I can’t be the only one who has noticed that joggers are a very strange breed: you get the ones who have intimidating horse-like muscular legs, tiny arms and run with unstoppable force in their way- too-small shorts, the ones who look like they’ve been doing it for a hundred years and have been active so long that they now can’t stop – like those mystical babas in India who’ve been holding their arms in the air so many years that they’ve become fused into position – and the ones whose arms and hands flap about all over the place for no good reason that anyone has ever been able to convince me of (that’s as much as I will say about flapping, I promise). They irritate me, actually. I don’t know why, but every time I’ve see one recently I’ve felt the burning desire to stop them and say Please stop doing that…it’s poisoning the summer! Just stop flapping around, will you?
Then you get the amateur joggers. Poor souls who’ve been hassled into doing jogging by their partner and who aren’t going to make a real habit out of this — they haven’t got a hope in hell. You just know that in 3 months time, jogging will be a distant memory for them. It’ll be back to the gym, but more than likely, the pub.
If I had to put myself in a category, it definitely wouldn’t be the small armed, horse-like-muscular-legs-small-shorts one (T Rex joggers? Maybe this is what they’re officially known as). Equally, I would like to think that when friends think of my face, they don’t think Oh, Chris, he looks like he’s a hundred years old. The beard does add age, but it’s 10 years at best, I think. I hope…
I remember a time when jogging would’ve been the very last thing on my mind. I just didn’t understand why anyone would spend their free-time running around with no real purpose. I didn’t want to be yet another human Golden Retriever of my generation, was the thing. Now? I’m like one of those really enthusiastic ones that sees water and bounds straight in it. One that can never get enough! (Unless I am experiencing an attack of ME, in which case there’s no way I am leaving the house, but let’s not get into that right now.)
People are always saying to me that they would jog, they’d love to, but jogging/running bores them. And they have a point, in a way – jogging while listening to all your organs pump and expand and shuffle and make strange whirring noises isn’t the best of times, really. In fact, if you were a hypochondriac you could leave the house with 14 mild illnesses and come back with several terminal ones! But that’s never the case if you go jogging while listening to ol-school Foo Fighters or Interpol. You don’t hear your organs if you do this, all you hear is guitars thrashing, Dave Grohl screaming or Interpol…being Interpol. They’re actually quite a hard band to explain, but I never knew that until I had to. It’s just one of those things.
One of the things which I love most about jogging is the freedom that it gives me. OK, so I’m only running around my village or local recreation ground, but there’s a certain freedom — both philosophically and physically — that comes with it; one that transcends the surroundings you are in. And it does feel like progression. The goal may be vague and ultimately irrelevant – my aim is to always jog past at least one horse-like muscular-thighs type and do it nonchalantly so that they feel emotionally crushed – but every step I make is going somewhere and achieving something. Every time I come back home absolutely shattered, I am fitter. Even if I feel like a big sack of pulsating shit.
When I am jogging, nothing can touch me. Nothing can invade my own little world. But today that all changed when I accidentally came across a couple enjoying an intimate love moment on a park bench to my left as I ran alongside the serene river, in an un-name-able park in an unmentionable part of Cambridge, East Anglia (it’s not actually unmentionable but I do feel I should protect the people involved in the encounter, especially as I am about to reveal certain details which might narrow the list of suspects down).
And I’ll tell you one thing: had my intention been to appear at precisely the most inappropriate moment possible, my timing was impeccable …
…just as I saw the couple – the young woman straddling her partner barefoot, with a body that was a world away from the dishevelled dinner-lady-type I had jogged past a few minutes before – she began to shifty the left-hand strap of her frolicky summer top off. I couldn’t see the bloke’s face, but as I looked away I couldn’t help but imagine various faces on it. Somehow, Robin Williams snuck in there, and I think it was because I had recently watched Good Will Hunting. And maybe also because the bloke had hairy ginger legs.
So there I was…stuck in the wrong place at the right time.
By this time I had ceased jogging or doing much of anything and Dave Grohl screaming in my ear just didn’t feel right anymore, so I stopped the music and crouched down by the tall grass to my left, so as to think about my next move. The reeds: now the only thing dividing me from the happy couple.
Now I was stationery, it occurred to me that if I’d been smarter, more readied, somehow, then I’d have been able to carry my speed on and they probably wouldn’t have noticed. I should have been more ready! This was a public space! We were in England! Of course youngsters were going to get intoxicated with the summer heat and lack of employment opportunities and lose themselves in heady outdoor passion as a way of staying sane in the current economic climate! As the seconds wore on, however, it became crystal clear that they were in that in-between stage of engagement. The stage where shuffling and bodily reorganisation occurs as with genuine non-movie encounters, so to say…the place where you can hear things again, and you’re both trying to hold onto the sexy moment but also become more comfortable, because you are on a bench and it now isn’t feeling like the best idea. Hear things like an anxious bearded grown man loitering in the crouch position not far away…
I was in real trouble.
At this point, something really interesting took place in my brain. While I was nervous and concerned that a dog walker might appear at any moment and shout “filthy bearded pervert! Watching that couple! Get away” (Don’t over-analyse the actions of the dog walker, who should really have been angry at the couple, not me), or that a punt full of a selection of people I had known well over the years might appear on the river next to me pointing with wide-open mouths (impossible as half of them have moved away and punts don’t frequent the village where I live, as there is very little to see apart from grass and psuedo-hoodies too village born-and-bred to know the right end of a sharp knife) I also had this thing growing in me that was really very childish. It was about nine-years-old, had about 5 ASBOs, and wanted to jump out of the bushes and shout “I caught you doing it!” while I clapped my hands repeatedly and almost wet myself with hysterical laughter (not: I am ASBO-less — it’s just my childish inner-self that has them). For a few daring seconds, I had to pin myself to the spot, for fear that this menacing inner-child-villain would do just that and leave my career as a writer in ruins. After about a minute though, I had everything under control and I was back to thinking again about routine random things (where do all the donkeys go after they’ve finished giving people rides on the beaches of England? Are they well-fed? Can you eat donkey? No, stop thinking about eating donkey, that’s not right, Chris) and more adult, boring things (why is every single pedal bin I come across always broken? I am sick of having to manually lift the lid with my hand, I should not have to do that. This must be sorted out, If we can’t even do bloody pedal-bins, how will we manage the Olympics?).
I looked up and left, caught a glimpse of a bare bum and decided that now was very much the time to move on. I did so, slowly to begin with, feeling like a hunch-back with a good taste in music. Then I escaped and passed the dinner lady type again a few minutes later and it made me feel a little bit sick actually, but that may have just been the heat. Her arse really wasn’t as bad as all that, for a dinner lady.