I’ve wittered on about it before, but I’m a keen runner. It wasn’t always this way. Until I was 20, living it up on the French island of Reunion, I’d never run the length of myself. In fact, I quite believed I couldn’t. I could do an aerobics class or swim a few lenghts but running defeated me every time. But on my year abroad I met my lovely friend Emily, and before I knew it we were running 10kms at the track of an evening, which gave my liver a couple of hours off the rum punch of which I was so partial.
Running has certainly enjoyed a resurgence of late, or at the very least it is on-trend. Seriously, head out of an evening and count how many seconds go by before you see a group of lycra-clad enthusiasts in fluorescent vests canter past. The Ormeau Road is full of them. And I, to my delight, am one of them! If I could tell my teenage self that I’d be doing half marathons, coastal challenges and running 7 miles FOR THE CRAIC she would face plant straight into her hot chocolate. I had zero confidence in myself and my capabilities as an athlete. I was a studious sort and a voracious reader and I regarded the sporty ones in my class as a different breed, so alien were they to my maladroit self.
My PE teachers didn’t help matters. They clearly pegged me as useless and there wasn’t much by way of encouragement offered. As an awkward first-former, I quaked in terror after the heinous error of using the wrong side of the stick to hit the ball. That day, Mrs X was donning a fetching coral-pink shell-suit, and came stampeding across the pitch like an infuriated rhino to scream in my face. Feck, nowadays I could’ve taken a lawsuit for PTSD. Dammit, there was a missed opportunity. Following that debacle I was forever relegated to goal defence at the far end of the pitch, gripping the stick between frozen fingers and hoping to God that the ball came nowhere near me.
Rounders, there was another frigger of a game. The chewing I got from a boy in P6 after I missed the ball and had to chase it for miles, then hoke it out from underneath a mobile while the other team scored a home run or whatever it was called. I had thought myself safe in some remote corner of the playground, but of course the ball was clobbered my direction. Hand eye co-ordination never was my forte. My confidence plummeted and my interest in sport flat-lined. What is it about games that brings out the raw aggression in people?
But I found running, or rather it found me. I am so very thankful that I can get out during the day. My runs become a mini-therapy session with my pals: what is it with a sideways chat that makes you open up more? I get to hear the birdsong, see the light filter through the trees and dodge the occasional rat on the towpath; not so un-co-ordinated now eh? We joke that here we are looking svelte and nimble; but give us twenty years and we’ll be hobbling along on zimmers, swapping dates for our knee replacement ops. But Carpe Diem, because for the moment we’re happy. I’ll keep taking the fish oil for the joints and the sunlight and friendships will take care of the rest.