Taipei, Taiwan

Saturday, 28 February, 2015

I’ve started jogging for the first time, since, well, I think ever – I played footy as a kid, but I wouldn’t be running about if the ball wasn’t at my feet. So, why have I started jogging? The same reason we do most of the things we’ve never really been keen on – peer pressure.

I once smoked a cigarette because I would be considered a loser if I didn’t, and I washed the dishes as a kid because my mum would have battered me otherwise. Well, my co-worker, Jonny, started getting in my ear about jogging, even using the words ‘for charity’ just to amp up the guilt factor.

He’s often taking part in running events, and now he wants to get his colleagues involved too – I’m usually pro running, but that’s when I’m not directly involved. Jonny’s hobby already affects me enough as it is. He is the only other person within the company that drinks; therefore, if he has an event the day after a staff party, I’m left boozing alone.

That scenario leaves me with two options: four hours of speeches I don’t understand while drinking OJ through a straw or the shame of a beer – feeling like I’ve just burst into an AA meeting and shot everybody with a pair of tequila squirt guns. In reality, nobody actually cares if I booze it up or not, but there is just a weird feeling that comes with drinking alone when in the company of sixty.

After weeks of adopting conversion methods that would make a Jehovah Witness proud, he managed to rally together a good number of ‘willing’ participants, one of which being myself – it’s hard to say no when it’s for charity, imagine the devastating impact that would have had on my face point.

If you think that convincing me to run took some persuading, picture my face when he told me the club would be meeting every other Sunday at 8am. Sunday mornings have never previously been a part of my week; the day has always started at 11am with a hangover, crap daytime TV, and a bacon sandwich. I was very content with that pattern too.

The aim is to run that little bit further each week, with the eventual goal being a half marathon in December – let’s see how many of us make it. We’re also raising money for an orphanage as we do so, so I’ll always have that on my conscience if I drop out.

As it stands, I’ve been doing most of my running hungover. While I was somehow convinced to give up my Sunday mornings, I’ve continued with the rest of my weekend routine. Yet, I’ve still managed to make every session – both, in regards to the pub and the running. Granted, I’ve almost thrown up a few times, but I’ve managed not to – which I believe deserves some credit.

I will have a few big decisions to make in the weeks to come – the blazing summer heat, longer distances, and hangovers are going to be a lethal combination. However, let’s just leave that bridge over there for the time being; we’ll cross it when we need to. For now, I’ll just merrily continue living the lifestyle of one of those fat lads that play Sunday league for a pub team.

When the running club first formed, the chosen area was just down the road from my flat, which was either ideal or an excuse eliminator, depending on your perspective. Unfortunately, as a consequence of Taiwan’s obsession with construction, they’ve since moved a bunch of JCBs and towering cranes into the area. This required us to switch settings. There were suddenly too many obstacles, and the noise of moving cranes on a Sunday morning would have just not matched up well with my pounding head.

The new park is further away and gave a few the chance to drop out – not me though, I’ll never quit, I’ll be there until the end. Why? Because at no point will Jonny allow me to dismiss this part of my life as just a failed experiment. He now drives to my house and picks me up each week. I both greatly appreciate and resent him for doing this. I will never be able to question the man’s persistence, that’s for sure.

If I do run the half marathon in December, it will probably be down to the fact that I just couldn’t find a way to shake him off. What do people usually do when they get in too deep with a Jehovah Witness? Call the police? Move house? Could I move house? Would that be too much?

No, I will definitely run it – not for me, and not even for Jonny, but because I bloody love raising money for charity.

I will eventually be sick on the new route though, I reckon. The views are great along the way, and there are sections of the morning where you do feel good about yourself. However, it’s a much tougher test on the quadriceps than the previous place was – the construction didn’t only dismantle a conveniently located spot, but also an area that was flat – we now run up 101 steps midway through our circuit. We’re going to have watermelons popping out the back of our lower legs by the time we’re finally ready to run the race. If the stairway to heaven is anything like that, I’m not going.

As I said though, there are some great views along the way. Most notably, or at least my favourite anyway, is the group of old people that gather together every Sunday morning for a round of Tai Chi – it’s fascinating to observe. It’s like watching hundreds of sloths training to be the karate kid; this is a key addition to making the run more tolerable.

This blog may come across as quite pessimistic, but bear in mind, I’m writing this at five o’clock on a Saturday afternoon – I still have the booze, hangover, and run to come all within the next eighteen hours – however, I must confess, there is a rather satisfying feeling that comes each week when we reach our target. And, a part of me, usually a very small part, is glad I got out of bed and achieved something. I’m certainly not saying I advise anyone to try it, but, you know, it isn’t all bad.

Two weeks ago we managed to complete 7.5K and feel very pleased with our progress so far. The idea of 21K by December still seems pretty mental, but the thought of getting up before 11am on Sunday morning once felt that exact way, so who knows? I’m very much in a ‘take each week as it comes’ state of mind.

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