Back of the Pack

Did you strug­gle to get out of bed this morn­ing? Here’s why…

Runner's World South Africa - - Contents - BY BRUCE PINNOCK

The Ghost Of Run­ning Past

DID YOU KNOW THAT 80% OF RUN­NERS

hated run­ning, ini­tially? Nei­ther did I. So I con­ducted some re­search – not rig­or­ously sci­en­tific, mind you – by ask­ing five of the back of the pack to re­call their first long-dis­tance run­ning ex­pe­ri­ence.

Four of them agreed: “It was very bad.”

Only Kosie said: “Mine was good.” Which at first was hard to be­lieve – un­til he re­vealed that the rea­son it had been so awe­some was that he’d run less than 100 me­tres of his first cross-coun­try race be­fore duck­ing off to join 10 other skivers, skulk­ing be­hind the bike sheds.

By com­par­i­son, his sec­ond dis­tance-run­ning ex­pe­ri­ence was dread­ful. Kosie and his fel­low ab­sen­tees were caught out – and made to run the course twice. “I nearly died!” Kosie ad­mit­ted. It was at this point that one of our mem­bers – Agatha Primm, who had been lis­ten­ing un­no­ticed – spoke up.

(Agatha Primm is one of those ‘gu­rus’ who does mo­ti­va­tional talks and writes books on how to im­prove your emo­tional life. I don’t know about you, but those who take it upon them­selves to tell you how to im­prove your life re­ally, re­ally piss me off. They act like they know it all. And they as­sume that once they’ve worn you down to their way of think­ing, you’ll be for­ever in their debt. If you see Agatha, run in the op­po­site di­rec­tion as fast as you can!)

But be­fore we’d had a chance to scat­ter for shel­ter, Agatha had al­ready be­gun.

“I’ve been lis­ten­ing to your whinge­ing,” she said, in her best prison-war­den voice. “You all have neg­a­tive emo­tional connections with the runs of your past. And the so­lu­tion is sim­ple: you need to de-clut­ter your emo­tional lives, be­fore it’s too late!” “Why?” asked Ferdie. (Ferdie is still young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced in the ways of the world – which means he doesn’t know when to shut up and duck off, un­no­ticed, like the rest of us were try­ing to do.)

“Why?” she re­peated, in­cred­u­lously. “It’s be­cause your mind is over­loaded with in­hi­bi­tions caused by neg­a­tive run­ning ex­pe­ri­ences in the past. Do what I do: cut the um­bil­i­cal cord of your neu­rotic at­tach­ment to your neg­a­tive emo­tions.”

Bizarrely, Agatha mimed haul­ing out her own um­bil­i­cal cord and saw­ing it off. Then she pulled out the at­tached en­trails, hand over hand, and cast them at Ferdie’s feet, prompt­ing him to jump back in hor­ror. It wasn’t for sen­si­tive view­ers.

Quite un­abashed, Agatha con­tin­ued: “Let us start by iden­ti­fy­ing what needs to be hauled out and cast aside. For ex­am­ple, you strug­gle to force your­self to run. Ad­mit it!” “No.” “You’re in de­nial. Ad­mit that be­cause of your past run­ning ex­pe­ri­ences, you strug­gled to get out of bed this morn­ing.”

“No,” he said. “The mo­ment I woke up, my wife said some­thing that had me out of bed, into my run­ning togs and on the road in no time at all.”

Agatha was scep­ti­cal. “I find that hard to be­lieve. What did she say?”

“The baby’s nappy needs to be changed.”

For once, Agatha looked non­plussed. Per­haps it had oc­curred to her that bad ex­pe­ri­ences en­com­pass more than just run­ning. And when she be­came aware the rest of us were try­ing to sneak off qui­etly, per­haps she re­alised life’s not just about elim­i­nat­ing bad ex­pe­ri­ences; it’s also about not be­ing the cause of them.

“…you need to de- clut­ter your emo­tional lives, be­fore it’s too late!”

BrucePin­nock Devotes his writ­ing to the much- ne­glected art of run­ning slowly.

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