I don’t like jogging. I’m not good at it. The first ten to twenty strides are ok; I imagine I’m on par with those fit-looking early-morning joggers that I cycle or drive past on my way to work, usually with ear bud headphones and sparkling white sneakers. Then my body reminds me that my sedentary job and lifestyle have made me aerobically unfit, the insulating layer of subcutaneous blubber that attached itself to my anterior abdominal wall in my early twenties begins to oscillate at its resonant frequency, and my airways go into bronchospasm. I told the truth on my insurance application form: I only use my Ventolin once or twice a year. That’s because I’m only stupid enough to consider taking up jogging as a contemporary flagellating form of self-torture about twice a year.
The sun was beginning to set and the roads were drying, after today’s rains. I left my cellphone at home, charging, and just zipped my Ventolin into my jogging shorts, hiding the house key in the garden. I actually own jogging shorts. I borrowed a pair of Dan’s sports ankle socks (the most annoying socks on the planet; your feet get hot while your ankles freeze). I couldn’t find my sneakers. I almost ran out wearing Dan’s sneakers (we have matching shoes because we both liked the design that was on sale – I saw them first). Thankfully I’ve been caught out before, the slightly-too-long shoes trip me up when it turns out I’m wearing sneaker-shaped flippers. Dan sometimes mistakes my shoes for his and, like Cinderella’s sisters, can’t squeeze his giant feet into my “tiny tiny elf shoes”. I wore my amphibious sneakers instead, serendipitously appropriate for the puddles I ran through.
I charged right out of our driveway, South along Seventh Avenue, without even looking to my left to see if a cyclist was on the footpath. Rebel. Immediately I spotted my first obstacle: a woman dragging a small child out for a walk. I was on the left hand side of the footpath. In Australia you keep left. The mother veered towards their left side of the path as I flew past, the small boy gasping in awe at either my Mickey Mouse tank top (actually that might be Dan’s too) or that I might have been Superman. I was going to have a six-pack by the time I got home!
I made it halfway to East Street (about 200 m) before I began to gasp for air. It’s all in your mind. If I just concentrated on the rhythm of my breathing I could return to the trance-like state I’d reached on the treadmill back in Toronto, staring across Ted Rogers Way at the plastic bag stuck in the branches of the tree. Covered in snow. Melting snow. Leaves budding. I coughed up white phlegm. I had an audible wheeze. No, my airways were not compliant with the sudden exercise and cooling air. Salbutamol 2 puffs. I walked to the corner. I’d at least made it to the end of the block. I turned the corner and kept going.
I’m not a good judge of distances. I had thought it would be a round-trip of about 3 km if I ran to the river, and along the bank to Windan Bridge, then back. It was 6 km. I had to walk most of the way because, after my bronchospasm reversed and I’d coughed up enough sputum to fill a specimen jar, my quads ran out of whatever energy store they contain, my feet started to cramp, my fingers were going purple-blue and tingly and lying down felt like the natural thing to do.
There were walkers, joggers, cyclists, dogs off their leashes running in front of cyclists, ducks in the pond, willy-wag-tails wagging their tails, boats on the river and, ahead on the bridge, the distant sounds of traffic. Mostly nobody makes eye contact. When they do it’s usually a grim thin-lipped smile, “Yep, we’re out for a walk too.” Or, a stern nod of acknowledgement. That was the man walking his dog, waiting for it to decide whether it would do a poo or just sit under a tree.
I literally touched a pylon supporting the bridge, did an about-turn, and staggered home. Next spurt of fitness enthusiasm: September.