I've started doing this running thing. It's a kind of curious fast way of moving; a bit like walking, but speedier. It also hurts a bit more and I'm doing it in the same place, rather than actually going anywhere outside the boundaries of the park, so it's also completely pointless.
No, I don't know why either.
My parents read an article by Charlie Brooker in which he talks about downloading and obeying without question the dictatorial ministrations of a missive entitled "NHS Couch to 5K". A couch is a bit like a sofa, apparently. I wouldn't know. I sit on chairs because all the sofas in our house appear to belong to the cat. Nevertheless, my mother has decided that she is fat. She's not. But she's decided that she is, because she clearly needs something else to worry about, so she downloaded this podcast and started obeying it. Apparently, her aim is to become thin by my cousin's wedding, which is this July.
Because that will make such a difference. If my mother looks exactly the same but the scales show a slightly lower number, my cousin will be happy to be getting married. That's how it works, clearly.
I digress. My dad's been doing this, too. He's not an overly sporty man, but he's quite a healthy guy for 62 years old. In any case, he's downloaded the podcast too and he's started going to the park and running around in squares. So, partially in order to get out of doing any real work, partially because I am aware that (unlike my mother) I actually am a bit overweight and could do with losing a bit (although I never touch the scales, but I look in the mirror and groan), but mostly because she's suddenly become unbelievably smug and won't stop with the snide comments about how I never do anything, ever, I started doing Couch to 5K at the beginning of this week.
Not that it's much fun. But I don't think it's meant to be fun. People say that running is addictive. It isn't. It's putting unnecessary strain on your body - it's keeping healthy in an incredibly painful way. They also say that the woman ("Laura") on the podcast is encouraging. Again, that's a lie. She's patronising. The "you're doing really well!" comments sound like she's talking to a two-year-old finishing a macaroni picture. I already have Nanna to talk to me like that; some pretend woman isn't really helping much. And the biggest lie is that one of the painful pop songs they have on the podcast sounds a bit like Tim Booth.
It's nothing like Tim Booth. It's some generic singer with meaningless lyrics. The only recognisable piece of music that's on there sounds a bit like an instrumental version of Don't Stop, but cunningly changed by about one note so they don't have to pay Fleetwood Mac any royalties.
So I started running. It got boring quickly, seeing the same trees and grass and stuff over and over again. So I changed my route, running zigzags. Heading straight for pillars and veering out of the way. Jumping over bits of the track. Running with my hands held stiff by my sides or up in the air like the YMCA dance move. Skipping for a bit instead of running. Being followed by someone's dog (even though that wasn't deliberate). But whatever I did, or however I did it, I couldn't get away from the fact that everyone else in the park clearly thought I looked like a bit of a prat.
Which is true. I didn't look like someone running. We've all seen them, those strange people who jog along the side of the street with headphones in and cheap-looking jogging shorts. I don't look like one of those people, thankfully. But that still didn't stop people looking at me with their judgemental eyes, tracking my every move, clearly aware that I was an outsider. I don't jog. So they watch.
I've done it twice. I continue to do it. I have people glaring at me, their secateurs tapping out morse code for, "I'm a gardener, look at you - you're a guy trying to run, but looking like a complete prat while doing so, so clearly you don't know how." Laura, in my ear, keeps telling me how well I'm doing in such a falsely warm tone I'm expecting her to pop the question at some point. And the final censure comes when the music, upon my taking those first running steps, shifts in pitch and tempo, crescendoing into crashing techno, with apoplectic beats which serve to transliterate the state of my brain into the sounds that drag me through this self-imposed form of physical exhaustion.
But, y'know, it's good for me. So that's okay, right?