COLUMN: February 23, 2017

Boris? Is that you in there?

IT gladdened my heart to see the recent pictures of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt Hon Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP, going for a run.

For one thing, running, as I have mentioned in recent weeks, is excellent exercise which gets you out and about in the fresh air.

More importantly, when I go running, I am conscious that I look an absolute state. I wear special running trousers which look as if they have been painted on, my mouth is open, and I have a bright red face which emits perspiration in a constant series of jets, like a sprinkler. I look, in short, like a public information film about heart attacks.

But now I know that, no matter how bad I look, I will never look as bad as the Foreign Secretary when he goes running. I will never look like an animated jumble sale, or as if I’ve fallen into a clothes bank in Sainsbury’s car park, or as if I was dressed by a two-year-old fuelled by cheap sweets and Kia Ora. I will never look like a children’s book character called Boris The Heap.

Unfortunately, I am unable to take advantage of that knowledge at the moment, owing to a probably avoidable injury I sustained while running.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I have been following the NHS Couch to 5K programme, which has transformed me from an unfit mess into an unfit mess who owns running shoes.

As I reached the end of the penultimate week, during which I had to run for 28 minutes on three occasions, I noticed that my calf was giving me what I can only describe as gyp.

I rested for a couple of days, and embarked on the final week, when I would run for 30 minutes. My heart raced as I geared up to reach my target. Who knew? Perhaps somebody would have arranged a fanfare at the finish line.

I started to run. I felt a twinge in my calf, but no matter. It would surely loosen up as I ran.

It did not. And soon it was joined by a pain in my knee. But I only had 15 minutes left to run. I was 15 minutes away from my target, after weeks of training. Dammit, I was going to break the pain barrier.

I did. I reached my target. But there was no fanfare, apart from the sound of my “ooyah” as I realised I had done something bad to my leg.

You see, the pain barrier is there for a reason. It is to stop you from doing yourself further injury. “Yeah, mate,” it says, when you try to iron your collar while still wearing your shirt. “That’s a bit too hot. I’m going to stop you from melting your neck by giving you a sharp pain.”

And so for the past week or so, I have been walking with an exaggerated limp, and taking twice as long to travel to places as normal, because I cannot run for the bus. And my leg hurts in four places, including parts of my leg for which I do not know the anatomical term.

It is inconvenient, and, worse, embarrassing, as I discovered while shuffling through town.

I edged across a road, dragging my leg as if it were a wounded soldier I could not leave behind, and became enmeshed with a group of young tourists with backpacks. I ducked between a couple of Spaniards as nimbly as a limping pedestrian could, and came out the other side walking alongside an elderly man with a stick.

Normally, a dynamo like me would have left him behind in my dust cloud. But my pace matched his. As did my limp.

This meant that I was walking alongside him for some distance, matching him, step by halting step. To the casual observer, I would have appeared to be mocking the elderly man.

That conclusion was also reached by the elderly man. “Excuse me, sir,” he said eventually, using different and more forceful words, “Could you do me the service of explaining why you are emulating my lame gait?”

“I’m not!” I said. “I’ve been running!” It was not an especially convincing explanation, and the elderly man suggested that I take my leave, using some eye-wateringly anatomical language.

And so I waited in a shop doorway until he had disappeared into the distance. It took him four minutes.

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