‘There’s wiser wans locked up,’ puffs a girl in front of me to her friend. I nod, wryly. It is 12.15 on Saturday afternoon, and most people are inside, where like us, they are also frustrated, as they watch the New Zealand team trounce Ireland in the rugby. At least they are dry, I think, with access to warm beverages. We, meanwhile, are getting more sodden by the second as we run under a Biblical downpour. Not yet one mile in, and with 7 to go, my spirits are sagging as much as my spare tyres.
Since making the decision to work for a living again, I have become rather rotund. Delighted I am with myself, that I had the foresight not to donate some of my maternity clothes to charity shops. With the addition of a belt, they have come in very handy the last few weeks. There are ones who float about my work, eating things like apples or maybe a mandarin for their break. I look askance at this sort of behaviour. I don’t care if it’s a posh Pink Lady from Marks and Spencer, or a Taste the Difference Clementine from Catalonia. I will be having a Lion Bar with my filter coffee after a morning of teaching, or perhaps a Toffee Crisp. Fortification is needed after seeing 90 different children in as many minutes, especially if I’ve had my pair to deal with since 6.52am.
Tragically though, the downside of seeking solace from chocolate, caffeine and the odd glass of wine (AHEM) in the evenings is that my energy levels have plummeted, and I have no inclination to exercise. And I miss it. This time last year, I would have joined my friends for a trot of a Wednesday morning; haring up the hills in Belvoir Forest and stroking the odd Labrador before stopping for a latte in 5a coffee shop. It was bliss. We covered 10k easily, and never noticed the agony in our calves because the craic was so mighty.
And this is why I said: ‘Damn it, I WILL run Dundrum’ even though for the past month I’ve whimpered ‘I’m just so tired,’ on repeat, to anyone unfortunate enough to be heading my direction. I’m a joy to be married to presently, as LSB will duly testify.
So, there I was, with 29 other Belfast Running Club members, at 10am, standing outside the Ozone waiting for the bus. And waiting. And waiting. ‘There it is!’ we shouted, as a tiny vintage looking vehicle drew up, and on we hopped and off we chugged. Just passing Forestside we were, when it became apparent that we’d taken another club’s bus. ‘Should we just run round the embankment and go to the Errigle for lunch?’ suggested one canny member. I liked this notion: eight miles over varying terrain including 2 miles of beach is a lot for one who’s out of shape. But back to the leisure centre we zoomed, swapped buses and set off again, this time in a superior class of a coach which included a toilet, which by that stage, we were all grateful for.
I would suggest though, establishing the whereabouts of the light switch and the availability of toilet roll, before relieving oneself. It was also an inopportune time for the driver to hit a bump on the road between Carryduff and Ballynahinch, and my head wasn’t the better for being cracked off the hand drier.
Worse was to come, when after two miles I almost jacked the run in, when I became aware of the dreaded phenomenon known as ‘chub-rub’. Wet leggings do not help this condition. I comforted myself that this doesn’t just happen to people who are nearing a size 14, and that my husband, skinny bastard that he is, had a bad dose in the summer. Initially he blamed me and my new eco-friendly laundry cleanser, until he was told by his doctor that it was his excessive sportiness brought it on.
Still, the skies brightened and so did my mood, especially when after three miles the rain stopped and the wind was mercifully with us as we ran towards the Mournes along the beach. I was drenched; my lungs practically aflame, but with each mile came a distance between me and the stresses of the week. It does seem counter-productive, to go running when you feel knackered and grouchy, but the lift in my spirits was tangible as the endorphins surged. The members of the Murlough AC are a most encouraging bunch too, which helped somewhat. ‘Get stuck in Helen!’ roared a woman as I faltered towards the end. Another man offered his hand for a high five, but I mis-took the gesture and went in for a hug instead. I may have been hallucinating at this point. The support was immense, and the post-run spread superb. An egg sandwich was never so welcome (and let’s face it, it’s the spread we run for).
Following a dinner in the Maghera Inn that would have choked a donkey, to quote the Mothership, I was practically delivered to the door by the Executive Class Coach. Fine fettle I was in, upon returning to the house. LSB had been ferrying children back and forth from birthday parties all day. His pallor was grey and his sense of humour somewhat failed him, as I came bounding through the door, full of bonhomie and pride after my endeavours. ‘I did it!’ I shrieked. ‘I ran eight miles!’
I’ve done ‘We are Vertigo’ and I’ve just cleaned the toilet. Want some wine?’ he replied.
‘Yes please,’ I said. ‘Let me just go and put some Vaseline on my thighs first.’