Sunday, 12 June 2011

Inspired by a stranger

I used to drive to work the 'long way' avoiding a dual carriageway and managing to squeeze in a bit of peace between two sets of chaos. Llantwit Road, long and winding, trees lined both sides; turning the road into black lace as the sun shone. I listened to the same few albums, full volume, often repeating my favourite tracks, and holding on to the tiny part of self-absorption my day allowed. Sometimes I'd spy a colleague waiting at the bus stop en route, music down, daydream over, "jump in".  Talk about the weather and staff shortages all the way to work.
For four years this was my routine, and I saw the same people at the same stage of their work commute for most of that time. I like to be early, or at least on time for appointments and work, being late leaves me feeling ashamed and guilty all day (and that's no exaggeration). One lady would be walking along the road, embarking on her journey as I came to the end. It used to puzzle me, where was she going, there wasn't a house or bus stop for a couple of miles? This lady was what could be described as 'morbidly obese'. Headphones in, sweat pants and t-shirt on, with a jumper around her neck in Spring/Summer, rain mac in winter, she looked worn out but determined. 
As the years went by, I saw this lady every time I drove to work, and things began to change, slowly but dramatically. First, I noticed she had upped her pace, there was a spring in her step, arms like metronomes. Weeks later, I realised I was passing her in the middle of the road, not as she embarked on the journey.  Eventually, she jogged. Red-faced, pained, determined - she exuded will-power and focus as her breasts bobbed freely under a pastel t-shirt. I wondered what music was helping her along and imagined it being Tina Turner or Meatloaf. A shadow of her former self, she was getting close to the end of the road as I drove past.
The bus-stop colleague shared my interest in this lady's progress, she had anorexia and loved nothing more than to discuss exercise, food and weight loss. When I left the job, I wondered if she kept a keen eye on the jogger's progress. 
The road now forms part of a by-pass, which joins onto the 'short way' route. I would miss that drive if I still worked at the school, I would miss seeing the shrinking jogger,  I would not miss, however, having my journey interrupted by a colleague.
I recently took up running; I struggle along the main road gasping for breath as my asthmatic chest tightens. I think about that look of dogged determination, that shrinking woman and I keep going.


  1. I love your posts. Now I'm wondering about the determined lady jogger too. Not enough to find my trainers mind.

  2. No good for the knees anyhow. My motivation is that it's free, and I can fit it in very early morning or in the evening before the bedtime shift.
    I'm not built for speed, maybe strength (did I mention I was the school discus champion?!). One day I will combine eating frugally and exercising regularly just like one day I'll have a clean and tidy house...

  3. My other half took up running last year, he's also asthmatic but found he could manage the Nike programme - 'Walking to Running' I think it's called? He loved it. Naturally I think this was partly because he also bought the magic Nike trainers with the Apple insert under the sole that tracks speed and frequency of runs while linking to the iPod. Any excuse to get out the gadgets . . . !

  4. Good on you Luce! I haven't run for years (dodgy knees) but I still remember how good it felt to run outdoors in all weathers, and a great sense of achievement too as you gradually overcome your body's protests!!!

  5. I could do with some of that determination with my job hunting. 50 applications fired off and not a toffee in reply. Feel like I'm shouting into a bottomless well.
    On a different tack, have you tried what the Norwegians call 'fart-legging'(no guffawing at the back!). It basically translates as 'fast-legging'. You run 30 paces and walk 30 paces, it doesn't tire you out so quickly (allegedly) and is supposed to increase your fitness faster.
    Dunno, never tried it, I'm more one for a nice walk up a hill.

  6. @Stensil Head-50 applications sounds pretty determined to me. What kind of work are you after? I'm so VERY good at starting things, but get so bored and distracted new hobbies rarely last. I hope I keep up the running as it has really increased my lung capacity.
    'Fart-legging', sounds like a garment for over-indulgent fans of Greggs and Mc Donalds (moi?). My OH reckons that running technique is best, may give it a go when I run alone (I usually run with a friend who is a great runner).
    Good luck with the job hunting, I'll be doing the same next year. Form filling and 'pimping' oneself is such a chore.

  7. I want to start running again, I do enjoy the buzz of my heart racing and the fresh air in my lungs. I will start again soon, as I am always inspired by other people! My commute to work is quick, and heart pounding as I am always racing to get there on time leaving usually a 10-15 gap from when I drop the children off at school till when I start work! Bx

  8. This has to be one of my fave posts of yours - i want to now 1) know what happened to the shrinker and 2) start running - what are you doing to me! I am rubbish at running, very aware my legs are flicking or or something naff. Good luck with your running! Scarlett x

  9. I'm the same as everybody else....what became of that determined woman I wonder? Another good running idea is to download the 'Couch to 5K' podcast from iTunes. I did this when I ran in the Great South Run a couple years back, in aid of Hampshire Autistic Society. Without a shadow of a doubt the worst experience of my life...

    K xx

  10. What a lovely story; inspiration can come from unexpected people and places, I think. Good luck with your running.


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