running commentary

Oh, go on then, I surrendered to the hyperactive positive voice in my head.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone.  Do something which makes you a little uncomfortable.  It’s usually an experience and probably won’t kill you.

So it was that I changed into running gear, climbed into the car and drove across town to a running club meeting.

I’ve mentioned here before how I’ve flirted with the idea, in search of a replacement for playing football.  Also a social experiment, given that I don’t generally mix with people in real life all that much.  Certainly not socially.  I’d be lying if I claimed not to have an eye out for females too.  Of course I did.  That eye is rarely in.

Stepping tentatively out of my vehicle, I asked a neighbour who had parked alongside me if he too was here for the running club meeting.  He was.  He filled me in as we walked to a corner of the car park.  A female had parked on the other side of him.  She also had slightly tentative, uncertain eyes and I felt was following my openly know-nothing lead.  I spoke with the man, a weaselly accountant-looking man, and he weighed up my running ability using numbers, as they do.

I had a preconception about runners, that they’re pretty much all accountants obsessed by numbers, PBs, times and distances.  Initial chats did follow this general pattern.

– Do you run much?
– A bit.  Sometimes.  Not loads.  When the weather’s nice.
– How far?
– Not sure really.  (Give approximation of running, from x place to y place and back).
– Right, so that’s about 5.25 miles.
– Is it?  Ok.
– And how long does it take you to do that?
– Not sure really.  I just run.  About ten songs?
– …
– Not sure.  Uhm, forty or fifty minutes.
– Hmm..  Right.  You’ll be in the average to slow group then.
– Will I?  Ok.

Soon enough the female – not unattractive, lateish 20s, huge blue eyes the same shade as her T-shirt, big smile, antipodean twang? – was incorporated into our chat.  She had run here a couple of times before but a long time ago, and was now in training for a marathon.  The man broke away to speak to his friends who could no doubt match his steely pace, leaving me speaking to the not unattractive young woman.

Without me making a huge amount of effort she appeared to be laughing at a lot of things I was saying.  Sophisticated humour like being jet-propelled by a curry.  I wasn’t trying to chat her up, or even attempting to be funny.  Honest.  But I was enjoying the attention and speaking to a good natured, relatively human seeming person not via the internet.

While we spoke our initial group of three turned to five, six and the group gradually grew to around thirty something people of a wide demographic: a couple of hunky chiseled Olympians, as well as a few more wiry accountants.

Realising I had nowhere to leave them, I went to return my bundle of keys to the glovebox, retaining only the car key itself.  When I returned a short man was shouting miles at everyone and asking people to put their hands in the air.

Five miles!  Hands.

Seven miles!  Hands.

Ten miles!  Hands.

I found the eyes of my new friend.  She looked sheepish and lost and nice.  As newbies uncertain of the route and our respective mileage, we’d been introduced to a man who would chaperone us.  He worked in IT and was perfectly nice.

After ten minutes of slow jogging and general chat in which we shared occupations, (she was a lawyer), it became obvious that our pace wasn’t synchronised.  I wanted to stretch my legs rather more.  An effeminate older gentleman with a tellingly studded ear had joined our pack and begun talking to her.  The IT man and I broke ahead.

He was perfectly nice and commentated on the route throughout, giving me a potted detail of where we would turn left and turn right and carry straight on and go over a bridge and go under a bridge and near a stream….   He was perfectly nice.  It was a pleasant route and the conditions were great, my legs felt springy and strong.  Towards the end he felt the need to praise me, telling me how well I’d done and how much I’d improve if I kept it up.  It’s a team thing to encourage and spur on and flatter to an uncomfortably cloying extent.  It still annoyed me.  But he was just being perfectly nice.

We did well for my first time, apparently, kept a good pace throughout.  Not that I’m interested in the numbers, but 7.25 miles in 53 minutes, if you are.

When we finished we spoke to a confident middle-aged lady who encroached an inch too much into your personal space.  She did touch-rugby and was very Welsh.  Her and the IT man were happy to have those phatic three or four word apiece conversations which never go anywhere.  They talked about a man who had run up Mount Snowdon in a quick time.  It sounded to me like he was indeed very good at running, but they couldn’t have been more astonished if he’d swum to the moon.

I wondered how far behind blue eyes was, if she was staying for a drink in the clubhouse.

I went to shower, pointlessly, as it turned out.  Still clammy and dripping sweat, I pulled on my T-shirt and shorts.  Next to me appeared the presumably gay older man who had joined her earlier on.  So she was back.

“HellooO,” he nasally intoned, Kenneth Williams Carry On style,” as I struggled to cram sweaty items into my bag.

“Ah, you alright there?”

“I’ve got a new shower gel.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Hmm.  Have you tried the chocolate one of these?

“No, can’t say I have.”

“Ooh it’s lovely.  It leaves your willy all tingly.”

“Does it?  Nice.  See you then.”

I stepped back out into the car park, still annoyed to be so hot, not sure if I was bothered enough to stay for a drink and talk about numbers and receive faintly patronising praise about how well I’d done for my first time.

Her car was driving towards me, heading for the exit.  She waved cheerily but didn’t stop.  I decided against going back for a drink.


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