So, I occasionally go running.
I should probably at this point clarify two parts of that sentence. When I say “occasionally”, what I mean is “once a week, unless I can come up with a legitimate and convincing rationale as to why I shouldn’t, which I am remarkably good at, in which case it’s more likely to be once a month at best”. And when I say “running”, I more mean “flailing”. “Flailing while moving forward at a speed slightly slower than an octagenarian with lower limb impairment could manage” would be probably a pretty much spot on description of how I run, actually.
I started running back in about 2006, when a friend of mine inexplicably managed to convince me that it would be a really good idea if we signed up and did a 5k together. To this day, I have not a clue why a) she thought it would be a good idea, or b) why I did it. I suspect large amounts of gin consumption played a part in both.
Dutifully, we carried out the “Couch to 5k” programme. Each week, we increased the pitiful distance we were able to run without stopping. Each week, “You will start to find running easier and more natural”, the programme told us. This was my first experience of the utter fucking lies which people like to tell about running.
Within a couple of months we had reached our stated goal: to be able to run non stop for 40 minutes. People who we told we were running a Race For Life were enthused. “Oh wow, that’s amazing. The atmosphere will be incredible. You’ll have such a fantastic time.” Key learning: it is very easy to be that enthusiastic about running 5k WHEN YOU ARE NOT THE POOR BASTARD HAVING TO DO IT.
The race day came. We ran 5k. I hated every single second of it. The crowds were irritating and loud and I suffered ongoing paranoia that they were all laughing at the size of my arse in my running leggings. (They weren’t, obviously, but the beauty of paranoia is that it doesn’t give a shit about logical expansions.) Even the one moment I should have been able to cherish – crossing the finish line – was ruined when I lurched across and threw up on an old lady’s foot. The poor woman. Me, I mean. She was alright: she hadn’t just had to run 5k!
So, that was my first foray into running. One might think that at this point I would give it up as a bad job: running very clearly wasn’t for me.
The problem is, I am extremely susceptible and very easily brainwashed. Other People kept telling me how great running was, and how much I must be loving it. “It’s so great, such a wonderful form of exercise,” they raved. “It’s free, it gets you outdoors, and you get all that time with yourself.” (I have always resisted the urge to call them out on that last point and tell them I could just as easily be enjoying all that time with myself sat on the sofa. Eating a pizza. Or just having a big poo.) “What’s not to love?”
Because of their persuasive mind games, I decided to keep running. I probably just wasn’t an experienced enough runner yet. If I ran enough, surely one day things would change and I would have my lightbulb, Eureka moment of: I LOVE this!
Well, I am here now to tell you the truth. Because these myths around running? These claims that you will “love it”, that it will become “second nature”, that it will be “your favourite time of your week”?
THEY ARE ALL ABSOLUTE FUCKING BOLLOCKS.
I have now been running for over 10 years. (Not non stop, you nutters: I’m not Forrest fucking Gump.) And I can say, truly, hand on heart, that I have loathed and detested every single second.
I do not love the way it feels like my heart is about to pump its way out of my chest and my lungs feel like I’ve suddenly developed a 70 a day smoking habit.
I do not love the way my legs feel like they’re going to bring me crashing down on my face in public as I spiral wildly out of control.
I do not love the way my breasts feel they are constantly at risk of creating some kind of public spectacle and smashing me in the face causing two black eyes, despite the fact they will be tethered down in anything up to 3 sports bras simultaneously.
I do not love the way my internal GPS is so poorly set that I regularly find myself getting lost on my runs, despite being less than a mile from my own front door.
I do not love the all too frequent game of will I/won’t shit myself. (If it can happen to Paula Radcliffe then NONE OF US are safe.)
And I also do not love the continual suggestions from well wishers as to things I might want to try to suddenly transform my running experience. I HAVE BEEN RUNNING FOR TEN YEARS. DO YOU NOT THINK I MIGHT HAVE ALREADY TRIED THESE???!
“You need to slow down. I bet you’re going too fast.” A toddler on a ride on car overtook me last week. IF I GO ANY SLOWER I WILL BE GOING FUCKING BACKWARDS.
“Have you tried listening to a really good running playlist?” Yes. “It will really help distract you.” Would you be distracted if an army of gnomes took to your legs with pick axes laced with hydrochloric acid? No? Well then. Shut the fuck up.
“You probably don’t have the right shoes.” Well, I don’t fucking know why not, given I have spent about THREE THOUSAND POUNDS attempting to find a set that will magically transform the experience for me.
“Maybe you should try running with other people.” Why? Are there people out there who enjoy threats of their windpipes being ripped out and shoved up their anus if they even fucking attempt to speak to me while I am trying to flail? I mean, run.
“Do you think you’re running too far.” Yes. My optimal running distance is from my front door to the end of my drive. Approx 3 metres. Sadly, it seems the health benefits which come from running such a distance are negligible.
And so I am calling time on the running myths. It is NOT fun. You are NOT guaranteed to enjoy it if you do enough if it. I have run distances up to 10k. I have run anything from 1 to 5 times per week. I have run in groups, and I have run alone. I have followed every training programme under the sun. AND I STILL FUCKING HATE EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF THE WHOLE FUCKING DEBACLE.
Despite all of this, I do still go running, because I am a sadomasochistic oddball. These days, though, I take Beth with me, because I like to make the whole experience even more challenging. She either runs with me or she comes on her bike. And, I am telling you now, an incredible career in motivational speaking awaits her:
“Why are you going so slowly? What’s wrong with your face? Is your bottom meant to wobble like that?” And, my personal favourite. “If you die Mum then, don’t worry about me. I know the way home by myself. Oh, and when you are dead…can I have all your stuff?”
Nothing has ever motivated me to finish a run (and not die) more 😂