Older, Colder, Slower, Tireder (or not as the case may be) Janathon Day 4

Today’s run is brought to you by:

• Solo Gamalat (Gamal Goma)
• Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (Daft Punk)
• Weapon of Choice (Fatboy Slim)

I didn’t expect today’s run to be any fun at all, for the reasons in the title plus:

1. The piriformis syndrome (which, sallyshurdles, is a hollow, aching pain from the buttock down the outside of the thigh, sometimes to the knee [my version] sometimes to the ankle. Caused by overuse, or by sitting for too long – as I do both it’s not surprising that I developed piriformis syndrome last year)
2. It being Day 4 and me not having slept well
3. The run being my ‘default’ run: out of the door, past St Peter’s church, round by the greyhound track and the big Co-op, back up Nevill Avenue and home past the Texaco garage – not a thrilling prospect is it?

Even so, even so. Back to the postponed point about sexual deviancy – notably, masochism. There’s a line in my about-to-be-published book about allotments that says that digging becomes a worryingly addictive masochism. My editor asked me what I meant. One of the publicity team asked what I meant. My copy-editor asked what I meant … so I thought I’d explain here.

Let’s start by saying I am not a masochist. Those who know me, and have read this far, were already giggling like hyenas at the idea that I might have any acquaintance with the world of the submissive sufferer of pain and carefully inflicted humiliation. Even so, even so.

Runners are masochists. Correction – distance runners are masochists and sprinters are sadists. Those who choose to get up before it’s light, pull on unpleasantly cold clothing, grudgingly stretch tired and aching muscles (or not: the devout masochist will in fact ‘run off the pain’ by just pushing their body into action without giving it any form of preparation), and then force said tired and aching form into long, cold, dark, lonely, painful and sometimes miserable activity are surely the very definition of masochism. They make the pain, they take the pain, and they suck up the pain and come back for more.

On the other hand, sprinters are sadists. They put up with pain, for the sake of making those who lose races to them suck up humiliation and even more pain. Sprinters thrive on causing pain to others, and having to endure some pain themselves is acceptable only because they are (or at least they believe they are) causing excessive pain to other sprinters.

Digging, by the way, is much like distance running. It’s addictive because you dig a row and your back aches, your knuckles have begun to burn with pain, the arch of your foot, where it hits the fork or spade, is a small hollow ache that is going to become an intense agony by bedtime, and you’ve found seven broken beer bottles, a huge lump of concrete that may have given you a hernia, and something that looks suspiciously like the body part of a deceased human being. And yet the row you’ve dug looks satisfyingly tidy, so you decide to dig another. Just one more, before you pack it in for the day. And then you find the groove of digging and when you next look up (back screaming in pain, knuckles feeling like they’ve been brazed by an oxy-acetylene torch, and the arch of your foot throbbing as if you’ve trodden on a tetanus-ridden rusty nail) you’ve only got two rows to go. So you dig them too, don’t you?

That’s masochism. That’s what distance runners would just love to do, if it didn’t interfere with their training programme. And because I am an allotment-holder as well as a runner, I am a crap runner because I divide my pain between my addictions.

Even so, even so. 2.65 k today, no fit young men to smile at me (just the lovely old chap who used to run with his Cairn Terrier, but doesn’t seem to have the dog any more) instead a pavementy, unpretty, decidedly grey plod spent dodging smirking kids from the school, mums with buggies and miserable codgers with their shopping from the Co-op waiting for the bus) but still a good run. Actually, a great run.

Sometimes you suck it up and it turns out not to be pain after all, it turns out to be sheer pleasure.

Masochist fruit image courtesy of Malinki at Flickr

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