No way round it. I’m a mess in motion, a lummox: a joke.
I have one leg slightly shorter than the other. I’m fat. When I’m flagging, I lilt to one side like a harpooned penguin. I sweat, grimace, curse and being asthmatic, at times wheeze.
According to my sister, who has watched me complete three London marathons, each time I reach The Mall I resemble Quasimodo with a bad case of piles.
But, who cares. Who gives a high-energy flapjack. As, just like Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill, most antelopes and, at a push, Bruce Springsteen, I was born to run.
A lofty claim, for sure: and even loftier company. But that’s the thing about running. Whether you are Usain Bolt blazing to Olympic glory or a graceless plodder like me, you are all in the same gang, in on the same secret.
You know that running makes you happy.
It’s down to the simplicity. All you need are your trainers (or sandals if you are a Tarahumara) and a pair of old shorts – not even these if you are The Naked Rambler – and off you go. Whoosh! Out into the sunshine, the rain, around the block, the park or if you’ve got the vavavoom, the hills.
Indeed, whenever you run, wherever you run, by the time it’s over you will always be happier than when you started – discounting sprained ankles or heart attacks.
Oh sure, I don’t deny there are times when the thought of a run is a foul prospect.
You are just back from work and your batteries are dead, your blood pinking. Even chopping onions for tonight’s spag bol is a job for Hercules. As for a run. Pah! Beyond the pale. You dismiss the idea as madness.
And yet, somehow, you know you just can’t let it go. You dig deep, really deep, so deep it sparks primordial rumbles in your gut. You will have to shun the evening snifter, the Game of Thrones box-set, the twittering Smartphone, friends, family. Instead, you yank on your trainers.
You head outside and cast a final, woebegone look at the kitchen light. You stiffen your resolve and your goose bumped legs. You launch into the dusk.
Then something happens. It’s hard to pinpoint why but you can’t help smiling. Your pace increases. Yes, there’s a rasp of breath, a tweak of pain, but hey, you are running, you are off. This isn’t so bad.
But you’re not through the woods yet. Ouch! Your left knee is smarting again. Grrr! Your neighbour is supping a pint at your local, the lucky sod. You grit your teeth and slog on…
It still hurts for a while but slowly you start to lose track of yourself. You run a little faster, feel your blood fizz, your mind decompress, your fears slough way. Time vanishes.
Then, like magic, you are back on the home straight. Your whole system floods with relief. You remember there’s a bottle of cider in the fridge. Yes! You grin like a fool.
You widen your stride and rip back your head. In a final blast, arms flailing, you aim between two lampposts at the end of your street. You give it the full Chariots of Fire. You breast the finishing line and imagine the crowd roar.
Yes, you are an Ugly Runner, so you probably look like hell, but in your mind, just for a moment, you are flying. You have morphed into Mo, Jessica and Usain all at once. You’ve undergone a flash of grace. The past has gone, the future has gone and all you have is a fat, pulsing, radiant NOW.
You are born to run.
BY TOM FREMANTLE