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Director’s Fitness Diary no 2

Written by Jane Davis, 7th September 2010

Thighs minus oxygen equal concrete bollards

How have small squat people survived? Surely when the prehistoric clan ran away from whatever new danger presented itself people like me, grumbling along at the back muttering ‘ I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go any faster!’ got eaten by tigers or pterodactyls?

So how come I am here, labouring up Caldy Hill at 7.00 am, 10 minutes into my training session, scowling at car drivers who are probably laughing at me, and muttering to myself ‘I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go any faster...’ What kind of natural selection malfunction do I represent?

People like me can’t run, and that’s an end of it. We can’t even walk very fast.

My legs hurt down the front outside edge of my shins, and my thighs, despite Angie’s steel spring optimism (see our pledge page: seem to be made of concrete bollards. But it is the lungs which are the real problem.  This bodes ill, and not just for the event.

Note I’m not calling it a race as for me there’s no race in it: the event is simply a painful occurrence in universal space-time like the Black Hole at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the shipwreck at the beginning of The Tempest: something to be got through without dignity but with as little disgrace as possible. The ill boding, however, stretches far beyond the Our Read 5k on 12th September and throws a grim shadow over the rest of my slow squat life:  for the truth is – damn my early devotion to tobacco - my lungs don’t work.

When I try to breathe through my nose, as the delightful Sophie Povey instructed me at lunch yesterday, nothing happens. Yes, there are nostrils, and some kind space in my throat where I can feel air passing but after that... nothing, or at least nothing bigger than a pair of ancient leather tobacco pouches. If I open my mouth and really suck in air these foul pouches expand to resemble the two shrivelled balloons I found down the back of the couch three years after the party. Which tells you something about my housekeeping and the infrequency of Davisite parties, as well as my lungs.

My rudimentary grasp of human biology tells me that is why the thighs don’t work: how can they, with no oxygen in them?

All of which is very negative and so I appeal, dear supporters, for psychological tools or even a loan of will power. What do you do when, like the spirit of anti-Nike,  you just don’t want to do it?

When I did my training on (I think) last Monday I couldn’t post a blog because  I was very downhearted. Exactly the same route took longer than the first time. I had expected continuous improvement!! For a woman with shrivelled balloons for lungs who started out  heaving two concrete bollards up a steep hill and then staggering after them as they rolled down the other side, I thought things could only get better. But no, they got worse.

I can't post the picture of my stopwatch or my sad self as haven't worked out how to add pictures to blog - perhaps that will come. But:

52.10 !

Grrrrr: 19 seconds longer!!!

And the fact that those 19 seconds had tipped my time into 52 minutes was horrible. So I didn’t try again all week. Or rather I tried easier, shorter routes and didn’t time them, not merely from disappointed petulance, but also because of poor organisation. And you know what Toddy Hockeymaster used to say ‘He who fails for prepare, prepares to fail.’ Well it’s true, damn his eyes.

On a happier note, wonderful encourager as she is, my colleague Clare Williams got me to go for a swim with her on Thursday night after work. That was rather nice – my first time in the University baths for possibly 20 years. I was very surprised, and a little frightened, as we passed through the new gym extension, to see how hard everyone was working on treadmills and steps and huge silver balls and the like. For the swimming I wore my goggles, and Clare refrained from comparing me to Ali G, which was typically kind of her. The water is warmer than it used to be, and at 5.15p.m., it wasn’t full of fitness fanatics. And the thighs, the thighs turned from concrete to cork! We forgot to count but think we might have done about 20 lengths – a gentle doddle. I will certainly do this again.

Perhaps my DNA missed out prehistoric two-legged-human being, and really I am something naturally anti-deluvian, made for splashing about in the sea?

Thanks to everyone who posted encouragement and suggestions.  As you can see, nothing has helped. Keep 'em coming. And please, sponsor me, readers.

To that family member who offered  more cash  if I ran all the way I can only say, ‘Are you trying to turn a good fun Sunday 5k into some sort of Greek Tragedy? Son kills mother by turning her own desire for Reader gold against her?’ Come off it, boy. Just give me an extra quid for every second I knock off my hoped-for time (not yet decided).

8 thoughts on “Director’s Fitness Diary no 2

Anne Peoples says:

Forget about the time and just enjoy the exercise if you can. If you count every minute, you will be miserable for every minute. Take a break half way – you only have to do it once without a break so why force yourself when you don’t have to.

When I occasionally walk the two bridges here (about 6 miles), I break it up into stages – over the new bridge (long, boring, hard but get it over first), through the park (nice views and coffee/ comfort stop coming up), along the quay (great – time for coffee and the loo), over the old bridge (fuelled by the caffeine and relieved by the comfort stop), past the station (well over half way and the views are great), along the main road (long, boring, hard but on the home strait). My nephew does this in half the time but who cares.

I always walk this with someone else (other than the nephew). It’s more sociable and time goes quicker as you’re not constantly watching the clock and measuring the misery.

ellajolly says:

hi jane,

i very much enjoyed reading this – especially as i have just embarked on my training programme for the half marathon. my advice – drink lots of water, establish a breathing pattern (through your nose really does help!), don’t be too hard on yourself and remember that you can, and you will, eventually do it! i’v just written my first entry in my training diary – take a look!

ella x

'a reader' says:

The thing with bodies when they are young-‘er’ is that they run, hop, skip, jump fairly well no matter how much, or little (sorry younger participants!) training you give them. Really! I know from experience! I used to be a very fast runner (well, for 100 metres) and almost as fast for the 200. But no matter how much training stuff I put in if I was not in the right (?) frame of mind and did not feel the adrenalin rush and excitement – it happened but not on the higher level – the speed that just seems to come when the body is ready. Now, aside from the smoking ‘thing’, I think the non-rule still applies – run without the awful baggage of ‘training-fitness techniques’ or should I say walk. Walk sounds good to me, and gives you time to stop at the loos when you need them instead of flashing past at the speed of light and therefore missing these extremely vital stops!

Plus, I’m sure there were loads of survival techniques, probably kept secret because they were so good, not just the running away from Dinosaurs one – come to think of it these other survival techniques still work well when avoiding modern-day scary things like cleaning the house. So…….I’m with you every step of the way. Take flight in your own inimitable style x ….and remind your son of all the survival training you have given him throughout the years tssk.

'a reader' says:


Maybe give Arcade Fire a go? They create some very interesting tempo changes which I think could work well with a walk, run,need a puff (as in breathing) fighting spirit – their own vocals sometimes moving into a modern day call for prehistoric ‘fight or flight’. I join in when driving/battling through Glasgow – the overheads are telling me to be a ‘courteous driver’ etc – all other tribal motorists intimating that is NOT what it is about.

Samantha Shipman says:

You’re doing a great job Jane, and it is perfectly normal for your training to take longer the second time, it will improve on the fourth or fifth time so keep up the good work. Plus, very impressed with the swimming, also a great way to train for the 5K, not long to go now and getting towards our fundraising target! I ran in Central Park while I was in New York, it was great for inspiration, I highly recommend it if you have time to jet over there before Sunday!

Sue Garner-Jones says:

Try ‘Born to be Wild’, Jane, that should ‘get your motor runnin’, eh?!

louise says:

This is not good as I can feel your unhappiness in your words , you are concentrating to much on time , WHO CARES! Time is a man made thing who invented TIME , some old man !
I have given my advice last tome and not listening ,

What a shame I could have been your personal trainer but running 7.00 in the morning , i always did have my suspicions about your sanity and they have been confirmed!

Max Alder says:

As someone who last year ran their first marathon and after being a smoker for nearly 30 years, I totally understand what you mean about your lungs! I promise you, IT DOES GET EASIER – it is a slow, but noticeable process, where one minute you think that you couldn’t possibly EVER do this and then suddenly you realise that you’re no longer taking 3 days to recover from a session. Don’t concentrate too much on times, but you are right to set yourself goals. The important thing is that really you’re only running against yourself and that natural tendency to take the easier option. Don’t take on the additional worry about why you’re doing this, just concentrate on you. Also, vary the distances each session – short and long and even try doing a couple beyond the final distance you will need to run. That will help to remove the ‘wall’ of the final stretch, as you will already know that you are more than capable of covering the distance required. Finally (if you aren’t already doing so) – STRETCH – both before and after a run. This is quite boring and takes some time, but is EXTREMELY important to stop injury and to make sure ALL your muscles return to their normal state as quickly as possible. Oh and yes, music. Really useful to use track lengths as mini goals. I really do wish you the very best – remember, there’s no shame in taking appropriate breaks, or even walking part of the way. Much better to save yourself for the home stretch, as that’s where most people will be watching!!

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