The Running Man on What to Remember

The most important thing I have to remember when I run is that I have to think about something – anything – else.  Absolutely the worst thing I can do is to think about running.  If I do, it takes only a couple of hundred yards before I become conscious of my knees – was that a twinge?  Are they getting ready to collapse? – and by the time I reach the top corner my mind has moved onto my breathing – is it laboured?  Is that my chest or has somebody just driven past me in a van with no exhaust? – half a kilometre thinking about running and I can feel my heart pounding in my chest like a clog dancer with no sense of rhythm.

Now, I am of an age – my body has been ravaged more often than Moll Flanders – and I see myself as the kind of bike that I used to ride as a youth: held together with string and sticky tape, and I am never certain which part is going to let me down first.  It is only if I allow myself to become confident that a wheel falls off.  The more I think about it, the closer disaster moves.

My mind tells me that I will not fall to pieces as long as I don’t think about falling to pieces, so I think about something else: how big are Bruce Banner’s pants that he can still wear them after he has become The Hulk?  And why are they so tatty?  The last time my pants looked like that I was sixteen and had just spent two weeks camping in the Lake District with all my worldly possessions in a plastic carrier bag.  I used them for a bonfire on my last night and they burned for three weeks.  It is not a good train of thought because it always leads to my current under-trolley arrangements and I become aware of the current direction of travel.  Thinking about underwear is never a good idea whilst running and will always lead to discomfort.  (And, by the way, as you get older you will begin to realise that shorts with ‘built in support’ are never up to the job*.)  Far better to concentrate on the outer attire of other runners: those who have only recently decided to start running and have consequently thrown the cheque book at the local sports outfitters and those who have been running for years and realise that the tatty green number is by far the most comfortable top they have, that nothing chafes quite like an embroidered trade mark.  There are those who perpetually run in sunglasses (I have worn sunglasses myself and it is only when the sun disappears that you realise that you have nowhere to put the bloody things) those who wear a cap to fasten down unruly hair and those who wear a cap to disguise the fact that the days of unruly hair are long behind them.  Those who, like me, trudge along, elastic dressing on every conceivable joint, carrying the weight of the world on emaciated shoulders, and those who bound along like a youthful Bambi, full of the joys of Spring, unburdened by a care in the world but, I am sure, fully aware of my loathing as they wave a cheery greeting.  There are those who acknowledge me and those who fear it might be catching.  I think of them all and, before I know it, the run is over and I haven’t even noticed I’ve done it.  All I have to work out then is how come I have arrived home such a breathless, sweating wreck…

*No matter how unpalatable, facts are facts: you may not wish to know them, but they are still facts…

The first running diary ‘Couch to 5k’ is here.
The last running diary ‘A Very Hot Business’ is here.
The next running diary ‘On Being Grandad’ is here