In polite conversation, folks often ask about your hobbies. Acceptable answers to such questions range from ‘Gaming’, ‘Painting’, ‘Stamp collecting’ to ‘Cars’, but tell someone you run for fun and more often than not, you’re going to get a few odd looks.
Apparently being into running means you’re also a teetotaling, fitness freak with a perchant for tofu. People tend to clutch their cigarettes at me like Romanians clutch garlic to keep the vampires at bay. Im not, really. I drink with the best of them and I have a cute tiny beer belly called Gary to prove it. If you want to smoke, thats fine. Im not about to make you run anywhere. It’s ok, calm down.
I run for fun. It’s something that has always come naturally to me. No complicated equipment, no instructions, no boats to drag into the water or bikes to fall off of or sweaty apes making disgusting grunting noises. Just you, and the air (I avoid running on treadmills as it makes me feel like a mouse). You want to stop, you stop. But it feels so great if you keep going.
I was in the athletics team in primary school, and wound up being vice sports captain for my team (Go red team, yeah!). I dabbled in hurdles, long-jump, high-jump, and triple-jump but was only good at such things because I was good at running. There was no training involved, I was 12, it was just my thing.
I tried out for the athletics team in high-school, but my overwhelming geekiness made it hard for me to feel accepted by my cliquey pop music loving, bleached blonde, luddite peers. However forced participation in school sports meant that there was still running to do and I enjoyed it despite myself. I made friends with a fellow running outcast and we would jog around after school.
In uni I drank beer. Then I broke my knee, kept drinking beer and got fat. Aesthetics being my speciality, it was hard looking in the mirror and not being pleased with the view. Sure, you aren’t what you look like, body image, blah blah. But its hard for someone who is so focused on how things look all day to suddenly turn that off and think ‘I am happy with my thighs jiggling like that’. So once the fake knee had been assimilated I got on with the running, only this time (possibly due to alien abduction) I was aiming for distance.
I remember struggling, 3ks seeming so so far. I’d have to stop and walk in the middle, breathing like someone about to give birth to a small moon and as red as an English tourist who has spent 3 days at the Gold Coast in January. I enjoyed it despite the moon puffing redness.
After a while if I didn’t run every now and again, I would get these nightmares of something chasing me and not being able to run fast enough to get the hell away from it. My subconscious’ guilt is powerful stuff. And now if I don’t run I get crabby and have trouble sleeping, occasionally eye gouging can result.
My favorite part of running right now is Mordialloc pier. I go fast to watch the water rush past me on either side and deliberately make it hard for myself to dodge the fishermen. I like to convince myself that once I get to the end Im not going to turn around but run out onto the water road-runner style and eventually find myself in Sorrento with wet shoes.
A few weeks ago, thanks to an email from Nike, I signed up for my first race. I feel like a debutant, being presented to the world, or a gay man coming out; “I run, and Im proud”. Im terrified, what happens if I can’t finish? This terror has manifested itself into a training schedule of 5:30am starts, intervals, fartleks and vigorous stretching. And for a little while, my fear also stopped me from telling anyone I plan on doing it because if no one knew, it’d be easier to chicken out.
So now we get to the point; on the 31st of August, I am going to run my little legs off around Melbourne. My goal is not only to finish the race, but to finish it in under an hour. My first 10k training run will be this Sunday and currently my 9k is sitting on 55:56. I am both excited and terrified. Wish me luck.