Tuesday, 11 September 2012

"Running Is Free!"

I found out early doors that a fairly standard reaction when I outline my reasons for starting to run even though I can’t stand it is “Oh, and running is free as well, isn’t it?”. This is usually offered by people who play other sports which involve clubs, subs, petrol, equipment, etc. …

…OK, so let me get something clear here: running is not free!

True, there is no charge for use of streets and other public rights of way. True, membership to a local running club is not compulsory. So far, so free. However…

…albeit minimal, some equipment is required. I spent £56 on my pair of Asics: I could have spent more, maybe should have for the battering I’ve since been giving them (and my feet, and my legs…), but five months into running they’re in good shape and so am I. Now, whether £56 is a lot or not depends on your vantage point. It’s more than I would normally spend on a pair of kegs but then again I plan on reclassifying them as ‘normal trainers’ once their running days are over. So I should get plenty more miles out of them yet, more so than I’m currently getting out of my outdoor football boots, my indoor football boots, my tennis shoes, my cricket shoes… then again, they do have a combined age of around 40, so I think I can declare them as “fully depreciated assets” by now.

Tops, shorts, socks – for that there’s Decathlon! Seriously, I have to look out for coppers when I buy that stuff as I almost feel I’m robbing them, it’s so cheap… I will not pay more than £10/item. May have to stretch to £12.50 soon, mind: the bright orange windbreaker I bought last April with winter running in mind looked somewhat comical on me when I tried it on last week… must get a M one to replace the XL!

And then there are race fees. Of course, these are fully optional. One does not have to splash out £18 on entering the SheffieldTenTenTen (£1.80km), let alone £33 for the Bristol Half Marathon. (a comparative bargain at £1.56/km!). One can do what Jon and I did yesterday and figure out a half-marathon route via the aid of GPS: simples. However, I would volunteer that, when you’re trying to clock some fifty kilometres a week, when you come across the perils of inertia and would happily put up your feet rather than putting on your shoes, having a goal in mind is a great motivator. I have no intention of racing on a frequent basis, but yes, I would like to run a couple of 10Ks and maybe even a couple of half marathons a year. Funny how May offers the reversal of this month, with the Bristol 10k provisionally set to follow the Sheffield Half by a week or so… hmmm…
…before I move on, races allow you to fundraise, too. As I’ve said before, this month is for me: I’m running Sheffield and Bristol for my own benefit, with as little outside pressure as possible. I want to prove to myself that I can do it and I want the two cities to offer me a shared experience that befits their place in my life. That is a much more complex issue than this paragraph suggests and one to which I may return next month. For now, make what you will of the unguarded throwaway comment based on what you’ve read so far on here!

Anyroad… OK, so even with shoes, clothing and entry fee I could have forked out less than a hundred quid to do the Bristol Half Marathon. Is that a lot? Adult membership at my old tennis club was around £135 for unlimited play, topped up ‘only’ by match fees of £3/match. Less than a pint, certainly darn Saath. At one time I was playing four times a week, so some two-hundred times a year… every session therefore coming in at around 68p. Sounds cheap when you put it like that. Of course, you then have the gear, although I’ve never splashed out more than £100 on a racket and have only really ever replaced them after smashing them in moments of unwise and unmitigated frustration, of which two spring to mind, but there may have been others I have erased from memory. Shoes, clothes… oh, and petrol to get to/fro courts, but for the fact I can’t drive and so always scrounged. Still not mightily expensive, mind – and it’s similar with most sports. If you play frequently enough and do splash out on the flashiest gear, in the long run they’re not that expensive for what you get out of them, both physically and socially.

Right… back to running, now – and with a vengeance!

Over the course of this blog you may have picked up on the fact that my original goal was to lose a few of the extra pounds I’d picked up in recent years. To start with, two young children resulted in a sharp decrease in sporting activity; then epilepsy surgery kept me in bed for an entire month and pretty much inactive for a while longer. Add to that the fact that the period encompassed Christmas, not renowned per se as a weight-loss period, and you get the picture… and no, it wasn’t a pretty one.

So I looked to running not for enjoyment, but to get back into some semblance of shape. And I’ll be candid: in that respect, it has fared far better than anticipated. I know I’ve been working hard, but even then I wasn’t expecting to reach the current standard of fitness and, indeed, weight. Weight which hasn’t really changed since the end of August, primarily because it’s reached a level where it really doesn’t need to fall any further. I’m actually enjoying my food more than ever, knowing that I am in a good position to run off anything untoward. I’m currently around the 74kg mark, which is a 25kg drop on what I was on November 22 when I had my op. In Imperial terms, that’s over 55lbs. I’m sure I strayed on the wrong side of the ton mark in the subsequent weeks, but wasn’t weighing myself so can’t be accurate. I only weighed myself again once I’d started running, once I felt I was around the 85kg mark, which I could mentally face. Whatever I was when I first started running on April 19, by June 25 I was 84.1kg. Most importantly, by then I had already got my BMI sub-20%, namely 19.1%: and to currently stand at 13.7% makes every single purple toe worthwhile.

So that’s the good news… but… ‘free’?

A bit of background: I work in Marketing for a software company. In a typical week, I’ll go into the office three times a week and work from home (‘WFH’) for the remaining two. Since software is such a cool industry, man, when I do head in I’m normally in jeans and a polo shirt. The only times when I need to sharpen up a little and shave every day (I’m a hairy git) is when I’m representing my company at conferences, where we’ll typically have an exhibition area. That is the case around four times a year for me and I can’t help feeling that some of the industry people whom I regularly see at such events now know as well as my colleagues do that I’ll be wearing the olive suit on the first day and the light brown (‘desert brown’?) suit on the second, typically with my red and pale brown shirts respectively. Hey, it works, OK?
… besides, I don’t have that many shirts that fit me, as a result of my weight gain. And I’m not fashion-conscious, as maybe my choice of running gear has suggested! OK, so I own over a hundred t-shirts – but even then I would be highly reluctant to file them under ‘fashion’… (in fact, all my shirts, ts and polos, are filed under six categories: ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘coloured’, ‘WWW’ = would wear at work, ‘looking good!’ and ‘sport’)

…hang on… “weight gain”? But I’ve lost weight now! Shirts I’ve not worn for years fit again – yippee! As for those XLs…

…oh darn… I look stupid in those now… yeah, best only wear that one at home, where ‘baggy’ is good… But at least all those formal shirts fit me now, even if some of them look hideous! And I’m sure they’ll go well with my suits…

…hang on… suits… surely they still fit… they’re suits, they’re not allowed to ‘unfit’… jeans are, because I can go and get three new pairs for around twenty-five quid, as I did last week… but suits… suits aren’t a treat, they’re a requirement for the job… THEY HAVE to fit because I HAVE to wear them – right?

<goes off>

<tries on his four suits>



Oh β@££@€$.

<sighs further> <and further> <for a while>

“Running is free”, is it? Well who’s going to pay for four new suits? ‘Cause let me tell thee, these beggars don’t fit anymore!

Seriously – here’s a collage I made last week. Let’s face it, nobody else would take these photos: just me, my suits, my camera and its timer. Judge for yourselves:

The navy blue one was bought at a particularly bad time in my waistline (which is not the same of a social media site for dieters, but could be!). I can give you the exact date: March 2, 2010. Not because I’ve kept the receipt, but because I bought it during Servigistics’ (my company, that is) Client Conference in Atlanta. Man I must have been in a bad place… no, not Atlanta, I mean shape-wise…

…but the olive one and the light one… yikes, I was wearing those in June!!! When I was running first thing in Amsterdam (it’s flat, tha knooes!), I’d then come in, shower and get those on!

No danger of doing that now… I appreciate suggestions of having them ‘adjusted’, but that sounds akin to ‘just ironing out the dents’ in the Titanic… no, realistically there are two options:
1. Regain weight
2. Buy new suits

Remember: I am a tight Tyke. So option 1 has its attractions. And maybe, just maybe, if the suits were younger than they are I might go for it. But… they’re about ten years old anyway… so maybe this is a good time to… you know…

…spend. Invest. How much?


WHAT?!? £150/suit? Am I hearing you right?

It’s alright for Peter Kay, he got that cheap purple thing made for next to nowt out in the Far East. That and he’s minted now. But some of us… £150/suit???

Right… let’s try and be rational here..!

1. I don’t need to replace all four. Maybe two, possibly one. So let’s say £150-300.
2. “Clothing At Tesco” do suits. Now, on screen, they don’t look that bad. Hmmm… £100? Then maybe get a nice “weddingsandfunerals” suit at a later stage?
(note to self: Regardless of weight loss/gain, tha needs a black suit, Lad. Tha looked a right muppet at Tommy Broom’s s funeral in that navy blue job. And that’s without thinking how fat tha must have been at the time an’all! Sorry Rob)

Hmmm… let’s just say I’ve printed off Tesco’s Size Guide. I’ll keep you posted. But the next time anyone tells you running is free send’em here, alright?

p.s.: The mention of Tesco opens up a whole new discussion, of course. Or so it did with by good friend Caz Messenger on Facebook, where the above photo made its debut. Caz dislikes large supermarkets and urged me to support local traders. Alas, I’m a customer and not a charity supporter, so Tesco’s prices appeal to me. Besides, there are no tailors in Portishead, let alone tailors with whom I have a client:supplier relationship. And if there were a tailor, he/she wouldn’t do free returns. As someone who markets Service Lifecycle Management software and has sat in on presentations and shared a few drinks on a canal cruise boat with Tesco’s National Returns Manager, I know more about reverse logistics than I ever dreamt I would… and the increasing ease of returns is a major game-changer.
And, whilst I stand against exploitation, I am genuinely too ignorant (much to my shame) to know how easily Bangladeshi workers would make a living without Western orders. What to us may appear Dickensian exploitation to them may appear like biblical manna from heaven. I’m not saying it is thus, I’m just saying I am not in a position to be certain either way or indeed anywhere in between. But that’s a whole different blog post… in fact, that’s a whole different blog.
p.p.s.: oh, and I have four purple toes. Don’t worry, I wear socks to hide them.

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