Back many moons ago when I was in the Navy, we would have to do a yearly fitness test which involved running a relatively short distance of 1.5m, in a not unreasonable time which I have long since forgotten; somewhere around the 11 minute 10 second mark if my memory serves me well. Despite the modest distance and the fact that I was – or at least should have been – in the prime of my youth at the time, this yearly challenge used to instil the fear of god into me. Ironically I was so unfit aged 18-21, as a regular smoker, heavy drinker, and general lazy bastard, that I only ever merely scraped through by the skin of my teeth. Memories of struggling my way round various different dockland settings in my Royal Navy issue hi-tec Silver Shadows last long in my mind. Whilst smoking a celebratory fag after completing the task at hand with literally seconds to spare, the thought of someone pre-empting that maybe one day I would actually enjoy aerobic exercise would have been laughable.
My Dad was always a bit of keen runner when he was younger, so I guess somewhere along the line it was buried deep within my genes, but instead as a teenager I chose the hanging out down the local park getting into trouble route instead. I mean, what else is there to do in Newton Abbot when you’re 14 years old? I seriously despised running growing up. I remember at one point doing Cross Country at Secondary School, being about half way through the pack and nipping up a short-cut on top of a nearby hill mid-run to have a cheeky cigarette. Hardly the ideal framework for a healthy childhood, but at least everyone knew how fucking cool and rebellious I was.
Fast forward to the year 2018 and I appear to have at least temporarily become a changed man. Midriff paunch slowly bulging over time like a water balloon on the end of a trickling hose-pipe, mainly down to my painfully new-age East London diet of super strength IPA’s and, well, kebabs – I have recently decided to try my hand (or foot?) at this running lark that everyone seems so keen on these-days. In a bid to improve my physical and mental health, back in January I made a conscious effort to try and run more regularly. This led to me getting a little bit over excited in February, and signing up for the Hackney Half Marathon. As of signing up, my longest ever run – including at least 2 stops for ‘traffic lights’ or some other excuse – was around 4.5 miles. On Saturday just gone, after some actual practising over the last few weeks, I notched up my longest ever jog of a numerically random 9.3 miles. Believe it or not, and this is for a man who never manages to keep hold of anything for more than 2 weeks, my running trainers are still those very hi-tec Silver Shadows I was issued when joining the Navy back in 2003.
I’m even about to invest in some new trainers, just to make sure I avoid the embarrassment of them inevitably falling apart at some point soon, which mean shit is getting very real. Given the real shit getting of this current moment, coupled with the fact that one of the main reasons of me even doing this in the first place is mental health related, I thought why not run for a charity who are very much after my own heart; Mind Hackney. Please don’t feel you have to donate masses of cash – even £1 a pop would be great – but I thought well, if I’m doing it, I might as well try and raise some cash at the same time.
If you fancy it – you can pop some money the way of the UK’s leading Mental Health Charity here. This time I probably won’t be the one nipping off for a fag half way round, but beer at the finish line is always appreciated.