Country race more like leisurely stroll

One exhausting week on from my column about the 'joys' of jogging, I can confirm that the Bullock health regime remains on track. Most evenings I pound the pavements around the Ruby Rectangle here in Norwich for a 20-minute run that covers two or three laps of the block.

One exhausting week on from my column about the 'joys' of jogging, I can confirm that the Bullock health regime remains on track.

Most evenings I pound the pavements around the Ruby Rectangle here in Norwich for a 20-minute run that covers two or three laps of the block. It's hardly a gruelling marathon across the Sahara but, hey, it's a start.

Until I took up running I'd never realised how many people are now part of the jogging brigade. I silently cross paths in the darkness with no end of keep-fit folk in an assortment of shapes and sizes, all sweating it out in the ice and rain when they could be glued to a warm sofa with a comforting mug of cocoa.

After just seven weeks I'm beginning to feel that my drive to turn fatness into fitness is getting results. The first jogging session, back in January, was a memorably painful ordeal however.


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Still bloated with turkey-and-trimmings festive excesses and choc-full of Quality Street, I wheezed and gasped so heavily that a St John Ambulance support team should probably have followed in my wake.

Having managed one feeble lap I was almost a broken man and spent the next 48 hours delicately hobbling around with sore and aching limbs that had been ill-prepared for sudden exertion.

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Ordinarily I might have been tempted to throw in the sweaty towel and console myself with a family-size bag of Minstrels and a much-needed lie down. But this was only the beginning of a leaner, meaner approach for 2007, so I decided to grin and bear it in the name of better health.

Nimble young Gregory, now eight, has donned his tracksuit several times to provide moral support by joining me on my nightly jog.

He's certainly kept me company but his presence has served a more important psychological function. Tipping the scales at just over three stones, Bullock Jnr is the physical embodiment of the amount of excess weight I'd like to shift - and that's a handy reminder.

All this road running has brought back memories of grammar school cross-country sessions. Remember cross-country running? Or maybe, like me, you regarded it as cross-country rambling.

My technique for this wretched ingredient of much-hated games lessons was to spring off the starting line and run among the pack vigorously until reaching the quiet 'country' route off school premises.

Once away from the watchful eyes of sports masters, I could then enjoy an afternoon stroll with like-minded lazy pals - swapping sticker cards, chewing lemon bonbons and discussing the previous night's episode of Wacky Races at a leisurely pace.

Well, I always took the view that school was supposed to be about academic education: not tearing around grim Norfolk lanes in a skimpy singlet.

Heading back to the end of the race, of course, required some semblance of authenticity so I developed the skills of a military camouflage expert: applying different shades and thicknesses of mud to my legs to create a naturally bespattered look.

Puddle water (or sometimes even a bit of spit) was perfect for the face and forehead, creating the effect of athletic perspiration. A few deep breaths and a feigned look of agony at the finishing line all added to the Olympic-style drama.

Maybe I'd have been better off directing my energy into the actual cross-country running rather than bizarre ploys to get out of it. Who knows, I might even have won.

On the subject of mud, my recent piece on the challenges of keeping clean and tidy while looking after grubby kids and dogs has prompted a nice response from EDP reader Roger Borthwick.

“In 1976 I picked up my first ever brand new car one Saturday morning - a shiny Ford Cortina in canary yellow,” he writes.

“We all piled into the car, including parents-in-law, and I proudly pulled away from home for the maiden voyage. Suddenly my two-year-old decided to be sick all over the interior of my new Cortina (and the back of my neck) less than one hour from having taken possession of it.”

Roger's travel trouble has all the hallmarks of a typical tale from Bullock Towers. I've never owned a Cortina, with or without the optional stained upholstery, and yet it sounds so queasily familiar.

My chirpy correspondent adds: “The experience did me good because I concluded at that very moment that the car was not intended to be an ornament, but instead served us well as a faithful family workhorse for over 10 years.” Well said, Sir.

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