Monday, May 14, 2007

Achievement, or not

I was going to blog about the local elections, but I didn't really want to give the whole overcooked topic any more credence: it doesn't mean anything, really, let's face it. I don't vote in general elections based on my preference for local councillors any more than I try out for the NASCAR circuit based on my l33t Xbox skillz - running a country is a bit more complicated than managing the local binmen.

Then I was going to blog about the French elections, which were much more interesting: I would have liked to see Segolene Royal win, simply because if any country should have a hot president, it's France. Besides the issue of visual fitness, the election threw into sharp relief how politics has changed in Britain over the last decade - the French voted over political philosophies, left and right, whereas we seem to have stopped caring about that and vote purely for our individual wants. The French voted for their country, for the philosophy that would guide France forward: we vote for ourselves and our paycheques, and then piss and whine about how nobody can tell the parties apart any more.

But frankly I've been too busy working on the novel, catching up with my reading (Sue Grafton, since you ask: I'm up to H) and other holiday things to give away precious mental processing cycles to politics, especially when none of my commentary really achieves anything besides some vague sense of catharsis. I can't afford an actual holiday holiday, of course, and haven't since the late nineties, so I've spent two weeks catching up with some of the stuff I haven't had time for due to work commitments. One of the things I have been doing is running.

I have never been what you'd call a natural runner, any more than I'm a natural wicker basket: I used to lift weights a lot when I was younger but running has always struck me as tedious and pointless when cycling and swimming are better workouts and don't wreck your joints. But now I am older (and not-medically-but-visually overweight) I have tried once again to get into running to stave off the heart attacks and faintly pregnant silhouette that go with approaching middle age.

I have never really bought the line that runners always trot out about how running gives you a high - it sounds too much like the kind of faintly superior thing that smug health freaks tend to say to make the rest of us feel even fatter than we already do - and it has taken nearly five weeks of painful, exhausting self-flagellation to get to the stage where I could even glean some faint satisfaction after the fact, let alone actively enjoy the activity itself.

You see, what nobody tells you about running (or 'jogging', if you're American) is that it's fucking hard. In theory it's something absolutely everybody can do with no instruction or skill required, but in reality running any sort of distance (i.e. further than round the block to the bus stop) isn't that simple. Even breathing is difficult to get right at first - seriously, try this: try running for a full five minutes without stopping or puking. I challenge you.

Anyway, I've kind of got the hang of it now. Last Friday was the first time I really enjoyed it, having finally nailed the breathing, broken in a pair of running shoes (NOT trainers, but actual running shoes for actual running) and found a route that doesn't require me to cross any major roads or flee muggers (harder than it sounds in this area). There is a high to be had, it turns out, an actual serotonin buzz from using your body as evolution intended it. I still can't run more than a mile yet but it feels like I've achieved something, and that's a rare thing.

The other cool thing I've done this week is set up my phone to use the Achievement Unlocked noise from the Xbox 360 as a text message notification. This is the psychological equivalent of a shiny object.

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