Much to my surprise, I’m a runner now. Do 30 to 50 clicks a week on and off the treadmill. Although, “runner” may be too generous a term for it. It conjures up the image of speed, doesn’t it? The truth is, I am less an aerodynamic police dog chasing down criminals, more a fluffy Shih Tzu trotting round the arena at the Westminster Dog Show. Senior citizens tottering towards the buffet line on a cruise ship move faster than I do.
When I started running in January last year, I hadn’t run since high school P.E. class, with the exception of the occasional 100-yard dash through LaGuardia to catch a connecting flight. I used to swim a couple of miles daily in the pool, but had fallen out of the habit since I’d moved to an island paradise with so many gorgeous beaches. Not many Olympic-sized public pools in such a country, you see. Anyway, I’d never enjoyed running. Never thought of it as a recreational activity. Until New Year’s Eve 2010 when I was motivated by a completely arbitrary event:
After spending New Year’s Eve in the concentrated sonic roar of thousands of drunken revelers in Trafalgar Square, me and my band of sozzled hobbits totter through the predawn London towards our distant hotel, pause outside the gates of Buckingham Palace and take pictures of each other wearing the silly novelty spectacles in the shape of “2010”. Several joggers patter by on quick sneakered feet, like waterfowl that have been startled by a safari tour. These are not people getting a jump on their New Year’s resolutions. They’ve been doing this awhile, judging by the ease at which they lope along. I think to myself, if I lived in such a lovely city, I, too, would go jogging in the picturesque parks outside Buckingham Palace every morning.
When I get back to my sleepy Caribbean island two days later, I look at a stretch of road running right at the edge of the clear blue sea and I think: Why not run here? So I buy a pair of el cheapo Nike+ sneakers and the Nike+ sensor on eBay. I already had a 3rd Gen iPod Touch, a Christmas gift. I’m pretty sure that I will walk a couple of times and then give up or get too busy at work. That’s how most of my fitness regimens end. Victim of my subconscious desire to spend all available leisure time surfing the Net on my couch. But hey, the total cost of this dubious enterprise is only 60 bucks. It’s not like I am investing in a 2 grand Bowflex that might end up as a glorified clothes rack, sitting in the corner collecting dust. So 60 bucks is no big risk.
The sensor is easy to hook up to the iPod, and the Nike+ widget on the iPod records information about each run. Stuff like duration, pace and estimated calories burned. I set up an account at nikerunning.nike.com and my runs can be uploaded from my iPod and viewed in a bar graph. I must say, the ease of use and the ability to track my progress is probably why I am still using it, a year and a half later. I like to go back occasionally and see if I am progressing or plateauing. I can look at my earliest runs, only 20 minutes a pop, mostly walking. Each workout strategically designed to be so undemanding that is was not worth the guilt that would come with procrastination. I think that’s how I have managed to run regularly for close to 18 months. I fooled myself into doing just a little bit of exercise, and slowly incremented the target duration of each run. I’ve gotten to the point where I can run 10 clicks in one go. Very slowly, but surely.
You can see my recent runs in the sidebar on the right. I’m testing out the Nike+ iPod Stats WordPress Plugin by Mark Rickert. Cool widget, but the official Nike+ website seems to be a bit flaky with handling the login from the widget and this is causing page load issues. Oh well. Maybe I can do a Pretty in Pink on this lovely thrift store prom dress of an API.
A few weeks ago, I finally take a long-overdue vacation. I am severely jetlagged for the entire duration of my stay in London. I wake up at 3 a.m. and go running in Hyde Park at 5 a.m. I run past an improbable number of ducks and swans around the ponds, swing East along the southern edge of the park and pass a troop of horseguards in shiny helmets running drills with their aromatic horses, probably rehearsing for the royal wedding. So many joggers in the park this early in the day. Past several 24-hour-party-people in search of a cab. Get to the gates of Buckingham Palace. There is a certain satisfaction in coming full circle.