COLUMN: January 19, 2017

A small yappy dog

I HAVE mentioned before that my chosen form of exercise is running. Running is terrible. I chose it because the other options were out of the question.

Swimming, for instance, is not for me. I am not keen on putting my face in the water because I have heard that water makes you drown and I cannot trust myself to breathe at the right time.

As a result, I swim at roughly a 45-degree angle, which means I do not glide through the water like a porpoise. Rather, I drag myself through the water, like a man crawling through the desert.

So I can swim, but not for any sort of distance. I could probably save my own life if dumped 25 metres from land, but any further out I would need professional assistance or an undertaker.

The gym, equally, is not for me. I tried it for a couple of weeks, when I was a much younger man, and found it like an adventure playground in which every piece of equipment is designed to hurt you.

Team sports, also, are beyond me. I have poor depth perception, to go with my poor everything-else perception, which means I cannot catch, or hit a ball with any degree of accuracy. And my unwillingness to hurt people means my tackling is less bone-crushing and more gentle essential oil-scented massaging.

So that leaves me with running. I do not run because I like it. I run because it is the only thing that might keep me from dying before I qualify for a pension.

But the thing about running is that it is very boring. It is just putting one foot in front of the other over and over again until you stop – like life, only marginally faster.

Obviously, this has an effect on you. On your run you notice very mundane things, and your brain tricks you into thinking they are interesting just so that you do not die of boredom. “Oh, look,” you think, “the branch on that tree is a bit like that other branch I passed eight minutes ago,” or “Ooh, that jogger’s got a white earphone cable like mine, I wonder what sort of phone she has.”

It means your standards for what is interesting are lowered dramatically. This is why runners always tell you about how they are runners and how far they have run and post it on social media. They don’t know how boring that stuff is. Runners are basically the vegans of the exercise world.

So I am going to tell you about my run the other day because I am not sure if this is interesting or not. I am going to count on your good manners either way.

I went for my run through the nearby park while it rained. I judged that it would keep my interest levels high. I might have seen a remarkable branch or some well turned-out railings.

But the problem with running through parks is that it increases your chances of encountering the natural predator of the runner: the small yappy dog.

It is not so much the fear of being bitten on the ankle – although that is a factor – it is more the fear of treading on the dog, as it is attracted to the trainers.

And small yappy dogs hunt in packs and are, it appears, invariably tethered to their owners by those retractable leads, which means that, as they run in front of you, they lay tripwires.

So when on my run I approached a fork in the path, and on the right-hand path there was a cluster of small yappy dogs. I naturally took the left, next to a bubbling stream.

And there I met a Rottweiler, off its lead, its owner texting away and not massively attentive. I am wary of Rottweilers, and before you write in and say, “Oh, I’ve got a Rottweiler, and he’s never attacked anybody”, remember that is like saying, “I have never been beaten in mortal combat.”

The fact is, if I am attacked by a small yappy dog, it is an inconvenience and a tetanus jab. If I am attacked by a Rottweiler, I am toast, and I don’t care how friendly your Tyson is.

I continued running, remembering that showing fear was probably a bad idea, but the Rottweiler decided I was scared anyway, and made a beeline for my crotch.

I dodged, and ran off the path onto the bank by the stream. But the rain had made the bank muddy, and I skidded. Somehow, I managed to fling my right leg onto the path again, staying upright while turning my ankle and running while the Rottweiler switched its attention to my rear end.

But the residual mud on my trainer made me slip again on the path and I bashed against a tree.

The dog, tired of my antics, ran off to its still-texting and oblivious owner. I, on the other hand, limped home bruised. Running is terrible.

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