COLUMN: January 3, 2013

I FOUND myself having to go for a run this week. I can scarcely believe that I have just typed the previous sentence.

This is not to suggest an unfamiliarity with running. I am fairly sprightly for a man of my age, and frequently find myself having to run, for buses, etc.

Actually, you can strike out the etcetera. My running is entirely bus-related, apart from my recent experience with a stray Staffordshire bull terrier.

In fact, running for the bus was directly responsible for one of the more spectacular movie-style stunts of recent years. It is a shame the cameras were not there to capture it, as I am sure I would have got a BAFTA, but one of the less glamorous ones that you don’t see on the television, for lighting, or script writing.

And it was all the more astounding because I was not trained for it. I am less the unknown stuntman and more the unknowing stuntman.

I was tearing along the road, keen to catch my bus, coat flapping behind me in the wind, glasses wobbling, beads of sweat flying from me as in the comics, when the toe of my shoe met the raised lip of a flagstone.

The flagstone refused to budge, and so a series of events were set in train. First my torso continued to move busward, while my foot was impeded by the concrete. You do not need to know much about physics to know what happened next, but the extent might surprise you.

I toppled, pulling off an acrobatic, if painful, forward roll. I topped this immediately, with a second, again painful, forward roll which brought me to my feet. At this point time slowed down, and I clearly remember thinking: “That hurt, but you have to say that was quite impressive work.”

But momentum, like a stray Staffordshire bull terrier, had not quite finished with me. Time sped up again, and I was flung forward once more, off my feet, back into what I would have to admit was a fairly scrappy third forward roll, and which ended when a metal cable television cabinet absorbed my kinetic energy owing to me smacking it with my head.

I lay on the ground, looking up at the cloudy sky, the sound of the bus arriving at my stop filling my ears. I cannot recall if the first of a series of unnecessary drops of rain landed on my grazed forehead at that point, but I would not be surprised.

So my experience with compulsory running has not left me with a hunger to do it for pleasure. Which is why I was surprised to be running recreationally this week.

I have a very complicated explanation for why I went for “a run,” with which I will not bore you. But I will explain that it has nothing to do with New Year’s resolutions. My mid-life crisis has taken many forms, but going for “a run” is not one of them. You would be more likely to see me in a onesie with ears than a pair of running shoes. Or so I thought last week.

I took out a pair of tracksuit bottoms I last wore in 1997, strapped on my gardening trainers, and went for a gentle run around the block. I assumed it would be no trouble. Yes, I live in a hilly part of town, but I am still 23 in my head.

I am not 23 in my body. I was fine at first, but I found at one point my running speed was actually slower than my walking speed. It was actually slower than the walking speed of the elderly lady pulling a tartan trolley, who lapped me at one point.

I reached the top of the hill and felt a little like Rocky Balboa when he reached the top of the steps. I would have hummed the theme tune but would not have heard it owing to the deafening sound of blood whooshing around my ears.

I used momentum, my old enemy, to carry me down the hill, past the cable television cabinet, my other old enemy, and home, where I collapsed onto my bed, dizzy, with one lung attempting to escape through my mouth.

But I did it again the next day, and it was a little easier, so I might stick at it. Perhaps I’ll achieve the quadruple forward roll.

NEXT WEEK: Gary wears a onesie with ears.

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