Why I don’t run. Ever.

chariotsIt was my first time in a cinema and I was agog.

People dipped discreetly into boxes of chocolate-covered nuts. There were carpets on the walls. An entire seat just for me. And not the usual rubbish designed for children, made of Marmite-proof, Oros-repellent plastic: this one was upholstered in the kind of plush, red velvet you can only dream of when you’re six. Best of all, we’d come to see Chariots Of Fire, a film about two of my favourite things at the time: chariots and fire.

When we opened on a beach in Scotland, with no sign of burning two-wheelers, I was disappointed. But only for a moment. Soon I was bewitched by the iconic theme, clean as endorphins pulsing through a brain; hypnotised by the white-clad figures skipping through the St Andrews surf.

One of them seemed to be overcome with some sort of rapture, throwing back his head and sprinting ahead. This was Eric Liddell, the Scottish missionary who ran for God first and Great Britain second. Running, it seemed, was not just beautiful and poetic. It was spiritual.

Ten years later, on a wind-scoured field in Cape Town, I remembered Liddell and his animal delight in running fast and far. Like Liddell, I was wearing white running togs and was surrounded by swift young men.I, too, had thrown my head back. But this wasn’t Scotland and I wasn’t Liddell. This was physical education and my head was thrown back because I was close to death and fighting for breath. Also, I knew that if I looked down I would begin to vomit and not stop until I had heaved up all my internal organs.

Some of my classmates might have been filled with the Holy Spirit, but I was filled with an unholy rage: the burning in my lungs and legs was nothing compared to the fiery loathing I felt for my gym teacher.

His instructions had been clear and stupid. We would have to run around the field a certain number of times in under a certain number of minutes (I want to say it was 6000 times in under two minutes, but I might be misremembering). If anyone failed, everyone would have to do it again.

Had nobody understood the underlying message of Forrest Gump?

Now he stood there, stopwatch in his paw, yapping at me out of his meaty face like a sock puppet stuffed with raw mincemeat. Next to him stood the gazelles who had finished in under the stipulated time, squeaking at me to run faster so that they didn’t have to do it all again and maybe break a sweat this time. God, how I hated them. How I hated Chariots of Fire with its lies about the joys of running and its ridiculous absence of burning chariots. How I hated this world in which runners are admired and walkers – sensible, civilised, non-vomiting walkers – are shouted at. Had nobody understood the underlying message of Forrest Gump? Had nobody realised that if you run often and for no reason, you will end up being shot in the buttocks, your childhood sweetheart will lie to you and die, and your momma will be Sally Field?

I have not run since that day. Now and then I have scuttled. I have been known to skedaddle. Once, when threatened, I high-tailed it. But I do not run. And this has given me the space and tranquility to understand that running is not only unnatural and hateful, but that it’s not even a thing. It’s really just an endlessly deferred fall onto your face.

This is usually the part where runners object angrily, their resting heart rate surging to around 20 beats a minute, and point out that humans owe much of their success to running. They explain that we are one of the few species that can sweat while we run; that our ancestors simply ran their overheated prey to a standstill.

I don’t dispute the history. But I ask you: did those brave ancestors run so that we would have to keep running? No. They ran so that we wouldn’t have to. They pounded across the plains and reduced their feet to calloused nubbins so that you and I could walk to our kitchen and put a non-perishable food-like substance into our mouths. To run is to spit in the sweaty, pain-etched faces of our forebears, and I for one refuse to be so disrespectful.

Thank you, ancient hunter.I honour you, and I chew open this carton of custard to celebrate the race you ran for all of us.

*

First published in The Times and TimesLive

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195 comments

  1. I have been running for 5 years at least. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would hate it. It is absolutely exhilarating. Your thoughts are a poor attempt at justifying your hate for the sport.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You can’t seriously deny the health benefits of running. Disciplined, athletic running is what can be destructive in the long term. Modern runners push themselves long distances almost every day, forcing themselves not to stop. Of course that’s bad for you.

    And if our ancestors ran so we didn’t have to, then I guess we walk so posterity can all ride rascals, or the hover chairs in Wall-E. Imagine what that will do to your cartilage.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s really just an endlessly deferred fall onto your face.

    That is the best definition of running I have ever read. The only good reason to run is…. No, I’m sorry, there isn’t one.

    My husband used to run on purpose. How crazy is that?

    Loved this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a runner too, but I need music when I run, presumably like a lot of other people.
    Without music I’d probably be bored out of my mind while running.
    So yeah, if you don’y enjoy it, _____ (insert choice of curse word here).
    Mostly, it’s for creative juices after I read “What I talk about when I talk about running”.
    Short version: your post gave me a chuckle.
    Shared. check.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I make a disheartening connection to your story. I had an “instructor” who wasn’t going to pass me in a PE unit until I could dive. I did one belly flop after another because his instruction was useless. He sent the rest of the class off and kept me there to humiliate me further. What a toad, but I needed that pass. When I did haveto rescue a drowning child in a swimming pool years later, did I need to dive? Not at all. I jumped in and pulled her out to safety and like you, have never dived once after that so called lesson.

    Like

  6. I started running three years ago. Since then, I’ve run three full marathons, nine half marathons and sixteen triathlons. And in every single race, I’ve been caught smoking by photographers but like you… I still don’t like running and think your post is freaking hilarious!!! High five! I needed the laugh. #runmyssierun <—- photographic evidence is in the blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on RunMyssieRun and commented:
    I have to admit, there’s been times when I blurt out that I hate to run, too. Seriously funny read for me but I know this guys feelings are pretty genuine. I don’t often reblog others stories here but this was too funny not to share. Hope y’all can connect with the feelings and enjoy.

    P.S. You don’t have to run. Just go out and get your body to move.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very funny post. You sound like my boyfriend, who also hated running due to bad experiences. However now he runs/walks 6 miles a week and loves that he is loosing weight and feeling better. His blood pressure has improved a lot also.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoyed this, I was a sprinter at school then in my 30s started running 5ks for charity. I eventually did a half marathon. However I’m tired of running but still want a challenge so have taken to walking – I am covering a lot more terrain, enjoying the scenery and still get exercise – I will need to run for the odd bus but that’s ok that’s about my limit but my walking has no limits.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Man, I feel bad for the experience that you had to go through and understand how a bad instructor could traumatize you, but as an adult getting over trauma is a part of life. Hopefully you could run just to spite his idiocy and for your own personal benefit. If not, at least do not let hate get you.

    It is quite the humorous retelling. Really enjoyed the read.

    Regards,
    Clifford T Mitchem
    Advocare Distributor
    Nutrition + Fitness = Health
    http://www.AdvoCare.com/13087657

    Like

  11. Nowadays, you can run or walk. Exercise, whatever type of exercise, is in my view good for you. The thing is, you must enjoy it. I run to win, and if I cannot win (most of the time), I run to better my time. That is good enough for me.

    Like

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