I started jogging when I lived in Cologne, Germany. I don’t know the exact date, but I know it was sometime after my first major illness in 2006 – so probably mid 2007 or thereabouts; amongst all the visits to the doctors and the clinics were a few months when I somehow got strength from somewhere and decided to try and use it. Once I thought I could handle it I’d jog once a week just lightly, barely more than a walk. A kind of celebration, I suppose. I had never jogged or run before this point – as is preferable when the wounds of youth still rear their ugly heads frequently, telling you that if you do everyone will laugh at you, just like in P.E. at school – so I was anxious and actually quite scared about the idea of me running around a park when anyone else was in the same park, even if it was a really big park (we are all born with the innate ability to zone-in on a jogger who looks a bit weird, aren’t we?). Somehow though I managed to get through the trauma of starting — as with anything, with jogging, the hardest bit is the strangeness of actually getting off your arse and making it happen.
Although I don’t jog anymore, and most of the harsh memories of learning how to not be flat-footed have vanished – now there’s something I never thought I’d ever believe at the age of 14! – what I can say is this: jogging on its own can get pretty boring, however good it eventually feels (much stress on the word eventually). The concept is flawed from the outset and that’s all there is to it: 1) do it alone (you have to do it alone at first, as the shame of feeling deeply flawed at jogging outweighs any desire to do so with other people, even if they are equally as laughable as you). 2) run in a straight line. Has running in a straight line ever been interesting? Probably only if you’re Usain Bolt or a Greyhound knowing the second that it stops it will receive some of its favourite treats. 3) Do it in places where other people – thin and fat and with absolutely no right to cast any form of opinion – are and keep doing it until you don’t feel like an idiot. Not exactly a tempting offer. 4) pretend you are enjoying it. Nobody likes a grumpy jogger, and if you are going to get laughed or looked at, the least you can do is try and give the onlookers a taste of their own gloating medicine. 5) buy expensive shoes which hurt so much that you seriously wonder, just on the first attempt, if you will ever wear them again. You can’t wear them to do anything else either, unless you have a bedroom-related fetish involving Paula Radcliffe, a starting line and doing a poo where you’re not supposed to 6) run on pavement. All reputable joggers are made of the same stern stuff: they’d much rather suffer with crippling arthritis later on as a result of relentlessly battering their knees than run on grass or something soft. Goes without saying!
All this and jogging involves going outside, where, in the UK, it often pisses it down the moment you think Strange it’s not raining toda—
Then there is the pressure from other people. Both to stop and to carry on. I don’t know what’s worse. Is it worse to be surrounded by organic-orange-juice-drinking health fanatics at the pub who can’t shut up about the joys of jogging and how bad smoking is for pets as well as people? Or is it worse to sit amongst jogger-haters who have spent their whole lives forming a dread-ridden argument against anyone without shin-splints, in the hope that one day their depressing attitude will spread so widely that any kind of jogging or running might one day be banned? If Harry Hill was here he’d say “Fight!” and it would be a sight to behold, I’m sure. Yes, the joggers would be fitter and stronger, but don’t forget they’d also be much lighter. I imagine a beer-swilling, lycra-hating, mid-twenties pub-dwelling yob could easily go through a few of them just by swinging one arm.
But it isn’t all bad news with jogging! The thing jogging has on its side is Mp3 players and music. Just imagine, if we’d never had shell-suits and the 1980s, we would never have evolved to making Mp3 players either — a disturbing though for anyone who has ever got on a bus. Give that consideration the next time someone talks about hunting down Mick Hucknall and his family.
If you saw my brother and I standing together, you’d think that my brother might be like me, that he’d at least give jogging a go. But no. Despite looking like a parallel universe version of myself – similar beard, similar nose, very different hair but you can’t win them all, right? – he hates jogging with a passion. Which I wouldn’t mind…were it not for the fact that the git’s build is suited perfectly to any kind of running. Honestly, it’s a joke, and that’s one of the things which winds me up about some people the most. Maff can run for about 5 miles without hardly breaking a sweat, yet he chooses not to, because he finds it too dull to bear…
And let’s not even get started on those super-mums who can jog while also taking care of another life that sits there quietly perfect and not a bit of trouble.
Of course, before Mp3 players came about there were ways to make jogging more endurable. In the Mayan-themed 2006 film Apocalypto, director and general much-hated person Mel Gibson demonstrates with some degree of finesse just how interesting and exciting jogging/running can be if you really set your mind to it. Forced to run in sheer terror across a path of barren land where prisoners go to die horrible nasty deaths, the two main characters we’ve been following since the beginning of the film are shot at with bow and arrows by master marksmen who could do with a bit of fun to liven up their day; the name of the game being to cut the men down before they reach the crops on the other side, thus giving all the other evil Mayans something to talk about that night while they eat their raw goat colons and other such delicacies. By all accounts this shoot-the-runners thing is a fun and challenging game…when you’re the one doing the shooting. But what the two characters miss out on in fun, they more than make up for in exercise, and half way across the war-zone one of them decides to start running zig-zag to try and fool the marksmen, who, up until that point didn’t even know that anything other than straight lines existed (this is obvious from the looks on their faces). Not that exercise is much good when a razor-sharp arrow is about to go skewer one of your major organs – as proven by the several people who went before you who are still lying haphazardly about – but still, the game does at least give the mind the illusion that the body is getting fitter, and that’s got to count for something, right?