The Running Man on Being Antisocial

An excess of alcohol and chocolate over the Easter break – please don’t ask me to define ‘excess’: suffice to say that my grandkids are wondering where the eggs have gone and my wife is sure that we had another bottle of gin somewhere – and the return of sub-arctic air have combined to make my first couple of post-holy week treks even more miserable than usual.  I drag myself to the door, thrust it open and shrivel away, like a plastic bag near a radiator, at the first blast of wind-borne sleet.  Who in their right mind would go out in that – particularly dressed like this?  The issue of my running attire presses on me once again after, what I assume must be a recently reconvened, post-covid running group, passed my house yesterday, all neatly ironed, in unstained hi-viz, unwrinkled running tights and not a hairband out of place.  They were chatting happily, smiling some of them, and not a single one gasping for breath.  They looked as if they had all been waiting for months for this moment: whilst you and I battled house-bound neuroses, they collected lycra.  There was a distinct lack of the secondhand about them.

I am reluctant to spend heavily on running gear because I am still unconvinced that I won’t just decide one day that running really is not for me.  (Interestingly, it really is not for me, I have decided, although I don’t know what to do about it now.)  The course and distance of my thrice-weekly lopes varies enormously, depending on how many other runners I have to avoid along the way.  I hate crossing paths with them, as I am so conscious of looking like a convict who has gone on the run without his asthma inhaler; I will not run in front of them because I dread them catching and passing me; I will not run behind them because I fear that passing motorists may think that we’re together and that I just can’t keep up.  I would love someone to offer me an explanation as to why, when I stumble into the wake of another runner, I always appear to be running comfortably faster than them, until the very point at which I move up to their shoulder, when I suffer the kind of coughing fit that tells me that I should have followed my first instinct and gone the other way, even if it meant trying to get past the elderly lady on the mobility scooter with the Chihuahua on a ten-foot lead.  I cannot run at ‘school time’: whilst I am much too long in the tooth to allow myself to be bullied by gangs of school kids, I am none-the-less haunted by the fear of silent laughter.

Most of my runs take place mid-morning or mid-afternoon, when the rest of the world is either in school, at work or on a Zoom call, in order to minimise my detours, but I continue to zig-zag my way around the empty paths and byways avoiding any kind of interaction the best I can.  It’s not that I’m antisocial, it’s just that I’m… Actually, it probably is that I’m antisocial – although if they had a club, I certainly wouldn’t join it.

(First edit red biro, second edit green felt-tip, third edit black Sharpie – a particularly bleak moment – final edit a cross-shredder and a return to what I started with.)

If you want to join the beginning of this run, you can find ‘Couch to 5k’ here.
Last week’s ‘Running Man’ post ‘…on the Time to Run’ is here.

The Running Man on Not Running

I didn’t run at all last week: the snow carpeted the whole village and for a full seven days diminishing only in very small patches.  Some hardy souls did still run, I saw them from my window.  Mostly young, they sped past gazelle-like, apparently oblivious to the white stuff beneath their feet: unperturbed and unaffected, whilst I dare not walk the few steps to my car for fear of ending up on my arse.  I could happily make a living out of suing the maker’s of non-slip soles, if it were not for the want of serious injury rather than a grazed backside and a bruised ego.  So I walk around the block now and again in boots that sport soles like tractor treads and are of a size that requires me to wear three pairs of woollen socks inside, stepping deliberately along like Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon.  Other than that, I do not venture further than the garden bin.

As I could not run, I took my exercise where I could.  I pedalled away on the exercise bike in the garage and I played about with the weights in the spare bedroom.  The garage is full of clutter – it hasn’t seen a car in years – and somehow manages to be colder than it is outside.  I perch myself between the tumble-dryer, pots of paint, the deep freeze and the vegetable, rack and I pedal whilst watching music videos or old sit-coms.  Anything to avoid thinking about what I’m doing.  It’s a difficult thing for which to motivate yourself and an exhausting way of getting absolutely nowhere.  It doesn’t matter how fast I pedal, I remain where I am.  I finish exactly where I started, only bathed in sweat and wishing that I’d worn gloves.  As a means of getting exercise, it fills a gap, but it’s pretty much like painting your whole house beige: you’re never sure of where it begins and where it ends, but in the end, you realise that it doesn’t really matter – it’s still beige.  This sad, uni-paced spin leaves me ‘jelly-legged’ for a couple of minutes, but not challenged in the way that I am by a run.  There is no jeopardy.  It doesn’t matter if I stop only half way there, I won’t have to phone for somebody to come and pick me up; there is little risk of falling off and bruising something vital; there is no crossbar.

Twice a week I also thump about with the weights.  I have a forty minute ‘circuit’ that uses barbells and bands.  I do my circuits upstairs in a spare bedroom because there is insufficient room for my prone self amongst the junk in the garage.  The bedroom is considerably warmer than the garage which, initially at least, feels like a good thing.  Some thirty minutes later, it no longer feels like a good thing.  It feels like I am lunging in a sauna.  I cannot open a window without the possibility of drawing attention to myself – I have only just started to leave the curtains open a crack – so I boil.  After my forty minutes I really feel ‘worked out’.  I can see and feel the results, and it is a good way of expending energy when I cannot run.  Except it is not the same kind of energy.  I have just discovered this.

Whilst unable to run for this last week I have cycled three times and completed my circuit twice, so no problem in setting straight back into my running routine today.  Well, just the one.  It nearly killed me.  I felt as though I had never run before.  Whatever muscles the weights and cycle exercised, they were clearly not the ones I needed for running.  Those little fellas had obviously put their feet up for the week.  Whilst the new muscle-sets were stretching their legs, my running muscles were having a fag and a couple of pints.  They felt like they had put a few stones on when I rattled them out of bed this morning.  By the time I plodded back up the street thirty minutes after setting off, they were all deeply ruing the error of their ways.  They are complaining about it loudly now.  They need to watch themselves: if they make too much noise, I may well be taking them out in the snow next time – I will be covered in many layers of whatever it takes to break my fall – and we’ll see how much they like that…

The next episode of the Running Man, ‘…Plodding On’ is here
The Previous episode of the Running Man, ‘The Running Man on Running’ is here.
The whole running malarkey started here with ‘Couch to 5k’.

The Running Man on Running

I am trapped at home.  I cannot – dare not – venture out into the white-over world that surrounds me.  I have to don the wellies just to put stuff in the bin which is six feet from the back door.  Even then I require at least one spare hand with which to grip the wall.  (I originally wrote ‘grip the world’ there – a Freudian slip I would like to think, but more likely a subconscious recognition of reality.  I am currently having one of those mornings when I mis-type everything.  I use only two fingers and the keys are fairly big; how can my aim be so flippin’ awful?  I will tend to all of the bits underlined in red later – but not the British idioms to which the autocorrect is particularly averse.)  I like the look of snow.  It looks great, but why is it so bloody cold?  Why is it so slippery?  I realise that there are plenty of people who would be very unhappy to discover that it had ceased to be so – skiers, ice hockey players, kids on sledges, the makers of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ – but those of us with low-level, frost-generated stability issues would be more than happy to find that it had acquired a little more traction.  I wonder if Velcro soles would work?

Anyway, the fact is that I currently cannot run and so, like some Guru that The Beatles revered, unaware that he was only riding them to fame, I have decided to impart onto you, dear reader, all that I have so far learned about running.  The first thing that I have learned about running is that, after six months, I still don’t like it very much.  I never wake in the morning looking forward to a run: I never set off with anything other on my mind than finishing it.  However, whilst acknowledging that running offers me no enjoyment of whatsoever, I have grown to understand that it is essential to my wellbeing: mental as well as physical.  It is my thrice weekly ‘reset’.  Don the trainers and hit ‘Control-Alt-Delete’.  Nothing occupies my mind whilst running other than the immediate issues associated with doing so: not falling over; not running into anything/anyone; not passing out outside the chip shop.  It is a necessary evil – like a belt: you really don’t need it until your trousers fall down. 

So, the second thing I have learned about running is that I miss it when I don’t do it.  When I find an excuse not to run – and I have many: I can be very creative – I regret it almost at once.  I have two choices:

  1. Ignore myself.  Perfectly feasible.  Everybody else does it perfectly well.
  2. Clean the drains.

I feel slightly ashamed of myself when I have made an excuse not to run.  Especially since my usual antidote to shame is chocolate and whisky.  I schedule a run for the following day which, short of thinking of another excuse, I take.  Missing a run always makes the subsequent excursion more difficult: I am out of breath sooner, in fear of death earlier.  I regret having missed my run the day before.  I vow never to make an excuse again.  I marvel at my own weak-will.  I guess it could be my superpower.  (These are the thoughts that actually occupy my mind.)

The third – and I promise, last – thing I have learned about running is that it has a totally unpredictable effect on me.  Some days I breeze around my little course.  I feel so good that I pop in an extra kilometre.  I smile at people for goodness sake!  Other days, I set off in the same state of mind, in the same state of physical disintegration, and find myself running through treacle.  Every step is an effort and I have to resolutely battle against the urge to just give in and walk – which, sadly, could be quicker.  Nobody appears able to offer an explanation for this.  Is it a cosmic phenomenon, or the slice of cake I ate at midnight?  It must have something to do with my metabolism I guess (literally, as I have no idea what a metabolism is) but, if that is the case, my metabolism is frighteningly unreliable.  Perhaps the external white-out offers me the perfect excuse to find out why: a profitable way to spend the hours which, in less skiddy times, would be used tramping the streets.

Or I could just drink hot chocolate and move the bin closer to the door…

The next entry in my running diary, ‘The Running Man on Not Running’ is here
The previous entry in my running diary, ‘The Running Man and the Hip’ is here.
The first time I donned the trainers is chronicled here in ‘Couch to 5k’. You’re welcome.

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 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 His Playlist

I have a playlist for running.  It is full of tracks that have a steady beat – nothing with jarring changes that might confuse plodding feet – that approximate the metronomic thump of my 5k lope.  It is probably because of the choice of my music that I manage to maintain such a steady pace: it does not vary by much more than three or four seconds per kilometre.  Today I took a slightly different route to my normal, expecting to cross the local sports field and pub garden as a bit of a change of scenery.  As I made my way across the sports field I was treated to the kind of stare that Hannibal Lecter might have stopped using on the grounds that it was too disturbing, by a man playing ball with his two toddlers.  This is a big field.  I must have been at least thirty yards away from them, but he clearly saw me as some sort of superbug.  It would appear that whatever the chunk of atmosphere he had decided was exclusively his; I was intruding upon it and breathing out God-knows-what.  I was pleased he didn’t have a dog.  He struck me as the kind that might well set it on me.  I was in no state by then to run away.  Speeding up was not an option.  When I say that my pace is steady, I forget to mention that it is only because I don’t have a second gear.

Anyway, having passed through the park without actual physical attack I arrived at the back of the pub to find the gates locked and chained, which meant that I either went back through the park or on through the churchyard.  I felt a little uneasy about running through the graves, but I slowed slightly as I passed the most recent, which I’m sure the occupants appreciated.  I would have bowed my head, but that would have inevitably ended up in me going full length over something stone and immovable, so I continued to look where I was going.  The detour added an extra kilometre to my run although the pace remained unaltered, all down, I am sure, to the even beat of my running playlist.  I really didn’t realise how many good ‘plodders’ I have.

Today’s running tunes:

  • Big Money – Rush
  • Bully – Judie Tzuke
  • Locomotive Breath – Martin Barre
  • White Man in Hammersmith Palais – The Clash
  • Fascination – Bowie
  • Action – Def Leppard
  • Seven Seas of Rye – Queen
  • Pretending – Eric Clapton

I have no concept whatsoever of time signatures, but a steady lope was maintained throughout…

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

The Running Man Fellowship

In my younger days I rode a motorbike.  Outside of Shanks’s* it was the only mode of transport available to me that didn’t involve being shouted at by the bus driver because I didn’t have the correct change, and I loved it, even though it made me more familiar than I would truly like with my problematic relationship with the physics of gravity.  It gave me a freedom I had not really felt since my early days of bicycle riding (heading off into the unknown, armed with nothing more than a penny packet of crushed crisps and a half bottle of Tizer).  Provided I had the money for petrol, two-stroke oil and a good glug of Redex, I could go to the coast, I could ride alone and I could ride with my friends.  Mostly, as adulthood crowded in on me, I rode to and from work.  In the winter it got very cold and I went everywhere in multiple layers of clothing.  Inner-gloves, under gloves, under gauntlets.  I wore so many layers around my ‘middle area’ that I couldn’t drink anything, knowing that the peeling required in order to be safely able to pee could take hours.  I have never felt so cold as during my 6am winter rides to work, but still I loved my bike and I continued to love it until a frosty morning face-slap into a tree which left me in hospital having various parts of my face reassembled (I always feel that asymmetry is desirable in a face, don’t you?) with, what on a cold day, feels like a child’s Meccano set.  When I left hospital I learned to drive a car and dreamed about the warm freedom that a car would give me – just as soon as I could afford one.  Sadly the heater seldom worked on my first car (a three-tone – gold, rust and filler – Vauxhall Viva) and the passenger side window wouldn’t shut properly so, more pipe dreams, except that I loved that car and my wife actually cried when it eventually went to the great crusher in the sky… 

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, I was thinking about the motorbikes this morning when I ran because I remembered the ‘fellowship’ that I felt as part of the bike riding community.  All other bikers waved, all other bikers spoke.  Old spoke to young and passed on their bikey wisdom, the young tried to grow a beard and dreamt of losing a front tooth.  If you broke down, you knew that the next bike to come by would stop to help.  And suddenly I realised that my new world of running was a little the same.  I cannot pretend that I love running, but I do miss it if I don’t do it.  It does give me a certain sense of freedom and is one of the few times when I can step outside, anytime from September to May, without feeling cold.  I smile and acknowledge everybody that runs towards me: old, young, experienced, gasping, we all share a cheery, red in the face ‘hello’ as we pass.  I imagine that if I break down, the next runner-by will stop to help me and if I run into a tree, well, at least it won’t be at quite the same speed.  I am a member of a new fellowship, and I now have the hi-viz to prove it.

*To go by Shanks’s Pony – To Walk

The previous running diary instalment ‘The Running Man and the Dogwalkers’ is here.
The next running diary instalment ‘The Running Man and his Playlist’ is here.
This whole sorry saga started here.

The Running Man and The Dog Walkers

I have two options as a ‘runner’: I run on the path or I run on the road.  Generally I opt for the path because, by and large, people are quite a lot softer than cars.  I take to the road whenever I can, to give other pedestrians space and also because it is generally flatter and less rutted than the path.  At the moment the roads are also noticeably quieter than normal.  Mostly runners and pedestrians co-exist quite nicely, I think.  I always give as much room as I can without putting myself under a bus and the walkers do the same for me.  Pleasantries are normally exchanged – although mine often arrive more as a death-rattle than a thank you.  Now Lockdown 2 has started, people have fallen back on the default position of crossing the road wherever possible to avoid ‘cross-overs’ – particularly with fat, gasping old men – but in the main everybody gives one another space, everybody smiles.

There is, though, one group of people to whom this ‘rule’ does not appear to apply.  Some dog walkers do not move.  Not just for me, but for anyone.  If I move to the left, they stay squarely in the middle; if I move to the right, they stay squarely in the middle.  If I squeeze myself against the wall to let them pass, they look at me as if I am about to mug them – and stay in the middle.  They stare with a defiance that shouts ‘I will not move and I have a dog!’  I have to stop, plunge into a hedge or into the road, where the users of that thoroughfare are often, rightfully, much more troubled by my appearance: nobody wants a sweating old geezer smeared all over the front bumper. The dog walker will give no ground.  These, presumably, are the same people who leave their dog’s shit-in-a-bag hanging from the branches of bushes wherever they go.  Whatever they think I have, they are obviously concerned that I might give it to the dog.  There is clearly a rule, doubtless penned at the time of the Magna Carta and never rescinded, that states that the path belongs to the dog-walker and that they do not need to cede ground to anyone.  Knowledge of this rule comes with the dog.

I love dogs – I should get that out there now – but some of their owners…  These are a new breed.  Today, whilst I was out running, I actually saw a dog walker stand in the middle of the path and stare at a mother who had to guide her clearly afraid toddler into the road to avoid the yapping terrier, which obviously thought the child was a cat.  The tit on the other end of the lead did not pull the dog back, he did not move to one side of the pavement, he just stared and then moved off when he was quite certain that his path had been sufficiently cleared to leave him unimpeded egress. 

The last few months has filled the paths with lycra and dog leads: the number of brightly attired couch to 5k’ers now being roughly equivalent to those clutching a super-expensive hybrid canine (invented by a breeder who formerly mixed two-digit cocktails in a bar) at the far end of an extending leash.  Civility is all that is required.  Paths are normally not one way streets.  There could be confrontation, but to be quite honest, those clad in lycra are generally too knackered whilst those with the leads have the honest opinion that anybody moving at a pace exceeding the saunter (which leaves me out, obviously) has no place on the flagged sward.

I’m sure that it is probably wrong to lay blame at just one door – although I have yet to witness a runner who was unwilling to move over to give a pedestrian room to walk.  Many dog walkers are happy to co-exist, but many more are not.  I’m at a loss to explain it.  These are perfectly normal people.  I’m sure they are perfectly happy to share the pavement when they haven’t got their dogs.  They will smile quite congenially as long as you move into the road to let them pass.  I’m sure if you fell under a lorry they would be quite concerned – although, as they would have to leave the centre of the path in order to come to your aid, you’d never know it.

Today’s favourite running track: Alright – ELO

The previous running diary instalment ‘The Running Man Plods On’ is here.
The next running diary instalment ‘The Running Man Fellowship’ is here.
The whole sorry saga started here.