Monday, 13 September 2010

The idiocy of running

I did something really stupid yesterday. Not just my usual level of stupid, like dropping Lumpy on his head, walking into walls, or forgetting to put my trousers on. Oh no, this was proper stupid.

I went running. In fact, worse than that, I ran in a race. A race. Which also involved scrambling over fences. It really was astonishingly, ridiculously stupid.

I have indulged in running in the past, despite being almost comically unsuited to the pursuit. I am just not built for it, physically or psychologically. My legs do not like carrying me around at speed. I have several old war wounds, and have only half a knee left. The minute I inch above shuffling pace, I start making noises like an asthmatic, chain-smoking weasel stuck down a drain. It really is not a pretty sight. I have to be careful about doing it in public in case people are startled and call in the authorities to have me shot.

Because of all this, I have spent much of my life attempting to avoid running. Even at school I loathed it, and will never forget the shame of slogging round the last laps of a 1500m with my irritatingly skinny and bouncy friend finishing, then looping back and jogging along (well, briskly walking, really) beside me, chirping encouragement as I sweated and spat and cursed my way to the finish line, about 7 hours later.

It's not that I don't like physical exertion. In fact, I am a bit of an overcompetitive masochist, and genuinely like swimming length after length, squatting big fat weights, and, being an ex-rower, erging myself into sweaty, blistered oblivion. And I'm actually reasonably good at most of these things. The same pathetic overcompetitiveness that made me write that last line is probably what drives me back to running, time after time. Why am I so crap at it, even if I try really, really hard and do it a lot? I'd love to be good at it. It must feel wonderful to be able to run, quickly and effortlessly, rather than dragging yourself along wheezing and weeping and hating every step. I have dreams about being able to run -- about competing in fun runs (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and striding to the front of the pack, overtaking everyone -- in the same way that others have dreams about flying.

I seem to think that if I just keep at it, somehow I will defy biology, physiology, medical science, and logic to magically become this mythical runner. I even ran a half marathon once (though once again 'run' is a rather optimistic term here). That was two and a half years ago, and the experience was so traumatic that I haven't attempted even a jog since.

Until yesterday, that is, when I decided, for some deranged reason, that it would be a good idea to take part in the Only Fools Fun Run, over the eventing course at Blenheim Palace. It's only 5km, I thought. That's nothing. And the jumps? The giant great jumps that are made for horses to leap over, complete with ditches, and water, and spiky bits of brush? Easy. A little scramble. Fun, like they say. That's what it'll be. Fun.

It really wasn't fun. Or much of a run, to be honest.

Mr Badger streaked off at the start, being a person (sorry, furry little omnivore) who can actually run. Luckily, Sister Badger was there to drag me along, or I may well have fallen at the first, claimed to have a broken leg, and called for the tent and the man with the special gun. I started my wheezing and staggering act after about 50 metres, surprising even myself with my crapness. I actually found myself looking forward to the ridiculous fences, as they gave me a chance to have a lie down and a breather on the top, before someone else trampled on my head and forced me to fall off and shuffle on to the next one.

Somehow I made it round, despite having almost drowned in the lake (which was all of two inches deep), and been spiked up the bum by pretty much every bit of brush going. We were beaten by a dalmation, a cow, and the knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Though the geriatric hula girls were behind us, I believe (they were last seen hoisting one another over the second, after which point I went blind and saw no more).

And Lumpy (disappointingly absent from this entire post, I hear the Lumpy fans cry!)? He slept in his pram the whole way through, and thus failed to witness his mother's shocking display of inathleticism. Perhaps I can train him up to be a runner, so he can fulfill all my frustrated, futile, vain ambitions. Or perhaps I'll just become a baby. No one ever makes them run. Lucky bastards.

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