in an attempt to give them what they consider to be sufficient space that I might as well stay at home and go up and down the doorstep.  This week, however, for reasons that might provide someone with a decent PHD thesis, I was forced to brave the canine overlords and head out on the Sabbath.  I prepared myself and planned a route that, for the most part, allowed me to stick to the gutter, where most people seem to think that I belong.  What I had not considered is that nobody appears to park their cars on the road any longer.  All cars are parked across the path as close to the hedge/fence/discarded mattresses as it is possible to get without scraping the paint from the wing-mirror.  There is absolutely no way to pass without taking to the centre of the road where you encounter the second Sunday morning issue: all home deliveries, it would seem, are now made on this day.  The whole village is a web of DPD vans, Yodel vans and vans that are obviously recently purchased once-upon-a-time Post Office vans with which ends are being forced to meet.  I am able to run a straighter line after sixteen pints of cider than I am in the streets of this village on a Sunday morning.  Car doors spring open in front of me, drivers leap out on top of me, everybody wants to know why I am not on the path.  I am not on the path because it is full of bloody car!  I am not in the gutter because it too is full of bloody car!  I am in the road because it is not full of bloody car, it is full of Amazon.

Sunday morning is a very social time and, for reasons unknown to non-dog walkers, almost all Sunday morning dog walkers dress as if they are about to run a marathon and they cannot resist the opportunity to gather on street corners to discuss it.  The array of skin-tight, body-shaming, hi-viz elastane on show provides a pallet otherwise seen outside of Salvador Dali on a particularly vivid acid trip.  Not a single molecule of it has ever encountered human sweat*.  Everywhere you look there are small groups of middle-aged, semi-fluorescant lycra-clad dog exercisers chatting the morning away before, presumably, wheezing their way back home to a full roast dinner, a bottle of red and a couple of hours in front of Harry Potter on Netflix.  These tiny gatherings do not move for any reason what-so-ever.  They merely stare disdainfully as you try to navigate a path between them and the adjacent delivery van without falling under the wheels of the four-by-four on its way to pick up the morning papers.  I cannot begin to imagine how upset they would be if I were to be disembowelled by the three-ton school transporter and, in the process, managed to splash brain all over their leisurewear.  I cannot imagine anything would get that out, and blood red clashes so horribly with lime green…

Anyway, having misguidedly sallied forth, I persevered – I had no other way of getting home – but, the morning being warm and my anxiety being heightened, I pretty soon found sweat trickling down every available surface (as well as one or two that really should not have been) and particularly down my brow and into my eyes.  I wear contact lenses to run: I cannot rub my eyes for fear of losing one down a drain, I cannot rub my forehead for fear of stretching the sagging mess of skin that ripples across my brow and popping an earbud out, so I blink a lot and rarely recognise anyone around me.  Strangely, that situation seems to work for everyone, particularly those who studiously avoid looking me in the eye; who choose to deny my entire presence by staring at the ground, scanning the clouds or talking to the lamp-post.  They appear to believe that whatever I have got (and I must have something) it must be infectious and could possibly be contracted by eye contact.  To me, they are an amorphous blob; to them, I am a peripatetic pariah but, to everyone’s relief, our eyes never meet and thus I do not get the opportunity to leach out their very souls from their hooded optic orbs.  Which is just as well, being Sunday and all…

*Other, of course, than the children forced to produce it.

The Running Man on ‘Jogging from Memory’

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.

My Running thoughts diary started with ‘Couch to 5k’ here.
Last week’s entry ‘Listening to my Body’ is here.

The Running Man on Listening to my Body

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard half of the England football squad, Joe Wickes, doctor Raj, Piers Morgan and Katie Price telling me that I must ‘listen to my body’ whilst I exercise.  Well, I’ve tried it and, quite honestly, all it does is moan: ‘You’re going too fast,’ ‘You’re going too slow,’ ‘I’m feeling dizzy,’ ‘Ooh look, an ice cream van…’  It is also easily distracted.  Worse yet is my brain.  Brains, I have discovered, are not easy company for those taking exercise.  Unlike the rest of the body, they become easily bored.  Give your legs a simple job to do, e.g. running, and they will do it until they drop, but the minute the brain gets involved, everything goes to pot: ‘Are you ok leg?  I sense that you are feeling a little bit hot/tired/wobbly.  Would you like me to tell him to slow down?  Would you like me to register that knee twinge?  Should I make him aware that total collapse is just around the corner?  If I have a word, I can almost certainly make the other knee come out in sympathy…’  The problem is, I can find no way of listening to my body other than through my brain and, fundamentally, listening to my brain is like listening to a speech from a Trades Union Congress Conference in the 1970’s – lots and lots of worthy words, but very little in the way of light relief, lots of beer and sandwiches but not enough smashed avocado on toast: big shoulders, even bigger chips.

And anyway, if I’m going to waste time in listening to what my body has to say, perhaps it ought to take a little time to listen to me.  I tell it we need to be careful with what we eat and it says ‘Give me chocolate!’  I tell it we need to watch what we drink and it opens the whisky.  I tell my body that we’re feeling good, and it seriously begs to differ.  I tell it that I am about to die and it laughs in my face, tells me to get a grip, but I know that my brain is just filtering out the messages it is being sent by my limbs, lungs and assorted lights.  Basically, all that my body wants to do is to tell me that I am wrong – and I have a life-full of people willing to do that for me.  I play music whilst I run simply to stop it haranguing me.  Frankly, if my body wants to talk to me it can either shout or wait until I get home and then it can speak to my wife. I don’t want to hear it…

The first entry in the Running Diary ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.

The Running Man on Time

Having tired myself in the effort to find a reason not to do so, I eventually went for a run.  I had procrastinated for an hour and dawdled through sixty minutes more, but somewhat against my fondest hopes, everything eventually fell into place and I made it through the door – only to return immediately in order to don cap, sunglasses and Factor 30, owing to the fact that the sun had crept higher into the sky during my protracted preparations raising the temperature from balmy to totally unsuitable for an ageing carrot-top to run in, however, my will had now been sapped to such an extent that I could not bear to back out completely.  If it meant that I did not have to relive the previous two hours of angst, then sunstroke was an acceptable price to pay.

I am not certain where time goes when I am getting ready to run: one minute I am trying to decide what shirt I need to wear, the next minute, it is an hour later and I’m wandering around the house in my pants, trying to remember where I left my shorts.  By the time I have got myself together, my running shoes are often in another time zone.  A half hour run requires a preparation time of at least an hour.  If I ever run a marathon I will have to book a week off work.  Although if I ever was to run a marathon, the hours before the run would have little to compare with those that follow which, I fear, would seem very much longer to those that had to live with me.  Not that there is much chance of that – marathon-wise I already have all of my excuse-ducks in a row:

  1. Although history has shown that I am technically not too old to run a marathon, common sense decrees that I am far too old to run a first marathon.
  2. My attention span is (at best) about ninety minutes.  As a marathon would take me somewhere around the seven hour mark, there is every chance that I would forget what I was doing and stop for a pie and a pint along the way.
  3. Given my aptitude for falling over, I would almost certainly over the twenty six miles distance find more than ample opportunity to come a proper cropper – and tarmac roads are very hard.
  4. I live in morbid fear of the kind of shame that would accompany a three kilometre capitulation.
  5. If I should, by some miracle, make it beyond the half way mark, it would be in a time that would ensure that all the paramedics had given up and gone home before I needed them.

So, my current timetable is unlikely to vary: 30 minutes or so to run the 5km that constitutes my regular hobble, Lord alone knows how long getting ready for it, twenty minutes to shower afterwards and ten minutes for a recuperative ice cream before I am sufficiently revived to turn the coffee machine on.

Time well spent is never wasted.

The Running Diaries began with ‘Couch to 5k’ way back then.
The Running Man came full circle with ‘Return to Couch to 5k’ here.

The Running Man on a Return to Couch to 5k

I went for a slightly ‘troubled’ run at the end of last week whence I discovered that my lungs have not yet quite worked themselves back up to absorbing oxygen in the required manner and my hips are in desperate need of WD40, so it was decided that I need to reintroduce myself to the thrice weekly slog a little more gently.  Consequently I reset ‘Couch to 5k’ and I intend to ‘redo’ the last few weeks of the regime until I get back up to speed.  I have removed the ever-soothing tones of Jo Whiley and replaced them with the slightly more chiding contributions of Sarah Millican.  The short ‘walking’ interludes (I have started at week 5 which sees me ending the week with a twenty minute run) are a little embarrassing, and always coincide with encounters with other runners, but do give me the opportunity to whip my ailing alveoli into accepting some suitable level of oxygen exchange before I lurch on again.

I have always ‘suffered with my chest’ but this is the first time I have really noticed how long it takes to build back up to normal function after it has divested itself of whatever it is it stores in there – although to be honest I have never been one to push my ability to breathe further than has seemed natural.  In forty years of playing football, I seldom moved beyond canter, even at my fittest.  I always managed to position myself alongside ‘willing runners’, affording myself the maximum opportunity to kick the opposition without having to chase them around too much first.  I figured that, as breathing was the only thing actually keeping me alive, being out of breath was unlikely to ever be a good thing.

My legs, I have mentioned before, have something of the ‘tree trunk’ about them.  They are ‘sturdy’ in the extreme and, I fear, not ideally suited to running – probably more designed for holding up a motorway bridge.  My calf muscles alone must consume about fifty percent of the oxygen that I do manage to take on board.  Moreover, when given the opportunity to utilise an amount of oxygen, they generally seem to enjoy it to such an extent that they continue to flap around all night.  It is incredibly annoying (possibly more for my wife than myself) when my legs are still pounding the streets whilst the rest of me searches for sleep.  I have tried so many ways of combating this: hot baths, cold baths, super-hydration (leading to super-micturition), standing, sitting, heating, cooling, beating with birch twigs, giving a stern talking-to, but to little avail.  My legs have no speed control and whilst they are unhappy to lumber up to a pace that is anything in excess of brisk stroll, they are, having done so, generally unwilling to return to anything resembling inertia.  If I do manage to tie the damn things down overnight, they repay me by aching and, occasionally, cramping up in such a manner that a blacksmith could use them as an anvil.

My hips are relative newcomers to this circle of pain, but boy are they making up for it now.  I have developed a hip-flexing and stretching exercise routine which fits between my runs and my hips have been much better, but whilst I was not running, I was also not doing the in-between stuff.  Hence my hips have become like rusted gate hinges and they make a similar noise when I walk.  I desperately need to get them back into some kind of order so that I can get out of the car without groaning; so that I can bend over without next door’s cat thinking that somebody is shooting at it.

I’m hoping that my second lope through the latter stages of Couch to 5k will be somewhat easier than my first: I am somewhat more adjusted to the levels of discomfort and boredom, having developed the distraction techniques needed to cancel out both.  I may stumble on through the schedule, to the end of week nine, or I may find that I am back up to speed (relative term*) before then and decide to drop back into the old routine.  Either way, I am actually feeling keen to get back to my established routine of runs and exercise before winter descends.

Who’d have thought it?

*VERY relative term.

‘Couch to 5k’, started my running saga here.
Last week’s running diary ‘on Being Grandad’ is here.

The Running Man on Being Grandad

Wednesday was to be my first proper running day since I was first unwell – except it wasn’t.  I have had a few sessions on the exercise bike and I no longer get out of breath hoisting myself into the saddle so the time felt right, but it is not.  When I run, I run alone.  I avoid other people as far as I possibly can and it has lately occurred to me that, should I keel over, I am many lifetimes away from a defibrillator.  I am fully aware that the benefits of running far outweigh the risks, but you have to be honest, the benefits are not quite so… terminal.  The pay-off of keeping fit may, if I am lucky, stretch twenty years into the future; the perils, if I am not, may stretch six feet into a box.

Exercise so far this week has consisted of being grandad.  Of being used as a trampoline by two three-year olds and football/tennis/cricket opponent by a six year-old.  I haven’t counted the baby, although God knows, the amount of walking up and down the room I do whilst holding her must count for something.  Being grandad is much more fun than running, but twice as tiring.  I have a ‘babysitting’ mode on my Fitbit that just says ‘Go and have a lie down’ every thirty minutes.  I would like to introduce the physicist, searching for the secret to perpetual motion, to my grandson.  Even when his body is stationary, his mind is moving at a frightening pace.  He is capable of the kind of leaps of logic that would make Einstein blanch.  You want to witness something moving faster than the speed of light, look inside his head whilst he’s sleeping.  While the world slumbers, he hatches plans for rocket-powered shoes, upscaled building projects based on super-sized Lego and the possibility of growing chocolate from Smarties.  An hour in his company is both life-enhancing and draining beyond belief.  My spirits soar whilst my head throbs and my limbs ache.

I will not have run today either because I will have been at work and a day at work starts and ends with a long walk.  When the sun shines, the morning walk is a golden thirty minutes, when it rains it is filled with the misery of knowing that I am going to be damp for the rest of the day.  There is something about the water that runs down your back and into your pants that means that it can never dry – like badly stirred gloss paint on a plastic door.  The journey back to the car on such a day, wet-panted, is never pleasant even if the sun shines.  Steaming underwear is never comfortable.

Tomorrow, however, I am not at work.  Tomorrow I will run.  Next week’s running diary may well not be about running, but it will at least have its seeds in a run, and whether my pants are wet or dry and as long as I make it to the end without the attentions of the paramedics, you will hear all about it.

Ain’t life grand?

In an attempt to ‘glam up’ my content, I thought I’d try to post this piece with an intriguing title.  I toyed with ‘Quantum Fluctuations of Time within the Somnambulant Cerebral Cortex’ but I was worried that someone might ask me to explain.  I considered ‘The Mortal Coil: How to Shuffle Off – the Facts’ but I was held back by the fact that, by and large, these blogs are not, in fact, fact-heavy, but rather more fact-less.  I then took a leaf from Bryntin’s book and went for ‘Easy Blogging Tips for Successful Lifestyle Investments’ but I feared litigation, so I went for the ‘what it says on the tin’ approach, which means that we can keep it to ourselves.  Just the two of us…

The first running diary, ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.
Last week’s running diary ‘On What to Remember’ is here
The next Running Man post, ‘On a Return to Couch to 5k’ is here.

The Running Man on Acute Coryza

Last night, deflated by missing a post and unable, once again, to sleep I happened to stumble across a BBC web page which said that the symptoms associated with the new ‘Delta’ variation of Covid-19 are those of the Common Cold, and it struck me then that, quite frankly, the cold is not quite so common anymore is it?

You know the way things go. 

Mask wearing, socially distancing, hand-washing humans, it appears, are not nearly as susceptible to colds as in the past.  I know exactly where I got my last cold from: from the same place as all grandparents catch their colds.  Grandchilden: the ultimate Super-spreaders.  No evil power ever has to devise a missile with which to deliver the agents of biological warfare; just load up a grandchild.  When they’re out for a cuddle, the presence of a three inch snot-trail across their face is not going to stop them from giving you one.  I believe that it is probably in the small print of Domestos: ‘Kills 99.9% of all known germs, unless they are associated with a weeping child’.  Whatever it was that Tony Blair and George W. were hoping to find in Iraq, they were looking in the wrong place.

The Common Cold is not a serious complaint (unless you are a man) and its effects are not too bad – I find that breathing is probably overrated anyway – but by and large I could manage perfectly well without them, thank you very much.  The snotty, runny-nosed sneezing phase is one upon which I normally only embark on the morning of an interview.  Crispin Underfelt will recall that when we first gathered together for the recording of our radio series- so many moons ago that Apple was just the label used by the Beatles and a laptop was something you rested your dinner plate on –  I was mucus-filled and consequently sounded just like every other adenoidal local radio broadcaster on the tapes.  If my cold had not cleared up by the second recording session, I think I might have been offered a job.

And I cannot consider running with a cold.  I get out of breath just thinking about it and my throat is so sore that I dare not suck air through it except in the minimal amounts called for by total slothfulness.  The combination of blocked-up nasal passages and sore throat means that breathing is accompanied by what I can only describe as a death rattle.  My hooter** will become bright red and sore, my limbs will feel like they belong to somebody else and I will not run even if the rain has stopped – especially if the flashing lights are no longer in the sky, but behind my eyes and the rumble is not of thunder, but of my chest trying to do something, anything, with the meagre amount of oxygen it is receiving.  If (by dint of some miraculous tear in the space/time continuum) I saw me running towards me with a cold, I would immediately be looking for the man with the scythe chasing on behind.  I sound like a man who is far too ill to be in the mortuary, let alone running around the village streets in a pair of baggy shorts and a T shirt clearly made to fit somebody else.

The Cold will return when Covid restrictions get lifted and will, doubtless, make a real nuisance of itself in the absence of recently modified antibodies.  Surely Science is missing a trick by searching for cures for specific diseases, when what it really needs to do is to come up with a multi-purpose antibody, perhaps a miniature Batman equipped with a utility belt or a midget Iron Man with a medical A-Z.  Like a biological McAffe, but without the tendency to make everything else crash around it.

Anyway, in place of the Cold, everybody seems to have hay fever at the moment.  However, the rain has now arrived, the pollen has all washed away, the air is clearer and, despite my increasing slothfulness, I will be able to run today after all.  Unless, of course, I catch a cold in the meantime.

You know the way things go.

*Acute Coryza is one of the many scientific names used for The Common Cold.  It is seldom used by doctors as such a diagnosis is always followed by the patient saying “Why thank you doctor, I think yours is very cute too.”

**Nose – usually when of the size and shape of W.C. Fields proboscis.

The first running post, ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.
Last week’s running post ‘A very Hot Business’ is here.
A sneaky extra running post this week ‘An abject apology’ is here.

An abject apology

I haven’t been out to run today. I haven’t really stopped to do anything that I want to do – and that includes writing this blog. I am sorry.

I will try very hard to write something tomorrow because I don’t like to see untidy gaps. Not, unfortunately, that I am seeing untidy anything at the moment because I am in receipt of a new pair of specs and, truth be told, something is definitely not where it should be. I can, with a little difficulty, arrange them in such a way that vision is available, but unfortunately when I look in a mirror I then find that my glasses sit at a forty-five degree angle across my face. Now, I know that my ears are not symmetrical and my nose is a little eccentric in its positioning but, none-the-less, this is really not working for me and I’m beginning to get a bit of neck ache. It is a situation I will have to address just as soon as I can be bothered.

Nor is this a valid reason for a) not writing a blog and b) not running, because I tend to do both in contact lenses and I have my old glasses anyway. Somehow the day has just disappeared into a miasmic haze of grandchildren, double-glazing salesmen and plumbers and I can’t seem to pick up the threads. Three consecutive nights of lying awake reading whatever came to hand (last night ‘Adrian Mole – the cappuccino years’*) listening to cats prowling (yes, you can hear that) foxes yowling and homeward bound couples bickering have taken their toll. My whole being is teetering on the brink of a sleep that will, somehow, never come. I have tried no nightcaps, I have tried one nightcap, I have tried two nightcaps; this evening will probably involve a whole bottle full. I feel like many years ago when I sat through the film ‘Ghandi’ wondering ‘why have I chosen to do this with my life? I could have stayed outside, in the sunshine, counting my toes.’

Anyway, tonight I will go to bed with a pad and paper and tomorrow I will run. One way or another you should get something that, although a day late, will fit the criteria. In the meantime, please accept my apology. As always in my life, the circumstances are beyond my control…

*Probably tells you more than you ever need to know about me that these books still make me cry with laughter at times.

The Running Man – A Very Hot Business…

Summer has arrived in the UK and running has suddenly become a very hot business: it may last for days. I currently tend to skulk out early in the morning – that is earlier than usual early, not crack of dawn early: man is slave to the universe, I have no intention of getting my butt out of bed until the cosmos says it is ready for me – or early in the evening in order to miss the hottest part of the day.  Both options are fraught for me.  If I set out too early in the morning, I plunge headlong into hundreds of teenagers making their way to school.  I do not hear laughter as I pass, but that is only because I turn the music up.  There is nothing quite so irksome for an ageing man as incredulity: I can almost sense the little buggers nudging one another and mouthing, ‘Did you see that?’ 

If, however, I leave it until half an hour later when they are all safely locked away in their sock-smelling classrooms, I encounter the parents who, having taken the kids to school – or more likely having waited for them to get out of the house before taking breakfast in peace – then take the opportunity to walk the dog before settling down to the day’s ‘working from home’.  The streets suddenly fill with dog walkers of all types:

  • The fully suited who have to attend a Zoom meeting which the boss might just possibly be attending.  He is a sly old bugger and will almost certainly ask them to do something that will reveal whether or not the men are wearing trousers.  He does not do the same thing to the female staff as the restraining order remains in place.
  • The semi-formally dressed, who wear shirt and tie, or smart business blouse over jogging pants and furry mules.  They also have a Zoom meeting to attend, but they are confident that they can keep their legs under the desk and the wine glass out of sight.
  • The informally dressed, who also have a Zoom meeting to attend, but who have stuck blue-tack over the laptop’s camera and an old crisp packet over the microphone.  They will blame the rubbish internet connection for their intermittent involvement and will almost certainly be downstairs with a doughnut and ‘Loose Women’ whilst Derek from Finance is giving them the lowdown on last week’s figures.
  • The even more informally dressed (pyjamas under a raincoat) who do not have a Zoom meeting to attend and plan to spend the morning ‘catching up on their emails’ eg watching surfing cats on Youtube.

So many dogs!  I have no idea where all these dogs have come from, nor who dreams up all of the new breeds that are currently being paraded around.  I spoke to someone who had a Toy Poodle mated with a Shih Tzu and wound up with a Toyihtzu, which, to the best of my knowledge, is a cheap Korean hatchback.  I wonder what will become of all of these mutts when these people are able to start going on holiday again?  Two weeks in a kennels whilst the owner changes his phone number and bank account details?  As soon as the UK sorts out its Traffic Light Holiday Destination system (Red – you cannot travel to these countries: Amber – you cannot travel to these countries, but if you choose to ignore government ‘guidance’ and travel anyway, you must quarantine in Stalag conditions for two weeks on your return, for little more than twice the cost of your original holiday: Green – you can travel to these countries, but they won’t let you in) there will be many canine bargains to be had through the Classified Ads in The Exchange & Mart.

If, however, I choose to run in the early evening I find myself in the tiresome, lycra-clad company of the rest of the running world.  The whole world is running.  I do not mind; it is a free country, I just wish that they didn’t all look so much better than me whilst they were doing it.  They are better equipped, they are ruddy-faced and fresh complexioned, they do not sweat like a horse in a duvet and they do not spend most of their time coughing up flies.  I have grown immune to the humiliation of being overtaken by the old lady with the West Highland Terrier, but I still find myself automatically changing route every time I see an approaching runner, with the net effect that I spend an awful lot of time running round in circles, occasionally never leaving my own driveway.  By the time I get home, showered and changed, the whole point of the run, e.g. to earn the right to eat cream cakes and drink whisky, becomes lost in the urgent need to moan, very loudly, about the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harriet is out there running these days.  (I have been running for over a year now and I am a seasoned athlete: I can often put my own trainers on without being out of breath.)  Eventually, aware that nobody is listening to me, I retire to bed in order to spend the whole night bemoaning the fact that it is far too hot to sleep. How long can this go on?* 

Sleeping has suddenly become a very hot business…

*This is the UK: my prediction – summer will last until next Tuesday when it will collapse into biblical rainfall and a cold blast from The Urals…

My Running Diary began with ‘Couch to 5k’ here.
Last week’s Running Diary ‘Bangers’ is here.
Next week’s Diary is here with ‘An abject apology‘ and here with ‘Acute Coryza’

The Running Man – Twelve Months of Becoming Er…

A year has now passed since I first downloaded the Couch to 5k app, chose to be accompanied by the dulcet tones of Jo Whiley and launched myself on the village roads, a lumbering, perspiring, gasping mess.  I have no doubt that not even the effervescent Ms Whiley, soothingly urging me on through my headphones, had any idea quite what she was taking on at that (or any other) stage.  If I’m honest, I am quite proud of myself for persevering through the program, and not a little surprised that I managed to find the determination to do so.  I’m sure that the circumstances of Lockdown must have helped in that respect: the streets were largely empty even though, I seem to recall, the sun shone a lot.  I seldom ‘bumped into’ anyone that I knew and Lockdown restrictions meant that, when I did, they could legitimately move as far away as possible from me without embarrassment.  This was a period when we were all too scared to share a pavement with anyone – especially if their breathing came in the kind of wheeze normally associated with the elephant’s graveyard – and crossing the road to avoid your neighbour became the norm.  This was the time when the whole country’s social calendar revolved about banging saucepan lids at 8pm every Thursday.  Like Global Conflict, we just referred to it as The Lockdown at the time, not realising that it would too soon become The First Lockdown when the second one started.

In the past twelve months I can definitely claim to have become more ‘er’: I am definitely not quick, but I am quicker; I am not fit, but I am fitter; I am by no means thin, but I am thinner.  Ask me why I still do it and I most certainly will say, ‘Er…’.  I can’t actually remember what prompted me to do it at the time, but I was one of many.  The streets were full of people following the run/walk/run regime.  We began to recognise one another, to wave, but most of the Lockdown Runners appear to have stopped now.  Far more people are running these days, but I don’t seem to recognise any of them.  Nobody appears to be quite as past it as I: they are all younger, fitter and altogether better dressed for the occasion.  Some of them even chat as they run.  I have to devote my entire attention to breathing without inhaling wildlife.  There is nothing less conducive to a steady pace than trying to cough up a wasp.

What I most recall about the early runs is the sense of dread that hung about me as I prepared to set off; particularly on the final run of each week when I stupidly allowed myself to look at what the following week’s stepped-up regime was to demand of me.  The joyous sensation of hearing the half way bell ring, meaning that I could turn around, was spoiled only by the knowledge that I now had to try and get back home without attracting the attention of a Coroner’s vehicle.  I have kept myself going by setting targets.  My early thirty minute runs were nowhere near 5km in length (they still are not) but I set myself a 5k course and I started to run it, trying to speed up week on week until I realised that I had peaked at a speed which would have shamed an end-of-round electric milk float, so instead I started to go further.  These days I do not set goals – reaching them is such a disappointment when you realise that all you can then do is to set a new one – so I rely solely on the grim determination I have to keep going.  The determination comes from the knowledge that someday, sooner or later, my body, the doctor or friendly paramedic will tell me that I have to stop and I will be able to say that the decision to stop was not my own.  I will never be a good runner, but I am dogged and, for good or bad, it is now twelve months since I first found I had something to be dogged about.  My anniversary run was the same as all of the others: breathless, hot and plodding, but I did it and, in a year’s time I will… er… do it all again.

My original post about starting to run, ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.
Last week’s running post, ‘Getting on with It’ is here

The next ‘Running Man’ installment, ‘Bangers’ is here.
And there are many branch-line stops on the uneven path between then and now that you can visit if you choose – just follow the links.