A WEEK ago tonight, I was rooting through a dusty old cupboard at home.
"Found them!" I said at length. The exclamation mark was genuine: I was happy to see them.
A pair of running shoes - box-fresh, blinding white, never worn. Bought in 2009, part of a get-fit campaign that lasted roughly as long as it took me to take the shoes home and put them in the back of the cupboard.
They would still be unworn had it not been for the sight of all these Commonwealth Games athletes making the difficult look easy. Plus, there was a news story about short bursts of intensive exercise could transform our lives. The story was aimed at the over-60s, but the basic principle seemed sound enough.
Shoes, running socks, shorts, sweatshirt. If nothing else, I looked the part.
I did a few dimly-remembered warm-up exercises that set off a small but worrying chain of creaking and snapping noises, then set off on a run. My first in 20 years.
"Fine evening," I called out cheerily to a neighbour walking his dog. I jogged through a car-park then onto a grassy path. Fifty, 60, 70 yards. One hundred.
Somewhere around the 200-yard mark I hit what we endurance athletes refer to as 'the wall'. I had to stop. My heart was beating as fast as a fire raiser's. There was an unignorable pain in my shins. And I had the beginning of a stitch in my side.
I knew I wasn't fit but I didn't think I was that unfit. I tried again, further along. Thirty yards, and no further. I walked through a quiet stretch of woodland where no-one could see me run a few yards and grind to a queasy halt.
Eventually, I made my way up a steep, narrow, tree-lined back-road. Seven cars came up the road behind me. For reasons I can't fully explain even now, I started running when I heard them, so that the drivers would turn to their passengers and say, "Good on that old guy, running on a steep road like this". As soon as they were out of sight, I was on my knees.
I took a short-cut home and passed the neighbour and his dog again. They exchanged a glance that said, "Thirty minutes? Bloke's not much of a jogger".
At home I peeled off the shoes - slightly scuffed, by now - and threw them into the back of the cupboard. They'll stay there until the 2018 Commonwealth Games, or the next news story about exercise, whichever comes first. I know which one my money is on.
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