|Well-travelled and well-worn, a bit like their owner!|
For most of us our first encounter with running is an enforced cross-country trek in t-shirt and shorts while being barked at by your PE teacher and prevented from dawdling by another teacher at the rear. For me this meant a red-faced, stinging-thighed, chest-flapping experience. As we were more concerned about fashion than correct sportswear, we wore plimsolls instead of good trainers, Top Shop bra-tops instead of sports bras and character t-shirts instead of anything that would keep us vaguely warm. It was a terrible combination and not something that inspired many of us to carry on.
But carry on (and off) I did. I joined the local athletics club and after coming last in every race I was entered into, I was put in the walking race. That's right - the walking race! Where you must walk fast, but not run, forcing you to waddle like a Pearly King with his thumbs in his braces dancing to 'My Old Man's a Dustman'. It is a terrible look, a terrible 'sport', and I came second to last because someone else had to pull out due to injury. Not a natural sports woman but not to be undeterred by this lack of prowess in the competitive arena, I decided to try to keep fit with a friend who, like me, mistook her teenage curves (that we would kill for today) to be lard, by running with binliners under our t-shirts because we knew that was what boxers did. We didn't develop six-packs, we just got sweaty. And rustly. We looked and sounded silly, so we stopped.
I decided from there on in to stick to the gym, generally going at silly-o-clock in the morning for an hour with an ex-Army PT instructor who had decided what he really wanted to do was shout at out of shape office workers. And then my mum had heart failure and I thought I'd give running another go by signing up to do the Reading Half-Marathon, partly to raise money for the British Heart Foundation, partly to help counterbalance the amount of curry and beer I was enjoying at the time, and partly to hopefully reduce the chances of it happening to me. Nothing like the prospect of having to run 13.1 miles to force you out into the elements with (very importantly) the right footwear and undergarments. Once I'd run my first mile without having to stop I was hooked. I don't think I'd quite appreciated how good it would feel.
That's not to say it doesn't have its drawbacks: I've lost toenails, got lost, fallen over, fallen into a bog whilst trying to 'guess' a route through some woods next to the Kennet & Avon canal, had to run with the equivalent of a snail trail on my running tights after mis-calculating a spit (sorry), been bitten on the backside by a dog called Billy, had upset stomachs, headaches, and farted in front of a fellow runner - hard to hold in a trouser cough when in motion (apologies again but sometimes your body doesn't 'do' polite). I've developed blisters, chillblains, almost fainted from dehydration and am now addicted to glucosameine to try to combat the clicking noise that my hips make but I will keep doing it because I've found nothing that beats the mind-clearing, freedom-bringing, good to be alive feeling that comes with a nice long run. Think I might go for another tomorrow....
Soundtrack: Where the Streets Have No Name - U2