‘I’m popping out for a run.’ ‘That’s nice.’ ‘I’m literally ‘running’ away from my work. Do you get it, Mum?’ ‘Yes. Very witty. Bye.’
I started running when I was 16 years old, the Summer of GCSEs. My little sister and I worked at the same desk, each of us sitting on one side, complaining bitterly about loud breathing and encroaching feet. (I’m not entirely sure what she was revising for, but it was well established that my exams were superlatively important). After lunch my sister would take a nap, and I would go for a run. I believe it took me the same amount of time to get changed as I spent outside ‘running’, but I had an exceedingly jazzy minidisc player and had spent hours making the perfect mix. Every so often I would run down to Ladbroke Grove, and attempt to run up the hill to Notting Hill Gate. I consistently failed to do this, and remembered every time why running is no fun at all.
The trouble is, I kept at it. Because running is fair. The more you run, the easier it gets. That’s it. There’s nothing else. You simply put one foot in front of the other. (Not directly in front of the other- it would be impossible to balance). Every run, your lungs hurt less. Every run, you wonder what the hell you are doing hurling yourself around the streets of London instead of taking a nap. Because when looked at logically, running is no fun at all. The pleasure/pain ratio is horribly disproportionate. There are two sweet, exalting moments in every run. The first 5 steps, when nothing hurts and everything is full of promise. And the moment you overtake someone. Anyone. A child will do. Though not a child on those silly scooter things. Those are deceptively fast. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of smug self-satisfaction. (It is completely fine to overtake old people, feel tremendously smug and then hide round the corner for a break. Although I did this yesterday, and an old woman stopped to ask if I was OK. Well, I assume that’s what she was asking. I was listening to Lil Wayne so I couldn’t hear a word she said. For a moment I thought she was asking me to lick her lollipop).
So you see, I kept running because I was consistently fooled. At the start of every run, I believed that this would be the run where nothing hurt, where I could run for miles with pleasure, where I would get to the other side of the mountain that separates Ladbroke Grove from Notting Hill Gate. I kept running because I am an idiot. I kept running because I love it.
Today running is better than it was 10 years ago. We have IPods, and GPS trackers so you can see exactly how many miles you’ve covered. The great thing about tracking miles is you can upload them, and show everyone. What I’m saying is, running today is better because there are more opportunities to show off. And people have gotten fatter, so they’re easier to overtake.