God, it’s difficult to keep your resolutions going as 2014 gets into its stride. I’m supposed to be running, but today’s was a real wrench. I’ve had a difficult few weeks motivation-wise, so it was my first of the year, and it’s left me breathless and bent double, barely able to talk, smoke or remove my headphones.
I should say, too, what happened just now wasn’t really running. Not really. It was a slow, loud jog. The sound of my massive feet slapping in the mud. The bagpiping yelp of my lungs struggling to cope with my resolution.
Occasionally, my red-raw lips fired out an expletive-riddled grunt. Ugly. But at least I was out there doing something. This was 11am. There would have been some people still not yet awake, or awake but eating white toast or bacon or curry. I was doing the right thing. I was turning over a new leaf.
Up there on the heath, the thin rain blew into my eyes and stuck my forelock to my face. The cold wind danced up my shorts and I found myself crying as I moved between the puddles. I was not alone this morning. Some humans are still sticking to their plan. Through the mist I saw many big units, still with turkey feathers hanging from their chops, brandy butter smeared on their chins. Terrible apparitions, gowned in bright, new tracksuits, chugging through mud, struggling up hills, trying to wobble off a few ounces. Occasionally they fell. Their velour became sodden, drinking in a puddle. More joggers stepped over their broken frames. Cursing, knackered. No one wanted to be there.
I know how they feel. January’s such a stupid time to make resolutions. A part of me wants to run, it really does, but look at the weather, man. Rancid, icy drizzle. So unappetising. Lying in bed, the condensation weeping down my windows, the wind clattering my wind chime, the last thing I want to do is swap my warm nest for that horseshit. Recently I slept with a girl who had such soft, comforting sheets, I got the details and bought a set. Wrapping my body in those seems a far more appealing AM prospect than exposing myself to the elements.
But I’m taking this seriously. I’ve reinvested the money I earn as a columnist into scientifically appropriate footwear. On New Year’s Day I went to a shop where someone filmed me running so I could be fitted with trainers that matched my feet. A 25-year-old man observed me as I stripped to my sports underwear and ran while he videoed me. Occasionally I would hear him say the word “splayed” as he observed my duck-like technique. But I must have been doing something right because I danced away with a £95 pair of yellow and white Asics.
What is the end game? Surely it can’t be to haul my sorry frame through the shitty elements week-on-week. I think I’m trying to recapture former glories. I’ve run a marathon (4:04:05). I’ve run a half marathon (1:36:35). I used to be thin at school. And now I’m reduced to this. A 14-stone writer, crawling past ponds and struggling up hills in a headband. That is what I did this morning. That is why I need a pint of Ribena so bad.
I reached Parliament Hill and squinted down to where I had come from. Sunshine made the wet grass sparkle. The panorama was peppered with citizens plodding gallantly. I gulped in the fresh air of London and threw my hands into the sky. This is worth it! I hurtled down the hill at breakneck pace, got a stitch, slowed to a walk and ambled home wincing.
The stairs up to my flat were too much, and I sprawled upon them, pointing vaguely with my key in the hope that the door would open. Then I hauled myself in and lay in my bathroom like a prawn. It’s doing me good. It will get easier. It isn’t natural. But I won’t be defeated.