Inspired by my friends @fizzandnonsense and Tuck Shop Sue, (by the time she arrived for the BYMT tuck shop duty, at 9.10 last Saturday, she’d already been for an 8 mile run and dropped two of her three children off at various Saturday activities. She works full time as well. I know)  I’ve been for a run this morning. Well, a run and walk. More a walk, really.

It was tough going and my choice of route, starting uphill, was probably not sensible. Still one has to start somewhere, and any exercise is better than none. The OH was a stalwart of our local Park Run and he keeps trying to persuade me to go to that but I don’t fancy the idea of being the last to finish of the 500+ people who do it every week. I’m not a morning person and I hate the cold. When I used to run outside, it often took me a couple of hours to psych myself up for a winter run.

I’ve been a member at a couple of hugely-expensive local gyms for several years now, and I do try and go twice a week. I know that three times per week is preferable but I still have to take the dogs out after that and I don’t like leaving them unwalked regularly and for so long. It’s a bit too much exercise, if that’s possible, three gym trips plus four or five two hour dogs walks every week. Recently, however, I’ve had lots of commitments elsewhere and a horrible virus that has really knocked me back so I’ve managed once a week, if that. There is no time for another gym visit this week and that makes me feel bad so a run was the obvious solution.

And yet, as I slogged round the 5km park route, assiduously adopting a cheery and lively running pace when passing anyone I knew and slowing down immediately the coast was clear, it was hard to imagine how I once did 10km (well Nike+ 10K, which equals about 8K) at least three times a week up and down the towpath on the Seine.


The river scenes that inspired Renoir and the Impressionists were different every time and the hilliest bit was the bridge over the Motorway underpass at Chatou. How I embarassed the 10 year old Boywonder once by doing star jumps to the amusement of passing motorists accompanied by Ricky Martin through my headphones.


The Chatou bridge doesn’t look like this anymore.

I started running in 2006 to counteract the Parisian Suburban school run that drove me half mad, and the stress of being an unsupported trailing spouse, with little control over one’s life and circumstances. I was piling on the weight from all the croissants and chouquettes and the boredom, and something had to be done. Running was easy, after the first couple of weeks. I loved the surroundings and it did a lot to lift my mood. When my dad died unexpectedly, later that year, I was faced with the incipient deterioration of my mother’s mind, and my dad’s financial affairs were in such disarray that running and the Seine towpath simply took my mind away to a calmer place. I never did lose much weight, though. I tend to add muscle rather than lose fat but I know which version of me I find preferable.

Beckenham, is different, though. It’s true that here are lots of lovely green and flowery bits but there are also far too many trip hazards in the form of cracked, uneven paving stones. Unused to this after the smoothly tarmaced, Rueil Malmaison pavements, my first run here on our return in 2007 was punctuated by three almost-trips. I often took Oscar running when he was old enough and, because I think running on public roads with him in built up areas with traffic is both unappealing and risky, we used the running track in Dulwich Park. We did a very dull 5 laps each time, on one memorable occasion running on ice with an ambient temperature of -5C.

The running did help with the tension caused by the adventures of a teenager in a demanding school, and on one memorable occasion I ran 15K to Bromley Common and back at 4.30 am. A nasty fall in local woods rendered me slower and slower and more and more cautious and eventually it felt like my desultory runs were doing me no good at all so I joined the gym, where the treadmill is sooth and if you fall over you’re not going to do much damage. The gym has made me unused to outdoor running though, which I find fast more difficult.

Essentially, though, running bores me. You have to concentrate so hard – I have never had my mind freed to think creative thoughts on a run – and that concentration sucks the enjoyment out of all of it. I’m just not built for running.Short in stature and with substantial curves in the wrong places that raise my centre of gravity, I hardly resemble a lithe gazelle when I run. Frankly, I’d rather walk, taking in the flowers and the sounds as I pass. But walking does not burn many calories and it takes a lot longer than running.

I’m ten years older and grumpier than when I took my first steps onto that Parisian towpath. Of course I’m not going to be as quick as I was, and this frustrates me. But on a sunny day, with excellently inspiring music playing through my daft looking headphones, well, I can feel it doing me good.