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A Runners’ Creed, for Those Who Hate it

Runners' Creed

The first thing to be asked is: why run at all, if you hate it?

Well. It’s a sort of least-worst option thing. First, I want to keep rigorously applying chocolate cake to my mouth whenever the urge takes me. Second, it’s free and convenient: it starts outside my front door (or wherever else I might be), and a pair of trainers takes up much less room than a cross-trainer in the living room. In any case, how do you even use a cross-trainer; every time I climb on, one of my legs becomes mysteriously shorter than the other and I fall right off again.

I’ve been running on and off (mostly off) for a few years. I’m not particularly fast, and I’m not one of those joggers bounding like a spring lamb, filled with the joy of the chase. Honestly, I find running any distance h a r d. Not just a bit sweaty and tiring, but more like my-chest-hurts-my-breath-hurts-I’m-going-to-die-goodbye-sweet-world-I’m-going-to-die. I am scarlet-faced. My fringe looks like hair vomit. My lycra bulges in all the places I’d rather it didn’t. The expression on my face says nothing so much as ‘I curse the earth and all the inhabitants therein and wish only for the caress of the grave, and that right soon’.

Still. The chocolate cake thing. And it’s not just chocolate cake: I feel like now I’m on the other side of thirty (HAHA NO BUT REALLY), it’s more important to keep my body in good working order. Treat yo’self right, as well as treat yo’self, you know. So, since October I’ve persisted. I aim for three times a week but usually only make it out twice. I ran our local 5k ParkRun on Saturday for the first time, and survived to tell the tale.

This isn’t going to be one of those ‘I started jogging and now I run jubilant marathons’ stories. Clearly. But not everyone wants to be a marathon runner. If you just want to get started, and feel stupid doing it, I thought these might help you too:

Everything is an achievement

If I get up in the morning and think ‘today I’m going to run four miles without stopping’, I am overwhelmed with fear and chicken out. So I tell myself ‘today I’m going to go for a short run. And after I’ve run a little way, I’ll see how I feel’. By the time I’ve got to the end of the first mile, I usually feel like I can carry on some more. If it’s particularly hard that day, I might promise myself a few seconds’ walk at the end of every half-mile.

Sure, it’s not as good as running the whole way without stopping, but what does ‘good’ mean, anyway? It’s my exercise.

Running three miles with stops is better than running just one and going home.

Running at all is better than no running.

A brisk walk is better than a schlump on the sofa.

You are a hero just for putting on the workout clothes and going out of the door. It’s more than you were doing last month. Feel good about it. If you don’t feel good about it, you won’t keep doing it.

Bed it in

If you love your bed as much as I do, let’s face it: you’re never going to get up at 6am to run. You only make space for things you love or have to do. Likewise, I might go for the occasional jaunt before dinner if Tim gets home early, but realistically I’m never going to get the boys to bed, collapse in exhaustion and think ‘gosh, I fancy ripping my lungs to pieces for the next forty minutes’.

So you have to find a place in your schedule where it’s easy, or natural. Bed it in. I know I have to take H to nursery every morning, so it’s not too much of a step to put workout clothes on two mornings a week. I drop him off and then run with the pushchair from there.

Incidentally, I also find it easier to get out if I just think first about putting on the clothes. And then I do something else. And then, since I’ve already got the clothes on, I might’s well go for a run. It’s a lame psychological trick, but my lame psychology usually falls for it.

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It will get better, but I don’t mean easier. And that’s ok.

I will say it again: I find running h a r d. Really hard. I can’t say it’s become much easier since I started in October. It might be that way for you too.

But (and it’s a big but, not unlike the one I’m trying to tighten up a bit) my endurance has improved, so I can carry on finding it hard for a much longer period. At the beginning I used one of those Couch-to-5k apps, which I can highly recommend, and was only running for intervals of a minute. These days I run for forty+, with a few ten-second stops to cross the road and rescue T’s many escaping trains.

Sometimes you can only see how far you’ve come by looking back at where you started. I might still be slow and saggy, but I’m slow and saggy at SOME LENGTH. That’s worth something. If it’s hard, it means it’s working.
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Endorphins are a thing

I was always baffled by the people who said they came back buzzing with good health and civility towards all men after a run. To some extent, I still am. All I want to do when I come back is drink two pints of juice and never be bothered by anyone again. But I have noticed, especially in the last few months, a soft glow of gratification settling on me as I wobble into the shower. I forget how terrible it was, and feel glad that I’ve done it. (In this respect, it’s a lot like childbirth.)

It might be endorphins, or it might be the natural satisfaction that comes whenever you do something you find difficult. Either way, it makes it easier to get out the next time.

A good place to run laps. They gave me a high five every time I went past.

A good place to run laps. They gave me a high five every time I went past.

Choose your entertainment

Tim is the sort of person who cycles 50 miles in a week, and thinks it was a jolly good lark. He runs listening to nothing but his own breath, so he can monitor his pace. I have endless admiration for him (in many more areas than this), but I know I’ll never be that hardcore. When I run I need 1) distraction from the existential horror of running, and 2) something to force my feet and breath into alignment.

So I’ve experimented: some days I listen to a comedy show for half of it, then switch to music that fits my running speed for the second half, when I’m tired. I find audiobooks and radio shows make the time go quicker, but if I want to actually run quicker, music is better.

Everyone’s different, so experiment with what works for you. My general rule is that if it makes me want to fist pump in the car, it’ll likely work on the road.

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I think I can say I’ll never be consumed with the desire to run a half-marathon. Who knows? I’m aiming for a 10k distance this year, which is so astronomically far from where I started it feels like landing on the moon. But hey, I’m building my own rocket. Twice a week. With stupid hair. I think I’ll get there in the end.

Let’s do this thing.

Pregnancy crib-notes: what you’ll actually need in your hospital bag, and why

ATTENTION: this post is pregnancy-specific. In the sort of way that you probably won’t want to read it if you’ve never thought much about the details of getting a baby out (let’s face it: who would want to if they didn’t have to?). Shall we talk about Beckett tomorrow? Ok, promise. 

Hospital bag (700x686)

Yesterday Sarah and I ventured into the attic. By which I mean, Sarah went up into the attic, I yelled instructions from below, and Henry climbed up the wrong side of the ladder shouting ‘LATTER! LATTER!’ like some kind of demented miniature chimpanzee. Up went the suitcases and down came the newborn-sized clothing bundle, and I could wash all the tiny, tiny things and finish my hospital bag at last.

The hospital is the great unknown in pregnancy: the flashing neon light at the end of the long, baby-growing tunnel. You have a number to call when your waters break, but no idea what you’ll find, what they’ll tell you when you arrive, or how long you’ll spend there before you come home as two people instead of one. The labour might well be the part you’re most afraid of, but by the time you get to 40+ weeks, you’re so desperate to get a baby instead of a belly that you’ll do practically anything to get the job done.

I love the idea of home births, by the way, and completely champion the rights of women to have them if it’s a situation that will make them feel more comfortable. For me, they’ve never quite worked: I like the idea of going away to have my labour in an environment with medical assistance in the next room, then bringing the baby home to my clean, safe place. Also I’ve never wanted to clear up the mess, afterwards (lazy but entirely characteristic, I’m afraid). It’s one of those things where you just have to listen to yourself.

Anyway, I feel a huge amount better about the prospect of my second labour, because I can visualise where I’ll be and what might happen. If you’re a first-time mother-to-be, anxiously scanning hospital bag lists online and wondering how much of it you’ll actually need, I thought a handy guide might be helpful.

Have a gander at this, then, lovely huge person:

what you might actually need to birth a baby, and why 

First, find a bag of reasonable size that can be moved easily. A little wheeled suitcase is ideal. Write your list on a large piece of paper, and tape the paper to the front of the bag, crossing off as you put things inside. There will be things that can’t go in until the day of (your pregnancy notes, your make up bag, etc), so once you’ve finished everything else, write these in VERY LARGE FONT and put a box around them. Then draw this to the attention of whomever will be taking you to the hospital. Honestly, you won’t want to be thinking about it yourself.

Here’s what might go on your list –

1. Pregnancy notes

2. Things for your new baby.


I didn’t get, at all, that we might well be in hospital for a few days and that a new baby can go through LOTS OF STUFF in that time. Your family can run back and forth with anything you’ve forgotten, but I’d plan for about three days as a good medium. Which means–

– Three baby gros.

– Pack of vests
Mine’s a five-pack.

– Baby hat
You’ll need to dress your new baby in a vest, baby gro and hat to keep them warm after the birth. We had to tape Henry’s hat on his head, he was so small, but whatever works. Air feels exceedingly unfriendly after months of amniotic fluid.

– Pair of scratch mitts.

– A couple of pairs of baby socks

– Two newborn blankets
You and a brand-new baby who just got expelled into the world and doesn’t like it much? No one’s getting much sleep in that scenario. But the warmer and cosier you can make them, the better your chances. 

– Newborn nappies
You would not BELIEVE the enthusiasm with which a newborn can fill a nappy. What is going on down there?! Last time I brought three nappies, ho ho. Don’t bring three. Bring a whole pack, and expect to need more.

– Cotton wool pads, and small plastic container
You’re not supposed to use baby wipes on a properly new bottom. All that crumply soft skin. But fiddling with cotton wool balls and water is the worst thing ever when the meconium makes its first appearance at 3am, and then its second and third and fourth. Make things easier on yourself by getting the wide cotton wool pads, and bringing your own little container for warm water.

3. Things for your labour.


The key here is to remember that you might be there a while, and you need to be comfortable.

– Labour clothes
You’ll need something a) loose, b) long enough for you to wear without bottoms in that bit at the beginning where you still have personal shame, and c) something you don’t mind never seeing again, because you won’t want to. Go and buy the cheapest nightie you can find, or appropriate a large button-up shirt that doesn’t get worn.

– Socks
They’ll probably want you to wear those attractive green compression stockings, but your feet might still get cold.

– Lip balm
Delivery rooms are dry, and you’re breathing a lot.

– Camera
Even if you only want photos when the birthing’s safely done (yes please), and even if those brand-new half-naked photos are for family eyes only (YES PLEASE), this is still a moment you’ll want to remember forever. And also one that you’ll have difficulty remembering as soon as it’s over. Take the photos so you won’t forget.

– Snacks for your partner
You probably won’t want or won’t be allowed to eat, but I didn’t feel that Tim should be allowed out of my sight while everything hurt so much. Not fair to starve him, though, especially if you’re there some hours. I haven’t put these in my bag, but they’re on my list so that we can have something in the house when we need it. 

4. Things for after.


– Pair of loose pyjamas

– Flip-flops
For the shower. Just trust me on this. Buy a cheap foam pair you can throw away afterwards. 

– Underwear
Bring in bulk, in a larger size than you normally wear.

– Maternity sanitary towels
We will say no more about this, except to repeat: BRING IN BULK.

– Nursing bra and breast pads
They’ll want you to breastfeed at least once before you’re allowed to leave the hospital. Don’t worry too much about this, as there’s lots of help. But having something that will easily unclip will save you a bit of middle-of-the-night fumbling.

– Toiletries
Things to shower with, hairbrush, make up, dry shampoo. Having a shower and putting a tiny bit of make up on really does make you feel ten thousand times better afterwards. To save time and space, I bought travel sizes of everything and put them all in one ziplock bag.

– Going-home clothes
Sad to say, I looked about five months pregnant for a good couple of weeks after Henry was born (and didn’t fit my old clothes for many months after that). I know you don’t want to see your maternity clothes ever again, but still: bring clothes that are loose and comfortable. Otherwise that victory lap around the hospital corridors, while you try and remember where you parked the car, might be more revealing than you’d planned. 

I’ve made this list look ridiculously long. It isn’t, honest. I got it all into a miniature wheeled suitcase, and even included an extra water-friendly top in case I get to try a water birth this time. A warm bath without Henry using my bump as a bongo drum would be a refreshing change, labour or no labour.

Happy packing!

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