A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with my twin sister, Anne. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but the conversation came on to the subject of being healthy at our advanced age.
‘Well, at least I’m not fat,’ I said.
There was a pause. Quite a long pause. This wasn’t good.
‘But you have a belly,’ she responded eventually. I was gutted. It was true!
You see, these things don’t just happen. You don’t go to bed one night and wake up in the morning with a fat belly. You get fat in increments so small that you hardly notice it. And you deny it whenever you see yourself in the mirror. I lost quite a bit of weight a few years back, dropped down a waist size, and have hovered around the same weight since, until fairly recently, it seems.
Travel has done it. When you travel in my job you eat more and exercise less. Also: I love food. I love wine. I hate the thought of dieting. So exercise is important. I ran the Marathon du Medoc in 2013 and 2014. But since then, without the focus of training for a long run, I have been exercising less. So the dreadful realisation of my belly has prompted me to decided that I need to get back to running properly. Maybe I need to do another long run?
Back in 2013, I really loved the whole experience of taking up running, with a goal in mind. And although I have done sporadic runs of late, I’ve not been running long enough distances. So it’s like starting again. At first it seems too hard: the body isn’t used to being punished this way. But it gets better. The big difference about coming back to running is that I know I can do long distances. And running is very psychological. It’s about deciding to keep going even if it would be far nicer to walk.
Even when I was running marathons, though, I was a little lazy. I ran the second marathon a bit overweight and a bit under-trained. I took it really easy. I would love to get to the stage where I’m running at a good pace, like my buddy Greg Sherwood. We’ve run together quite a bit, but he’s just that much faster than me. It probably helps that he runs most days, something I’ve not been able to commit to.
It made a big difference to me to run the first marathon. It showed me that I could be self-disciplined enough to train, and brave and strong enough to get round the 42 km course only 14 weeks after starting running. It showed me I had the potential to do better than I’d have imagined at something I’d always believed myself to be poor at (at school, I used to loath cross country runs, and would be one of the stragglers at the back of the pack).
In my job, at my age, it takes quite a lot of discipline not to become fat. I guess it’s biology. I’m grateful, though, to my sister for her honesty. Having a belly is a big risk factor for blokes my age, and I have lots of plans, there’s lot’s to see and explore, and I want to be around for a while. So I shall be running regularly.
If you are thinking about running, I’d recommend either downloading a running app to your phone (I use Runkeeper, and a shift to the iPhone SE which is smaller has helped make strapping the phone to my arm easier), or buying a GPS running watch (I had a Garmin that was pretty good). Keeping track of your distance and pace is a good motivator.
And if you see me packing on the pounds, help me out of my denial by pointing it out. But do it gently, please.