I have agreed to do something unthinkable. Something at which those who know me personally will laugh heartily and snort with humour. They will slap their thighs and tears of mirth will spring forth from their disbelieving eyes and they will convulse in a fit of rapturous indignation. And then they will look at my terrified face and the blood will drain from their cheeks for they will know that the ungodly fate I present before them may well see the very Earth spin off its axis.
I am going to run a race.
The latter half of last year saw Himself, my housemate and my sister take part in half marathons, during which periods I nodded approvingly and gave the encouraging talks and became accustomed to being addressed with breathless grunts and of course, was on the finish lines screaming hysterically like a proud mother. I sat through entire conversations about blisters, hydration drinks and knee strength, and am now privy to an impressive knowledge of Tooting Bec Common despite having been there twice in my life.
Fine. That’s all fine. And – as was the case this Christmas – when the runners’ chat starts up and everyone waxes lyrical about how wonderful running makes them feel and they use words like ‘free’ and ‘rush’ and ‘relaxed’, I excuse myself and get my own relaxing rush from a fag and a glass of wine. And a biscuit. “Oh but Rach, you should really try it,” they beam. “If I can do it, anyone can!” And then they all mentally hi-five each other using special superpowers that you can only get if you’re really awesome at personal fitness.
You see, the amount of interest I do not have in running can be seen from space. This is due in part to my terrible lifestyle, which sees me inhale about 15 fags a day into my tiny, acorn-sized lungs and consume far more units of alcohol a week than you can declare on a GP registration form without fear of reprisal. Also, the biscuits. But mainly, for God’s sake, it hurts. “Oh yes, it will do to begin with,” nod the runners with irritating wisdom. “But once you’ve pushed passed that it becomes much easier.” Annoyingly, though, I am not a fan of doing things that I don’t like, so this idea of punishing myself in order to continue punishing myself in an albeit lesser way is not so appealing.
Nonetheless, I appreciate that some people are better than me, and so my housemate has signed up for another run in March. Good for her, I thought. And then Himself declared that he was going to sign up for another run. Good for him, too, I thought. And then my other housemate, Becky, announced she was going to do the March run, as well.
NO. NOT COOL.
You see, all of that blurb I said above about being supportive and encouraging… well. Yes, of course I care and want them to do well and yes, the day they manage a full circumference of the Earth I’ll be there at the finish line shrieking Charlie Sheen quotes to spur them on, but that’s a limited pot of encouragement there, because as soon as everyone is indoctrinated into the cult of running it becomes very difficult to ignore my own glaringly obvious shortcomings, and then the only words to pass in this house will be about running and supportive trainers, and they’ll all go out for ‘training sessions’ and return glowing with health and vitality and drink vitamin juice while I stand huddled in the porch with a packet of biscuits and a cigarette. And then it’ll start raining – a perfect metaphor for the cruel effect this bloody running phenomenon has had on my life, without me being directly involved with it in any way at all.
So I’m just going to run a sodding race. In part to see if I actually can (acorn lungs an’ all), in part to see what the fuss is about. And as ammunition for the future, for in the hugely likely event that I don’t ‘take’ to the sport, when runners tell me to “just give it a go” and that “I might enjoy it”, I can shake my token 5km medal at them and say “I did and I don’t. Pass the biscuits, please,” without any guilt.