Exercise Update: Strong like ox

Not me, obviously. I’m nowhere near as strong as an ox. But I’m sure there are people who are nearly as strong as a pretty weak ox.

I’d have myself down as almost as strong as an overly aggressive stoat. Three months ago I was probably at about the same level as a sickly vole, so this is actually a fair mark of progress.

To give you a run down of what I’ve been up to:

– Two to three gym sessions a week with Deepak, where I lift things, pull things, punch the space around Deepak’s face, lift other things and make manly noises. The manly noises are by far the most improved aspect of my physique; I have moved from pre-pubescent squeak to meek roar.

– Climbing. I try and get in a couple of bouldering sessions a week, although this is almost certainly placebo exercise. Whilst I can now climb some moderately hard things, I  spend a far greater proportion of my climbing time panting, having a lie down, feigning injury, making up climbing terms, abusing others, buying KitKats and asking what the music is.

– Football. After a 5-year mini-break from the beautiful game I’ve finally got back on the pitch (twice), and have lasted 5 and 10 minutes respectively before being completely, utterly broken down to a cellular level. I haven’t been asked to play for a couple of weeks. This might be for the best.

– Bricking it. They keep putting up more zones for the Rat Race and each looks more sadistic than the last. Search rat race dirty weekend on Youtube to get an idea. Pray for me.

Basically, it’s been like a Rocky montage, with the exercise bits replaced by whingeing and without any real improvement over time.

So yesterday I decided to test my progress by taking on the Major Series Midlands 10k, with a few mates from work. In short, this is a 10k over all kinds of funky terrain, mostly based around mud, with various army-looking types shouting at you while you inhale large volumes of effluent.

Pre mud

Pre mud

Needless to say, I was somewhat apprehensive. At least it was gloriously sunny and a great venue – I can think of worse places to die.

My first taste of things to come was in the warmup. My warmup for training usualy involves cracking a few jokes and maybe eating a Twirl; this warmup contained more exercise than I generally do in a week. I was shattered by the end and nearly vomited on the start line, which was not a promising sign.

We got round to the first obstacle, a small jump over a log into water, in good time, and I felt confident until I found myself ankle deep in water which smelt strongly of the country, sludging through mud and large quantities of sheep shit. This was only the beginning.

In the next vat of crap, now waist deep, I had a slight coming together with an underwater root. Retarding my purposeful forward stride, the root coaxed all the momentum from me until the only place left to go was back. Into the waist deep shit-water. Slowly.

I emerged from the pool and rejoined my kilt-wearing accomplice looking and smelling like a turd, which would explain why he was so keen to bolt ahead.

There’s a lot to be said for running with a Scotsman in a kilt. First, it deflected attention away from my turd-like qualities. Second, you here a lot of good ‘true Scotsman’ jokes from the crowd (he wasn’t, thank fuck.), which makes you think less about the pain and humiliation. Third, after soaking with mud and shite a kilt is indistinguishable from a skirt, which caused much confusion and hilarity.

The rest of the course progressed in much the same fashion – drown in shit, have a laugh, weep inside, repeat. There were also some exciting obstacles involving haystacks and really quite dangerous slip’n’slides, and some with barbed wire, which was mean.

At one point I lost a shoe and had to dig in the mud to find it.

Having said all this, once I hit the finish line I felt incredible. And unclean. But mostly incredible. I would urge anyone to give something like this a go.

There is also the added bonus of having to go back to London and get on a tube smelling like you’ve fallen into a slurry tank. I had my own carriage on the District line and got over 8 funny looks- I might try this more often.

Post mud

Post mud

So the key takeout points if you’ve just skipped straight to the end:

1) Exercise

2) I have done running

3) I am alive

4) I will definitely still die in May


I have since learned that I ran that race in 1:19 and averaged a whopping 7.54kph, making me the 150th fastest man and 25th fastest woman of the 750 runners. I AM A MACHINE.

Help me.

God, these people look serious…

…was my first thought on arriving at the race.

My initial folly was to equate ‘Greenwich Park Mo Run 10K’ with ‘Fun Run’, and assume that I’d turn up to see a load of stupidly dressed berks sporting moustaches of varying hirsuteness.

But no. Whilst there were indeed moustaches of varying hirsuteness (totally a word by the way), the moustaches were invariably located on people who were in fact runners first and comedy moustacheers very much second. There were people doing stretches, comparing racing gear, one woman was actually doing yoga, and many were comparing their pre-race training regimes and diets.

“Well I’ve happened across a granola which actually gives your muscles a full workout. From the inside. And I’ve run 12K a day for the last year just to be ready for this.”

“Ha. Amateur. I ran to the moon last week.”

And so on.

My own personal training regime, espoused by many of my colleagues who’d also decided to sign up for said charity race, was a casual 3K on the treadmill a month ago and a lung-crushing 4K on Thursday night which genuinely left me considering an ambulance. My pre-race diet included, or should I say consisted entirely of, two pints of Guinness and a sharing pack of Pringles. Carb-loading like a champion.

For a while it looked like our corporate running team had really signed up for the wrong event, but then a rotund gent dressed as Adam Ant turned up and we collectively breathed a sigh of relief. It turned out the fun-runners were just being true to form and arrived nine minutes before the gun went off.

There are several things they don’t tell you when you;re running 10K for charity in Greenwich Park:

1) Greenwich Park is, in technical terms, fucking hilly. The utter bastards who set the route decided that we should run from the height of the observatory up top all the way down to river level, which by my rudimentary calculations is a vertical distance of four miles. Then they make you run back up it. Four times. One of the times isn’t even to get back to the top, because you had to run up the hill and then turn sadistically back on yourself and go back down. I made sure to give the smiling marshal at the top of this peak a suitably withering look each time.

2) 10K is, like, far. Certainly further than you’d otherwise ever conceive of travelling without some form of motor.

3) Your body is not your friend. I assumed that once it realised I was dragging it all the way round this course (Twice. Bastards.) that we’d generate a kind of Blitz spirit and pull together for the sake of staying alive. Wrong. My turncoat bastard left lung was trying to escape as early as 2K, leaving good old dependable righty with a lot to do. For some unfathomable reason my right shoulder decided it had better things to do around 7K, leaving me running like a drunken Quasimodo for a good portion of the race.

4) It does matter what you wear. £6 trainers from Cornwall’s favourite Eurosceptic goods emporium simply don’t cut it. What they do cut is your feet, which I have now renamed ‘The Blister Brothers’. They’re going on tour next year with their hit song ‘Sorry to burst your bubble’.


5) Encouragement will not be tolerated. “It’s only a tiny incline, you won’t even feel it!” she shouted gleefully. She had good reason to be cheerful, as she was not forced to run up this beast (twice) and instead just had to stand there and watch people embarrass themselves. This ‘incline’ caused one colleague enough distress to make her jettison her breakfast at the top, which I now regard as a stunningly efficient move on her body’s part.

“Well, this Weetabix is only really weighing us down. Fuck it, get rid.”

Cheerful lady was in fact so counter-productive that another colleague wasted both time and oxygen screaming something along the lines of “YOU RUN UP IT THEN YOU SMILEY BITCH!”, a sentiment doubtless shared by the majority of us.

5) Victory is sweet. I didn’t win, obviously, but I did survive, and according to the official results I was the 59th fastest female(?) to complete the course. Which is news to me. I know my ‘tache isn’t stunning right now(pictures to come when you can actually see it on my face) but come on.

Does this look like the face of a man who is enjoying himself?

In all seriousness though, it was a great day, a great event and a great cause (The mighty Movember in case anybody hasn’t twigged yet). Many thanks to the organisers for putting the whole thing together and the Helping Hands team at work for getting some of us off our lazy arses to do something useful.

And so we come to the actual reason you’re reading this post. Little did you have an inkling, but now I’m going to ask you for money.


Go on. If not for me, do it for the Loris.