I look at my reflection in the mirror and turn from it, unhappy. It will be my first run in six months. In that time, I have put on six kilo, shifting my BMI from 19 to 22. I am average. Average. The word scratches painfully in my mind, like gravel. It hurts me.
Why haven’t I been running before this? Fear. Anxiety. Embarrassment. I went from going to the gym four times a week to… almost nothing. A couple of times I tried running outside. I felt unwieldy, awkward. Ugly. It made me hate myself, but not as much as not running.
Feeling sad, pudgy and nervous, I step out into the cold.
My nerves are wracked. Wind brushes past my ears. With the music I have playing inadvisably loudly, it should be enough to block out the rush of the traffic, reminding me that there are other people all around.
It takes everything to get up that first stretch of road, past pedestrians and cars. At the top of the road is a hearse, two black cars in tow, laden with flowers. I feel awkward running alongside them, disrespectful.
I have tied my laces too tight. My throat tastes bloody. I stop.
And I carry on.
I run for an hour, distance uncertain. I used to be a very good runner but I never got a fancy watch. Never needed one, when I knew I could do it…
I get in, lean against the door, feel only marginally better for having run. My ankles hurt (laces too tight), my throat hurts (air too cold) and I have none of the faintly masochistic self-satisfaction I usually get from running. In fact I feel flatter, sadder. Where I’ve usually cleared my head I have now clogged it, trying to think and getting it all wrong.
I never used to run to music.