Tuesday, 7 January 2014

In which I keep on running. Just not very far.

I have made two resolutions for 2014.

The first is to learn to say ‘no’ more. Specifically to say no to the kind of strictly unnecessary social events that clog up my weeknights and make me tired and poor. The ones that take me to far-flung bits of London to see a friend of a friend’s auntie’s hairdresser playing accordion in the back room of a pub, while all the dinner ingredients I’d bought the week before fester into dismal mush at the bottom of my crisper drawer. Quality, not quantity, that is the key.

The second resolution, and I now realise this contradicts the first one a bit, is not to give up running. That’s it – no distances, no times, no big charity races or mud-covered feats of endurance. Just to not quit.

If by this time next year I haven’t managed to run a single inch farther than I can now, but still put on my trainers and had a good bash at it with some regularity, I’ll chalk it up as a triumph and buy myself a tiramisu. Quantity, not quality, that is the key.

And it has to be the key, because the truth is that I am terrible at running. Really awful. After doing it three or four times a week for the last four months, I’ve made so little progress that it’s almost scientifically fascinating. It’s very possible that I’m actually getting worse.

In the interests of transparency and to prove I’m not being all, “poor hopeless me... oh look, I’ve done the Iron Man!”, I will give you actual figures. When I started running in the first week of September, I could just about do 2km. It is now January and I can do 3km. The most I have ever, ever done is 4km, all downhill, and afterwards I lay on the bathroom floor for an hour and wept.

I wept even more when I remembered that miles are bigger than kilometres, and so in London Marathon terms I’ve just about conquered the bit between Buckingham Palace and the refreshment van.

It wouldn’t be so frustrating if everybody else in the world wasn’t also running, and with much more success. Friends who I’ve always fondly assumed were no fitter than me will casually drop in the fact they did 8km before breakfast, and I will gaze at them, wide-eyed, like the mate of the person who discovered fire. Then, worse, they try to give me tips.

“Never stop and walk!” they say. “Stop and walk every three minutes!” they say. “Eat first!” they say. “Don’t eat first!” They say. “Take water!” they say. “DON’T TAKE WATER!” they say, as I regress to year 11 PE mode and bow out of the conversation pleading lady problems and verrucas.

So yes, I’m aiming low. Just to keep on running, a bit, for as long as I can before I fall over. And if all else fails, I’ll fall back on the other resolution - when people ask if the running is going well, I will simply say ‘no’.


  1. I think "keep running" is a great resolution. Listen to yourself, not your friends. If it makes you feel better to walk, then walk. If you want to drink water beforehand (I do FWIW) then drink. And don't worry about your progress. It's a cliche, but you're running more than those people sitting on the sofa watching Celebrity Big Brother. This is A. Good. Thing. Well done :)

  2. As a fellow not-built-to-runner, I ask... why not just try another form of exercise? Can't see how torturing yourself is going to help your motivation. If you don't enjoy running and you aren't seeing your body respond positively to it, maybe it's not for you. There are so many varied ways to get exercise. Wouldn't it be great to find one that you enjoy doing, and that gives you positive results?

  3. Have you tried the couch to 5k program? There's podcasts out there that are built around it. It's just run/walk intervals, that build you to running 5k in 9 weeks. It's the only way I managed to get from running for 30 seconds and dying, to now being able to run 5k. I once did a 7k, but apparently that was a blip.