So this is one of those weird moments you will have strange nightmares about afterwards. It’s probably never happened to you. It’s just not a normal thing to happen.
It started with some very well-meant exercise. Trainers – on, laces – tied, iPod – on shuffle, Rod Stewart – deleted from iTunes. I was ready for a productive fitness session, I did my stretches (ten seconds for each lunge, five seconds on the hams – it’s a question of balance…) And then I was running, a light, steady jog down the street to the local park. All is well so far, yes?
I should mention, this ‘park’ of mine is a patch of grass inhabited by stoners and dog walkers. It’s where I go to escape the grungy concrete of a Kent suburb, to run in literal circles around the one small patch of green in the near vicinity. So what happened isn’t really much of a surprise…
You think it won’t happen to you. It only happens to other people, right? But before I knew what was happening, a tiny white ball of fluff, embarrassingly the size of my hand, had charged at me. It was yapping but (even more embarrassingly) a Glee mashup of Adele songs was blocking out the noise. So I was completely unprepared for the lunge it made at my ankle.
It was a tense moment. I managed to escape a fully-fledged dog bite (no one can catch this Speedy Gonzales) but I did fall victim to the old awkward tripping-over-my-own-feet routine, swiftly pretending it was all intentional and working a smooooth limp into my run. You gotta give me A for effort, folks.
I know I know, they don’t come much clumsier than me. But they do come more awkward… because no sooner had I recovered from this little bizarre episode than a rather oversized woman, overflowing a park bench on my circuit, laughing along, and striking up a ‘he likes you don’t he?’ Nothing strange about that. I laughed along. She said something else that I didn’t hear so I laughed (standard go-to response when in doubt) and carried on with my jog. Normality returned. My breathing became its usual deathly rattle (sometimes people actually look worried as I stumble past them). But then came the next circuit. As I approached her, I knew it was coming. She had that excited, eager look of someone who sits in parks a lot.
‘Hello! How you doing?’
I mean, I was running. Who strikes up small talk with a jogger? I told her I was fine in my breathy dying Darth Vader tones and asked back (British politeness, going the extra mile). She shouted ‘fine’ after my receding back. At this point, I thought bless, it’s kinda friendly. But it kept happening. A new question every loop, the answers on my part more and more strained, the sweat falling thicker as I panicked, what if she follows me home and eats me when I fall asleep?
Don’t fear, ladies and gentleman, I made it home alive and alone. Because nothing will inspire you to just keep running like a crazy stranger watching and waiting on a bench. I know, I should write taglines for Adidas…