I have never really been one for sport. I can blame my height, in some way, for my lack of interest. I was growing an inch a month in my formative years – I hit 6’ around my thirteenth birthday – and found it hard to keep hand-eye coordination when the hand was that little bit further away than last week. But, my disinterest came earlier than that. An anomaly in country Australia, I grew up with no interest whatsoever in football but a lot of interest in chimerae, manticores and Arthurian knights. When asked at age 7 what my favourite sport was, I asked if falconry counted. Not that I’d ever done it, but it just looked awesome.
By my teenage years I had an aversion to any form of team-based activity. This was despite the best efforts of my parents who were desperately keen to get me out from behind a book and out into the sunshine. I managed perhaps a month of soccer practice but never played an actual game, and then a season of basketball where I ran back and forth on the court waving my arms around but failing to make any difference to the match’s outcome. The opposing side were intimidated by my height for all of thirty seconds, before realising I was an awkward scarecrow with no skill beyond being an obstacle. I was in good company at least; the team was terrible , a ragtag bunch of misfits that would in some movie universe get Emilio Estevez as a coach and go on to win the championship. Instead, we got a 20-something manager from the local K-Mart who didn’t even bother turning up to a couple of games. We didn’t win a single match all year.
Now, I run. I’ve been jogging for the last couple of years, around once a week. I like jogging. You can do it by yourself and listen to your favourite music while you do it. It can last for as long or as short as you want, and it requires nearly zero preparation or equipment. I’ve also done a handful of charity runs over the last year or two, and done respectable times for 8km and 14.5km tracks. I never take it too seriously – I have a cheap pair of tracksuit pants rather than one of those disturbing form-fitting numbers I tend to see, and my t-shirts are invariably black with pictures of vampires on them, rather than some microfibre-superbreathable yellow number – but I run weekly, and have built up my stamina over time. Running that distance, you start to learn things about yourself; how I roll my ankle a little more than I should, how I land more heavily on my left foot than my right, how if I run long and hard enough when it’s hot the sweat dries on my brow like rough salt. I’ve also learned it doesn’t get incredibly easier with time, per se, but it’s just become simpler now to drown out that little wheedling voice in your head that consoles you, says you’ve done an okay job, done enough and should just turn around and walk home. Now I can just run through that, pick up my pace and attack another hill.