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What I am really thinking

blurredrunnerThis article was published in The Guardian in the autumn of 2016. The author remained anonymous but as he is a familiar local figure, it is reproduced here with his permission.

The old-runner
Pensioners do not run. I can still shuffle in my dated running gear. Through the woods, across the fields, far from mocking gazes. Half marathons, marathons, even my single marathon victory now just a memory; was that really 1986 back in Milton Keynes? Thirty years ago and counting. Now it is painfully slow, soles and soul often scraping the ground. I feel your jibes: “Isn’t he too old for that? It’s time he gave that up; call that running? I could almost walk that fast.” But there is still satisfaction to be had as well as nostalgic pleasure in accomplishment, no matter how slow.

I see young runners and my mind churns. All shapes and sizes. Some true athletes. Many others with wires dangling from their ears. Water bottles clutched pointlessly. Watches referred to at regular and self-conscious intervals. And those pouches on the upper arms: are they for mobile phones, heart rate monitors or portable defibrillators? Is my cynicism the product of athletic purity or athletic snobbery?

I note your status – some proper runners with characteristic glide, some joggers, intense and breathless, some posers, and those team sport competitors whose rolling gait and chunky thighs convey their keep-fit motivation. Lycra everywhere, its owner shrink-wrapped, revealing their limitations. Whatever happened to vest and shorts, proper shorts, made for speed not fashion? And trainers embalmed in mud? Amid these recollections and this list of characters, I note the thoroughly overweight joggers and my spirit rises to their challenge; that effort takes commitment.

But then I see, coming towards me, a young runner, wearing a shapeless and unbranded grey T shirt, flapping shorts, uncompromisingly worn-down trainers, head erect, eyes focussed, knee lift high, and aroused at such simple memories, I smile.

October – November 2017