“Run until your arms are sore, until you cannot feel it anymore…”
For a few weeks now, my mojo has been if not actually AWOL, then at the very least sulking in its bedroom.
The quest to find work is slow, unpredictable and frustrating. Hearing your son optimistically asking his mum “Is Daddy working today?” is more than a little crushing.
This alone would be enough to occupy my mind fully of late, but life being what it is, we’ve also had to contend with the death of a close family member on Mrs LC’s side and all the short notice trips, exit visa stress and emotional burden that comes with being far away from loved ones.
It would be easy to wallow and overthink all of this, but instead I decided to use the employment-free limbo I currently find myself in to my advantage.
To clear my head. To stay in shape.
To start running again.
* * *
Doha has arrived at that lovely period of the year when the weather is charming but not yet oppressive, and on the way back from the school run last week I was suddenly struck by the idea of swapping my regular indoor workout for something a little more en plein air.
So I went home, got changed and headed for the park. Aspire Park may be something of a personal bête-noir – over-represented as it is by officious security guards, and somewhere where you can buy a burger but not ride your bike – but it does at least have a decent running track which meanders around its perimeter.
(Besides, when the outdoor alternative is taking your chances with the roadside lottery of incomplete/missing pavements, construction sites, open manholes and psychotic drivers, it seems a small price to pay.)
The park is home to Doha’s only hill (another is being crafted from excavated earth at the Katara cultural village, but looks like it will be for decorative purposes only) which the perimeter track insists on taking you up and over.
The track also takes you past the back of French supermarket Géant, whose in-store bakery pumps out the most delicious pastry smells as you run by, in an almost malicious act of provocation.
I’m never very far off thinking about cakes, but at least I’ve had an excuse this week. Kid A took part in her school assembly on healthy eating, playing the evil Cupcake of No Obvious Nutritional Value. Booo.
We took the opportunity to discuss diet, exercise and everything in moderation. Like the saying goes: “Eat cupcakes, then run. Run, then eat cupcakes.” (Possibly.)
It might not be the clear cut message she was looking for, but that’s the complexities of adult life for you.
Over the hill
Anyway, for about half an hour, I hauled my protesting self around the track, The Prodigy (specifically, this) turned up to 11 in order that I could hear it in my one good ear over the sound of my screaming limbs.
The park was surprisingly busy, with ladies power-walking in their abayas and amazingly-coloured trainers, men in their thobes taking in the morning air, mums with buggies, maids with buggies, groups of Nepalese guys in full length tracksuits and woolly hats, the occasional serious athlete and a sprinkling of Camelbak-toting expats.
I’ll admit it was slightly unnerving to discover that the park was also overflowing with ambulances and LifeFlight helicopters that morning, but it turns out they weren’t there in anticipation of any jogging-related calamity; it was HMC, our local health provider, holding a press launch.
I didn’t take a picture because I had no way of doing so.
I run old school style, which these days means without phone, apps, maps, trackers, Fuelbands or Fitbits. All I need is my music and some motivation.
(On the one day I did smugly remember to bring my camera in order to take the pics accompanying this post, I forgot my headphones.
But whilst running without music is technically possible, it’s like reanimating dinosaurs from DNA extracted from mosquitos trapped in amber: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.)
Day two of any new program is always the hardest, so I upped the ante, changing into my running gear before taking the kids to school. Now there was no escape.
Whilst there are dozens of mums who do the school run in Lycra and trainers in order to head straight for the gym afterwards (or maybe to give the illusion of heading straight to the gym), I’ve never seen a dad doing the same. But for the time saving involved, I can live with my trailblazing status.
Back I went, this time running a little longer, stopping a little less. By day three, I was actively looking forward to my run. Weird.
Up and running
Now, don’t panic, this isn’t about to become some kind of running blog. If you want to know about maximising calorie intake, pronation or the best water pouch to buy, you’ve come to the wrong place. I can’t even tell you how far I’ve run or how fast. (If you know, brag about it here.)
And this burst of activity won’t last forever. I may find work; the weather will definitely play a part sooner rather later.
But I’m running now, while I can. There are tons of reasons to start – and whether you’re running to wake yourself up, tire yourself out, build stamina, elevate your pulse, get outdoors, get in shape, keep in shape or suppress your appetite – my advice would be to just get your trainers on and go.
It’s comforting that I can at least give my thoughts the slip for half an hour or so.
Mrs LC – back in Doha and back at work – doesn’t have that luxury. Her mind is with her family and right now she doesn’t want to be here, simply because it’s not there.
* * *
At the weekend the weather was continuing its charm offensive, so family Little City returned to Aspire. And in between throwing things, kicking things and Mrs LC illegally flying her kite until a security guard told her to stop, I set off of another, gentler run.
Gentler, because this time I wasn’t running alone.
Almost imperceptibly, Kid A has gone from being pushed round parks in her buggy to wanting to join me on my run. She has a willowy figure for running and an enjoyment of it, too. There’s the seed of something there.
Who knows what I might have started…