I loathe jogging. There’s something incredibly intrusive about it. Runners, in their DayGlo lycra, are in-your-face: they pant, pound, puff and sweat into your vision and through your space – too exhausted to say, ‘excuse me’.
But I am a fickle creature. For the last month, I have been jogging. I’d like to say that this turnabout stems from a desire to be fitter and more responsible about my wellbeing; or to improve my bone mineral density. Which is important for women of my age – weight training and impact exercise help us ward off osteoporosis and suchlike. Apparently, we should have been at it for years – in between raising families, working, and generally enjoying life.
Anyway, it isn’t health-enhancing factors that have coaxed me into trackie bottoms to shuffle along the banks of the silvery Tweed. No. I have been prompted to jar my joints because of: Competitive Spirit. Someone suggested that if I ran a 5km fun run, they would too. Let’s call this someone Berwick Bloke.
Instead of smiling enigmatically at Berwick Bloke and saying nothing, I said, ‘You’re on!’ Despite the fact that: (a) I have not even run for a bus in the last 30 years; (b) I am terrified that my suspect pelvic floor won’t cope with the jiggling of jogging and; (c) Berwick Bloke is rather younger than me. The fact is I couldn’t resist the challenge. The run’s not until January 2014 (I know) but, because of the aforementioned reasons, I thought I’d get out there and give it a go.
It turns out that jogging is rather fun. Once you stop. And recover from the searing pain in your chest and the leaden sensation in your legs. You get this sort of fizzing in your blood which gives you a huge high. Although you don’t necessarily lose weight (you have to eat at least three times your bodyweight in chocolate after 15 minutes’ jogging), you do notice a firming up of formerly floppy bits.
You also get thinking time. You have to think to distract yourself from your body screaming at you to stop and walk. The other day, as I lumbered past wildlife and discarded beer cans, I found myself pondering sponsored events and what a huge business raising money has become: extraordinary events in far-flung parts of the world, requiring intense organisation, publicity and mass participation.
Often we sponsor someone, not because of the cause, but because we know and like the person. Charities benefit from our benevolence and our friends’ endeavours. Just because our friend has always wanted to skydive into the Venezuelan rainforest at night, or walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats pushing a shopping trolley doesn’t make their fundraising any less valid, does it?
But I wonder if raising money has become a bit self-indulgent? It’s as if we all have to get something out of it – get fit, realise our dreams, entertain or be entertained. Also, how do sponsored events impact the planet – the post-event detritus, the travel? Do some events cost more than the money they raise? I wonder if events that chime with peoples’ situations are more effective – sleepouts for the homeless, fasting for the famine stricken?
Personally, I am more engaged by fundraising that connects with a cause – walking in bras for breast cancer, growing a manly moustache for prostate cancer (not personally). But what about Tourette’s and Multiple Sclerosis – I guess ingenuity is essential. Overall, I think understanding rather than objectifying others’ life situations generates empathy, and empathy leads to engagement and changed attitudes.
That’s what jogging seems to do: get you thinking. Oh, and just so’s you know, Berwick Bloke and I did talk about raising money for Berwick-upon-Tweed Lifeboats (he’s a lifeboat man) when we do our fun run (maybe it should be water skiing?) next January. Just saying.
A version of this article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser on 4 April 2013