The Art of sweating

With each week seems to come a new tweak or ache somewhere up and down my body. 

Ankles and heels are the target areas at the moment, and I cut a pathetic figure at 5:30am each morning as I limp across the kitchen, hand flailing out to switch on the kettle, as Florence is pulling at my leg and demanding a DVD be fired up.  

Despite our attempts at negotiating with Flo about the somewhat unruly hour at which she springs into life each day – which on some mornings simply involves the inevitably futile command of: “It’s still dark, it’s not time to wake up, go back to sleep!” – she often, literally, jumps out of bed with energy levels pulsating through her to the extent that walking is enthusiastically replaced by a combination of breathless skipping, pirouetting and running.  

With the aforementioned DVD underway, and with Shrek recently replacing Cinderella as the No 1 choice, I slump on the sofa next to Flo and doze for precious minutes.  Caffeine is the only way I am then able to coax my joints back into life, before the remainder of the morning rituals are conducted.  

No matter what day of the week, Flo’s sleeping pattern is the same, which means that often by around 10am Lou and I are ready for lunch and, by 4pm, bed.  We bump into friends over the weekend at local cafés or at playgrounds, and exchange similar tales of pre-dawn risings and accompanying parental tactics.  I’m no sales guru, but if Disney began marketing their DVDs with some promotional tea bags or coffee beans, they might just be onto something.

Perhaps the aching limbs issue is part and parcel of getting older.  Oddly enough, when I’m out running these days the aches seem to subside, and over the past few weeks it’s been enjoyable to put in a bit more training, to offset the rather sedentary lifestyle I have, either sat in the office or, particularly during recent months, sat on various aeroplanes.

I have recently started following various news streams on Twitter, and came across the tweets of Eddie Izzard promoting his next big fundraising event – a 1,100 mile barefoot run across Africa.  The distance is not as impressive in many ways as the fact that Izzard is 49 years old, and had never done any running up until a few years back, when he decided to run 1,100 miles across the UK for Sport Relief.  Which he did.  Truly incredible, and the source of much inspiration for someone 13 years his junior.

So, no excuses for me then from now on.  Perhaps 2012 will be the year of renewing my affair with running longer distances… 

Last weekend I ventured out twice with the group of ex-pat runners mentioned in a previous post, but with mixed results.  The Saturday morning run went off fine, 8kms and a relatively easy pace.  But then on Sunday evening, a few new faces appeared and the pace was break neck (or, it was for me) and I fell back after about 20 minutes and plodded a second lap in the dark, doing everything I could to avoid stopping, taking a short cut or, for that matter, one of the many passing taxis, home.

The general protocol on these outings is that some runners listen to their iPods and run in silence, whilst others split off into groups or pairs, where idle chat usually gets replaced by a more focused silence halfway in, as the humidity, sun, and fatigue take over and talking becomes too much of a distraction and energy-expender to maintain. 

There have been a few occasions where I’ve mistakenly began the run gossiping to someone who clearly was a member of the first of these types, and was about to plug in their headphones and submerge themselves in the rhythmic beats of Groove Armada, or the like.  Several minutes have passed with me spouting off about international development, jetlag, the extended Christmas edition of Pepper Pig, or some other subject close to my heart, before my co-runner has then had to find an appropriate moment to cut me off and explain, unconvincingly, that “they find it much easier running with music on”.  

In fact, on Saturday, before the first step had been taken, I didn’t even get as far as “have you heard the latest about the flooding in the Mekong Delta?” as the guy I was setting off next to had obviously put up with my babble before, and immediately shoved his earphones in and then pointed at them by way of indicating the end of our exchange. 

Post-run on Saturday, I had a similarly embarrassing social moment. 

It should have been a detail previously spotted, but for some reason I chose to wear a cotton t-shirt for the run itself.  Everyone else of course, perhaps reflecting their seriousness to the task or, more likely, just their superior volumes of common sense, donned “dry-fit” tops and camel packs, the combination of which meant they were hydrated throughout the run, and sweat-free afterwards.

So, after the run, and upon getting up from the table where we were all ordering coffees and breakfast, I ventured to the café toilet only to be stopped in my tracks when I got there by the hideous sight of a red faced me in the mirror, perspiring so much that my t-shirt had fully changed colour and was dark grey.  I was radiating so much heat that when I tried to remedy things with the posh rolled up flannels by the sink, the result was simply to heat up the flannels to the kind of level accepted by Indian restaurants. 

Not wanting to be gone too long in the bathroom for fear of displaying other physical ailments that my new friends would find unpalatable, I decided to head back outside and rejoin the group, resplendent in their dry-as-a-bone designer kit, and concentrate on drinking lots of iced water.  

As if scripted by the same writers who brought us the Baby Cham adverts, I managed to walk into a chair on the way back, which screeched against the floorboards, and made the dozen people sat round our table cease their chatter and turn and stare at me in my sodden t-shirt.  Without breaking stride, or flinching, I tried smiling normally (anyone who has seen photographs of me knows this does not play to my strengths) and made a bee-line for my place at the table, only to then be left, by now completely mortified, when I realised a wet imprint of my arse had been left on top of the wooden slats of the seat for all the world to see.  

Turns out, I was just getting started.  

With my t-shirt showing no signs of drying, but with bacon sandwich and latté consumed (I’d long since given up on the iced water idea, and was back on the hot caffeine fix) a new sense of confidence bristled, and I plucked up the courage to talk to someone who appeared ever redder than I in their complexion.  

Just as I started to forget about the fact I was still in a state of leaking sweat consistently across arms, legs, neck and face, someone from the other side of the table, self designated to dissect the bill and determine what everyone owed (and yes, even out here, this procedure is just as flawed as it used to be back home when you adopt the “did you have an extra juice with yours” policy) called out for people to put in their contributions.  

Right on queue my blackberry rang loudly in the middle of the table, and then slipped out of my hands as I picked it up and into the lap of an American woman sat next to me.  Thankfully, I managed not to instinctively reach out and retrieve the phone myself, but at this point my heart sank as I remembered where I’d stashed my money – in the pocket of my skin tight lycra shorts…

…and so, as the polite American woman handed me back my slippery phone, I was forced to pass to her a damp, crumbled 200,000 Vietnamese Dong bank note from my shorts and, as our eyes met and her eyebrows heightened somewhat, I sensed the need to speak, “don’t worry,” I offered, “I won’t need any change,” before beating a hasty retreat back to the safer confines of our apartment, my 3 year old daughter, and some Walt Disney classics.


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