It was my birthday earlier this week you know. The big three-five. If I was a wedding anniversary I’d be coral, apparently. Or jade. Hmm, ‘nautical gifts can also be given to the water-loving man’. That’s good to know. I’ve been married nearly 14 years – just another 21 and I’ll possibly be gifted that sextant I’ve always wanted. Or a yachting calendar. Or a monkey’s fist knot door stop. A what? It’s a thing, look. Perhaps the wife and I will simply get matching anchor tattoos on our forearms. And they can be the kind of tattoos that look good independently, but when you put them together they reveal a hidden message like ‘Forever Together’ or ‘Cheese and Onion’ or ‘Hail Satan’ or something.
Anyway, with it being my birthday I decided to have the day off work. Even more audaciously, I decided I’d use part of my morning off to go for a 10k run – a decision that underscored my relationship with running as a complex and somewhat contradictory arrangement. On the one hand, part of me was thinking ‘Running? Urgh…but it’s your birthday…you should be sat in bed eating Ferrero Rocher and watching funny videos on YouTube’ whilst on the other hand, part of me was thinking ‘Ooof! Birthday PB! Surely!’ I did go, though, knocking out a 45 minute 10k, which represents a decent pace for me during a training run. It was like a birthday present to myself. Albeit a one I couldn’t consume, wear or spend in HMV. Stupid present to myself…
The fact that I’d been rather conflicted when deciding on whether to run or not got me thinking about my attitude to running in general: the above scenario is a familiar one to me. Quite often part of me really doesn’t want to lace up the trainers and head out. But why? After all, running is one of my hobbies. Shouldn’t I enjoy it like I do my other hobbies? I go to the cinema once a week, and never do I find myself thinking ‘Eh, bastard cinema? With its trailers and its popcorn? Pfft, I’d really rather stay in, create a little fort out of the dining room furniture and watch Ghostbusters II. Again’. Although, in the interest of fairness, I should declare that since my cinema of choice introduced allocated seating there is now a fair degree of pre-film anxiety as regards the possibility of finding someone else in my seat and having to ask them to shift. Plus, an unfamiliar, elderly gentleman did once accidently sit on me in a darkened auditorium, causing me to – somewhat involuntarily – emit the words ‘DUDE! I’M SAT HERE!’
So what is it about running I don’t like? Having given it some thought, it isn’t actually the exhaustion or the discomfort or the fact that I sweat like that Lurpak trumpet man if someone was holding him over the throat of an active volcano.
No it’s the prospect of running that I don’t like. Once I’m out there and in my stride, its fine (usually) and like most (all?) runners, I love the endorphin-fuelled feeling of satisfaction I get when I’m done for the day. But beforehand…well, it’s similar to that feeling of fatigued dread I get when faced with the prospect of receiving an injection or sitting through a Paul Feig ‘comedy’. In this respect running, for me, is like the opposite of those events for which anticipation is 90% of the enjoyment. Like Christmas. Someone should put that on a t-shirt.
Rarely, if indeed ever, do I come back from a run thinking ‘I wish I hadn’t bothered’ though, and I think it’s because of that I am able to silence the internal pre-run whinges. And, another way of injecting some enthusiasm into a pastime is to blow some coin on it. Blow some coin? To those of you unfamiliar with the phrase – I believe I’ve only ever heard it uttered by Dan Aykroyd during the 1988 classic The Great Outdoors – it means ‘spend some money’. After all, it had just been my birthday, so I had congratulatory loot burning a hole in my pocket. It was time for a trip to the sports shop for some new kit.
I had two main aims: firstly to acquire a new pair of shorts. My eldest existing pair are very much in their sunset years. Like a faithful, arthritic old canine – loyal for many years but alas at the end of his days – it’s almost time for that one way trip to the veterinary surgeon. Figuratively speaking, of course. I’m not sure how chuffed the vet would be if I turned up asking for my shorts to be given a lethal injection because the gusset was completely spent. Moving on, the second aim was to piece together enough kit to give me a full three sets of running gear so as to relieve pressure on the household laundry cycle. I’m quite the considerate chap, you see…
New shorts were sourced without too much fuss. But then…then there was this:
A skin tight Captain America base-layer? YEAH! What’s not to like?! Well, once more we delve into the ridiculous psyche of Ben. On the one hand there’s the fact that I like it, it’s fun, and I need a long-sleeved base layer. Most normal people would, at this point, just buy the thing. But the problem is this item – as fun as it is – relates to an ongoing, widespread irk of mine: the capitalist infantilisation of society. I’m a grown man. With a beard and everything. I should be buying sensible base-layers. Not ones that relate to children’s comics and films. Is there a grown-up, film-related base-layer? Unlikely. As undoubted a big-seller as a The Remains of the Day base-layer would be. No, I should be leaving childish things to the children and act my age.
Well, at least I’m a self-aware hypocrite. That’s got to earn me something. But if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to slip into this base layer and head out to solve crimes. Does Captain America solve crimes? Probably not the kind of crimes one might find in my locality. ‘Man attempting to rob Marton petrol station with an iron bar foiled by Captain America’.