I won’t lie: I find the idea of exercise difficult because it’s boring and I’m lazy. I have tried to get fit, but I can’t get motivated. And I won’t do that ‘team’ sport (high-five!) stuff either because I don’t know the rules and I don’t want to be last to get picked.
So I try to get around these issues by buying the right ‘gear’. For yoga I bought the mat, the trousers and the vest. I went to three classes. I couldn’t relax during the oom because the last fifteen minutes clashed with Doctors. For swimming I bought two new swimming costumes, you know, to ‘rotate’ the wet and dry. It was good enough, but the big hairy guy always seemed to be swimming at the same time as me, and I kept finding my wet towel still in the bag a week later.
I will never go to a gym. Gyms stink. But I do keep the class times. In the drawer beside the Spice Six menu.
I have nothing to show for my attempts at exercise except for a rising dough of belly and a drawer full of unworn, too-tight ‘swoosh’ tops.
Then I see this link: ‘Running: From couch to 5K’. http://www.c25k.com
Doesn’t sound too bad, ‘walk one minute, run one minute’. I can do that. I wasn’t a ‘runner’ at school -I walked at the back with the smokers - but maybe that’s the old me?
So if I’m going to be a committed runner, I’d better get the gear, you know, get motivated. New trainers: £90. Ugly beige running bra: £50. Recycled yoga trousers: £0. Running pants? Actual running knickers? No. (Maybe for the 10K).
So here I go running and head to the park. Pockets are bulging: ipod, bottle of water, tissues, house keys, loose change. The park is teeming with runners, so I just start running as well.
I nod to the other runners, they all look good. Yoga trousers are flapping a bit at the ankle, maybe I need those shorter trousers that finish at the knee. But then I need to make sure my legs are smooth. I make a mental note to buy an epliator. The Specials Too much too youngcomes on the ipod so I increase the pace. I notice a runner wearing quite a functional hairband to keep the fringe off her face – nice.
Good God, what’s that hard pain in my throat… a big lump… is it a chunk of lung?
I slow down, panting, reaching for a tissue amongst the coins. I look at my watch -nine seconds have passed. Nine seconds. I’m supposed to be walking for one minute.
So I walk for five minutes, holding the stitch in my side and wondering what I needed money for? The ice cream van?
I sit down and take a sip of water. I watch the other runners, who appear to be carrying nothing at all. Where are their house keys?
After a few minutes I get up and start to walk. The trainers feel bouncy, I’ll divide the cost by number of wears, this could work. I begin to run, but I have to stop again. It’s too much. I couldn’t run for a bus, a taxi, to the end of my road, nowhere. Useless. Deflated, I head home.
But when I put the key in the door, there it is. That ‘exercised’ feeling, like the sun is shining from inside me. My nine seconds of high!
I look in the bathroom mirror anticipating a healthy runner’s glow on the cheeks, but it’s my Granny’s white and powdery face that stares back. With crazy hair. Next time I’ll definitely need one of those headbands and some makeup. Not too much, just enough to ensure a healthy glow. And maybe some factor fifteen around the eyes. I examine my legs. If I’m going to get those shorter trousers I’ll need fake tan as well as the epilator.
The next two times I go out running are both as disastrous. I appear to be unable to run for a single minute, but I do look the part.
I phone Elaine who ran the London marathon last year. She ran an amazing time of 3:11 while I stood scoffing sweets at 9am juggling a cardboard sign of her school nickname ‘Mavis Davis’.
‘You are running too fast’ she says, ‘You need to slow down.’
‘I don’t want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing.’ I tell her.
I reluctantly agree to go out with her the following week and we meet with her sister (Karen) and my sister (Rose Ann) for a group run around the local park. Elaine’s sister has just started running and is up to eight minutes without stopping. Rose Ann and I are the same. Nine seconds (no stopping).
I notice that the three others are wearing running sunglasses, and Rose Ann has a baseball cap. Maybe I need that stuff as well.
We get started, and I see what Elaine is doing is no more than a bouncy walk. I think I can cope with it, but a gap is forming between Team Elaine/Karen and Team Julie/Rose Ann and other runners are getting in between us. Naturally we duck in behind them to slow down/chat about Rose Ann’s glasses. Elaine looks round, so we pick it back up to the bouncy walk.
‘Elaine, we’re struggling. We need to stop.’
‘You’re fine’ she says. ‘If you can keep talking you then can keep running.’
We bounce a bit faster. Rose Ann tells me she gets that throat lump too – we discuss - maybe God made all our family this way?
Elaine announces that we have been bouncy walking for two minutes and forty seconds.
Two minutes and forty seconds? Magic. I go home and celebrate with a goldfish bowl of wine and a Ripple.
I look out a few days later and see that the weather is dry and not too sunny. I chuck the laptop down and get my gear on. As soon as I get to the park I know I’ve made the right decision. I start running very slowly. I’m doing okay. If I slow right down I can run for a bit longer. I’m actually enjoying myself. I can feel the long road to improvement begin, at least in my head. My visions begin to build… It’s me breaking a ribbon, punching the air, receiving a cup, Chariots of fire music.
I look down at the timer and see four minutes twenty seven seconds.
‘Yesah!’ I announce to the trees.
I decide it’s time for me to book the 5K race for the end of the summer. I get my phone out to text Elaine and tell her about my new time.
I receive a text back. She asks me if I want to do the London Marathon next year.
I tell her I just need to buy an epilator first.
Julie didn’t join Elaine for the marathon, but this July is taking on a (wow!) 5K Race for Life. Please Sponsor Julie here if you have been affected by cancer. You can also sponsor if you’re just too lazy to do a race yourself.