Run! Sweat! & Cheers!
FHM Magazine South Africa|November 2020
How parkruns conquered my fear of keep fit
Ian Kirke

I loathe running. At secondary school, the cross country run was a fucker and I usually brought up the rear crossing the line well after the athletic kids were showered and probably on their way home. In the early 1970s designer gear comprised of plimsolls and a standard white top and blue shorts. Think of the film Chariots of Fire to picture the type of attire then picture Dopey, the dwarf from Snow White, to frame in your mind how I looked on those particular days that were either blistering hot or conducted in monsoon conditions. With school cross-country, there was never an in-between. I wasn’t overweight in those days, quite the contrary being like a stick of celery, but for some physical or perhaps more likely a psychological reason, me and running were not good partners. Once I left school, I thought that those days were firmly behind me until I joined the police and during the initial training at Ashford, Kent the asshole Physical Training Instructors (PTI) had us carrying fucking logs on our shoulders as we ran through the muck around the Police College. Even though I had completed some pre-training by running several times a week from my parents’ house in Bagshot, Surrey to Sunningdale and back without stopping (a more than credible 7.5 miles) my hang-up with running persisted.

On being posted to Bracknell as a raw recruit I was able to decide for myself how I chose to keep fit and when a fellow shift member suggested that we visit the nearby gym at the Bracknell Sports Centre. My immediate thought was that it couldn’t be any worse than running so I was in! In my designer trainers and multi-colored sports top, I opened the large double doors that led into a small corridor that allowed a view into the nearby gym. The testosterone oozed from this chamber of horrors occupied by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body doubles. I looked at my mate who suggested that we go for a pint and a game of pool instead. Gently closing the doors behind us I was confident that our presence had not been detected.

Some thirty-odd years later and with the realization that regular exercise was an important aid in keeping fit and living longer I joined a local gym. This one was open 24/7 and I was confident that I could train wholly unnoticed at 3 am. A far fitter friend gave me some tips and conducted a few sessions at their local gym to map out a routine I would be able to duplicate. The treadmill involved running, but not through dog crap, puddles, and mud up to my ankles and I was able to listen to the radio too. The rest of the routine consisted of resistance training, selecting the appropriate weights, and pumping or pulling iron. This was OK until some guy nearly forty years my junior inevitably followed me and quadrupled the number of weights. I could, however, still open the locker room door unaided. Even during unsociable hours, I was still overtly aware that whatever posture I adopted at the gym I would always look like Mr. Bean.

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