The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami [1] once wrote a book called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Quite a lot, it turned out since he managed to get nearly 200 pages out of the conversation. The last time I actually ran - three or four years ago now at least [2] - I think all I could manage to say was "hurrgh … hurrgh … Give … me … a … second … can't … speak."

I was only ever a mediocre runner. Third-best at best at school. But for years it was something I just did. As kids when we weren't playing football - which was obviously most of the time - or playing war games or superheroes, we'd run. We'd run and run around the block, 15, 20 times, kiddy marathons that took on an edge of the penitential about them. Grown-ups would come out to give us water as we ran on, burning up calories and childish energy and time because there was so much of it to burn back in the 1970s when the telly still went to bed at night.

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Some childhood memory has lingered long enough for me to recognise what the appeal of marathon running might be: a notion of achievement, of stoic endurance, of an almost spiritual out-of-body experience right there in your legs and arms as lactic acid builds and builds. As I got older the distances I ran shortened. Every so often in our 20s, J would say she was the better sprinter and we'd have a race over the nearest piece of grass. She was for maybe 60 metres but any further and I'd overtake her just by virtue of longer legs. That and the fact I didn't spend my days sucking down 20 Regal [3].

It's a natural thing to do, isn't it? To run. I mean, when you see Usain Bolt he seems to be enjoying it. So the question is, why did I stop? Maybe it's just age. Because these days I'm shamefully aware the only running I do is pretend running. You know that leggy shuffle middle-aged men do when they're crossing the road and suddenly notice a car is coming? Our legs move more but we don't move any faster. Even when I'm doing it I know it's embarrassing. Like I've forgotten how to run but some wonky survival impulse is trying to make me. I imagine drivers laughing their asses off at the Forrest Gump in slo-mo in front of them.

It's probably dangerous. It could cause an accident. Maybe I should just walk from now on. I wouldn't be moving any slower.

Now my marathons and sprints are behind me, I guess. I've stopped running. I've run down.


[1] He's at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year. Too late to get tickets though.

[2] Before a football-related injury crocked me [Age Concerns passim].

[3] She's given that nasty habit up now, thankfully.

Twitter: @teddyjamieson