Run for your life

8 Nov

What is it about exercising and running in particular that divides people so firmly into two extremist camps? The ‘evangelicals’ (‘running has changed my life’) and the ‘dead-set-against-it-nothing-will-EVER-change-my-mind’ types who are almost as evangelical about hating it and deeply suspicious of those who participate, as Charlie Brooker sets out amusingly in his article in the Guardian yesterday.

My theory is that a lot of the hatred is bred at school. Runs were often given out as punishments and as a result, generally despised by everyone, even sporty types seemed to hate cross country running. The other passion killer was that it was seen to be deeply uncool (a bit like physics) and so avoided like the plague by almost everyone.
I loathed it. Short distance, long distance, middle distance and with a pathological hatred reserved for the cross country variety. My first (and last) experience of the latter was entering a cross country race for my then new school in Singapore when we first moved out there (I was 9). Training in that level of heat and humidity was quite a shock to the system, even for grit doctor junior as I was back then. I think more than anything else I hated the fact that I wasn’t going to win the race no matter how hard I tried, and I ended up collapsing at the finishing line in tears.

And therein lies one of the main problems with running and possibly one of the reasons some people are so averse to it: There is no escape and nowhere to hide. By that I mean you can be unfit and lazy and have an ‘off day’ during a game of hockey and still be on the winning team. Not so with running. When you go out for a run there are no winners or losers and nothing obviously rewarding for your exertions, and your exertions are BIG. You have no-one else to jolly you along or ‘carry’ your poor performance if you are having a bad day. It requires a completely different approach and mind-set to other types of exercise. There is only you and the elements and the repetitive actions of putting one foot in front of the other over and over again. And IT IS BORING. IT IS KNACKERING. But in time something magical happens, and before you know it you become the sort of person, like CB, who arrives on holiday and the first thing you do when you survey the beach is work out if and when you can run on it.


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