First of all, welcome to Born to Plod. Seriously, welcome. C’mon, let’s hug it out. No? Okay then, how about we start off with a clumsy handshake and work our way up from there?
Born to Plod is a blog that is supposedly about running but, as you may have already found out, tends to quickly spiral into the disjointed ramblings of a man who watched far too much TV as a child and who now, at the age of 39, still puts Transformers on his letter to Santa every year. I wouldn’t say I have a tendency to wander off-topic, it’s more a case of strapping myself into a pair of rocket skates and screaming off-topic at nine trillion miles per hour, blasting pedestrians with my Nonsense CannonTM as I go.
Anyway, introductions. I’ll go first, seeing as how you’re still busy wondering whether “Nonsense Cannon” is a euphemism.
My name’s Colin, and I started running fourteen years ago when I was chased through Coventry city centre by an enraged sloth that’d escaped from a travelling circus. While fleeing, I banged my head on a low branch and the resulting concussion made me forget how to stop running, so I’ve been doing it ever since.
Sorry, that was a lie.
My name’s Jo Pavey. I’m a world class athlete and in my spare time I like to knit tiny bobble hats for homeless owls.
Nope, still not true. Sorry about that.
I was going to tell you that I am in fact Professor Doombringer, and when I’m not taking part in my local parkrun, I like to terrorise the East coast of America with my weather machine and my army of killbots. But I won’t, because that’d just be silly.
The ever-so-slightly less exciting truth is that I’m Jay, an English chap in my late thirties who started running in 2010, back when everyone travelled by donkey and the internet consisted of just two pages (both handwritten)1. Up until then, my only real experience of running had been decades ago, back in secondary school where I’d once had 1500 metres of clumsy-legged shame inflicted on me. My memory is usually pretty shocking but I’ve always remembered that afternoon as clearly as if it were yesterday; thirteen long minutes of wheezy pubescent hell, punctuated by the PE teacher helping me along with a cheery mantra of “What’s the matter with you Watts? You’re a bloody embarrassment! You make me sick!”
Funnily enough, they never tried to get me to run again after that. I don’t think defibrillators were widely available back then, so it was probably for the best.
And that was it for me and running. We didn’t speak again for years after that, or even acknowledge one another’s existence. I knew that people ran, but I couldn’t even begin to fathom why anyone would do it for fun. As far as I was concerned, the only valid reason for running would be if I was in imminent danger of being eaten by something, and even then I’d have to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of each option before breaking into anything quicker than a petulant saunter.
And so it continued, until a few years ago when I finally realised I needed to undo some of the damage caused by a lifestyle that consisted mainly of sausage rolls, biscuits and having a nice sit down. I laced up my pair of ancient Generic Fitness Shoes and out I went, grumbling all the way.
The first couple of months saw me going out once or twice a week and slowly dragging myself to the end of the road and back while making a noise like a waterlogged accordion. The next couple of months followed exactly the same pattern. The months after that were the same, except by then I’d got hold of some proper running kit, so if I keeled over during my epic 1.4 mile route, people would at least know that it was due to the exercise rather than just automatically assuming that I’d choked while gorging myself on battenburg. In the years that followed, I stuck with it, which came as a massive surprise to a lot of people, especially me. It didn’t take me long to realise that, as a runner, I was destined for mediocrity, and this is something I’ve always been comfortable with. At any race, the middle of the pack is the place to be. There are usually plenty of sweets, the people there take it seriously but not too seriously, and there’s usually a good chance you can have a nice chat with someone dressed as a womble.
As for the blog, it started back in 2011, around six months after I started running. It had dawned on me that during my (still painful) runs, my head had a tendency to fill up with stuff. For reasons that I honestly don’t recall, I decided that I should share this nonsense with the world and so I signed up for a WordPress account. The rest is history. In truth, I owe a lot to this silly little blog. I enjoy writing it as much as I enjoy running (and, despite all my grumbling, I bloody love running), but I think that at some point over the last few years I would’ve ended up stopping doing one of those things if it weren’t for the other. The running gives me something to blog about, and the blogging gives me another reason to lace up my trainers and run. It’s the opposite of a vicious circle; a salubrious octagon perhaps2.
While I question the sanity of the sort of person who’d choose to read this stuff, I’m genuinely glad that people do seem to enjoy it. Having said that, I’d definitely carry on writing the thing even if nobody else read it, both as an outlet for the tangled ball of wool that passes for my thought process, and as something to look back on when I’m old, grey and, presumably, wetting myself with merry abandon every chance I get.
So thanks for reading my humble blog. I really do hope you enjoy it. If you fancy a chinwag about running, jogging or the joys of chocolate milk, there should be a contact thingy at the top of the screen somewhere (but to save you looking all the way up there, you can just get me on the twitter)
Now go and buy a T-shirt.
1 I’m as good at history as I am at running. 2 Yes, I know that an octagon isn’t the opposite of a circle, but what is? The most accurate thing I could come up with was “no circle”, and that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Anyway, “octagon” is a much more fun word. It’s jolly.
Well, where to start? Firstly, I don’t class myself as a runner.
Okay, bit harsh… I do class myself as a runner, but would hesitate before describing what I do as “running”. Or is it the other way round? The self-deprecation stems from the fact that I’ve never had the best of relationships with running. Something to do with the fact that I have teensy tiny little legs and a lung capacity that turned me into a wheezing crimson heap whenever I attempted a gentle jog of more than 50 metres.
I tried to dabble with running over the years, but it never took off. Treadmills bore the hell out of me, so that was a non-starter. Every now and then I’d get on a bit of a fitness kick and go out for a (laboured) one-mile jog, returning home steaming with sweat and brimming with smugness. This would traditionally last for two or three runs over a period of as many weeks and then stop dead in its tracks, leaving me resigned to being “cuddly” for another six months or so, at which point the whole sorry cycle would start again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been REALLY unfit. It’s just that I wasn’t fit either. I inhabited a horrible little niche between the two which meant that while I struggled to run the length of my kitchen* I wasn’t quite bad enough that it forced me to commit to proper consistent exercise.
I’ve just realised that I keep talking about this in the past tense, suggesting that I’ve shed the old me and am now a glistening granite-stomached Olympian, writing this blog purely as a slap in the face to you pudgy mere mortals as I laugh into my wheatgrass-and-self-righteousness protein smoothie. That’s definitely not the case (yet!) and to be honest, at the time of starting this blog I’m not too far off where I was when I first started running properly about five months ago. Well, what I call “properly” at least. According to my scales, which are much cleverer than I am and look like something once operated by Geordi LaForge, my weight hasn’t shifted much at all since I started. In fact, according to the scales (or “Hal” as I may start calling them. Wow – two scifi geek references in as many sentences!) neither have my body fat percentage, visceral fat level, or prospects of winning the Norwegian lottery. Thing is, does it matter? Not really. Okay, so I’m not the quickest or the most graceful, but I enjoy the hell out of it. I love the sense of freedom that comes with stepping out for even the shortest run, and the fact that even by doing something as simple as taking a different turn on a familiar route I feel a buzz of adventure. It’s been said before, but I think it’s true that we get so used to driving around everywhere that going out for a run lets us see everything through fresh eyes, adding a whole new dimension to things we’ve looked at a thousand times but never actually seen. All very worthy and profound – try reminding me of that when I’m on my fourth mile and my legs feel like they’re somehow made of both cement and blancmange.
Basically, the reason I started this blog was as a kick up the arse to keep me motivated, and also as somewhere to jot down the (generally stupid) things that go through my head as I plod merrily along the streets. Chances are, as often happens with these things and despite my best intentions, it’ll probably dwindle away to nothing sooner or later, but maybe not.
Hopefully, even if this is the case, I’ll keep running.
*although this would be quite impressive if my kitchen was 50 miles across. It isn’t, in case you were wondering. I did toy with the idea, but then realised that by the time I got from the kettle to the fridge, my coffee would be cold.