Guest post by Vassos Alexander
Wednesday 12:17pm. Text message received. Sender, Chris Evans.
1,700 words. You? 😀
This was the trouble with writing a book, my first, at the same time as Chris was writing the excellent Call the Midlife, his third. Every morning at work he would smugly tell me how many words he’d written the previous day. And then also, apparently, at random points during the afternoon via text.
Gah, you’re like the clever kid in school with your hand in the air who knows all the answers! I’m not going near a word count until I can be sure I’ve hit the thou….
But I did go near a word count. I went more than near one. I became extremely friendly with one of several free online word count tools. We’ve still kept in touch. So much so that I can tell you this blog is now 149 words long (and they’ve asked for 600, so 75% of it left to write).
I’m a broadcaster by trade, and it took a while for writing to come remotely easily. A little like running really (but without the shortness of breath and lower leg niggles). I’d had the idea to write a book celebrating the act of running for some time and was thrilled when Bloomsbury agreed to publish. Running, I told them, is hard. It hurts. But it’s also one of the most life-affirming things we can do. A happy emoji.
So I wanted to celebrate the fact that millions of us now consider ourselves runners, and perhaps to inspire others to start. And I wanted to explore why so many of us are happy to put ourselves through it.
Why, for instance, do we get up extra early, squeeze into lurid apparel and head into a cold, dark winter morning when we could more comfortably hit snooze and enjoy an extra hour under the warm duvet?
Why do we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion, desperation, sometimes even tears, chasing some arbitrary goal (mine – for a long time – was a sub-three-hour marathon) when we know it’s largely meaningless? And that as soon as we achieve it, we’ll move on to another, equally ephemeral target?
We aren’t the special ones. We certainly won’t be winning any medals. But still we lace up those trainers. Most of us every week, many of us every day, and some of us often twice a day. (Takes your running to a new level, by the way, running twice a day, and it’s surprisingly easy to fit into your life; I generally run to/from work, and then go out later with our gloriously loony Labrador, Holly.)
So, 26.2 chapters featuring my all-too-frequently lamentable efforts to get to grips with my new obsession – and at the end of each, an interview with a genuinely inspiring athlete. How did Paula Radcliffe get into running? And Steve Cram, Jenson Button and the Brownlees? And how about Nell McAndrew (2:53 marathon), Nicky Campbell (inspired Forrest Gump), and the guy I bumped into on Hammersmith Bridge, literally, who told me how running kept him out of prison?
I decided to focus on speaking to these wonderful people first, all of whom gave up their time generously and graciously, and see if my own words might flow freer thereafter. And I’m delighted to say that they did. Who wouldn’t be motivated to write about running after hearing how a youthful Paula struggled to keep up with her dad when he was marathon training in Delamere Forest?
Sunday 6:07am. Text message received. Sender, Chris Evans.
Writing already. You? 😀
Yep, since ten past five!!
Don’t Stop Me Now: 26.2 Tales of a Runner’s Obsession publishes 24th March 2016.
Click here to find out more.