You are standing on the Central Line platform at Tottenham Court Road after spending the last five hours making an outstanding contribution to Britain's binge drinking crisis. You are trying to coax your booze-addled brain into working out where you can purchase some fags from, when you notice the massive day-glo advertisment in front of you. It is demanding that you squeeze into an array of brightly coloured lycra ensembles, don a pair of vastly over-priced training shoes and then sprint around the city in a Paula Radcliffe-stylee. Quite frankly, it is almost enough to put you off your kebab.
Nike's latest message for 2005 has arrived. Three separate running events in Hyde Park, Battersea Park and Victoria park, a funky website , motivational catchphrases, free gear and the temptation to buy stacks of not-so free gear. Yep, once again it's time to Run, London. This is a huge event, both in numbers and marketing push, and it is bound to polarise the opinion of Londoners from Bethnal Green to Barnet.
Many will say that this is solely a marketing exercise that enables Nike to sell more shoes and will resent the idea that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other at pace, has suddenly become the trademark of an American corporation. Others will argue that anything which provides the great unfit with an incentive to get off the sofa and embrace healthy(ish) living, has got to be a good thing. Three Londonist writers have decided to sign up, so let's hear why they decided to take the plunge.....
I've written a note in my diary today that reads 'no crisps, chocolates or sweets until 16/09/05'. So far, so good, but I'm writing this in a caff round the corner from work, having just polished off a nice toasted sandwich and chips, so it's clear that my dietary limitations are going to take some beating. An all-out assault on my flab is now required; I am two stone overweight and it really is about time that I lost the beer-belly and man-boobies.
I felt that I needed a goal, and after watching my sister complete last year's London Marathon, I have decided I want to join her as she races again in 2006. However, being aware of my current limitations, and having seen the people running this year who looked like they'd declined to train until the week of the race (purple faces, bleeding nipples, the lot), I know that this kind of thing needs to be done in stages. And so the Nike 10K it is.
Of course, one doesn't need to attend Nike events only in order to help get ready for a marathon, as there are certainly plenty of other 10k races out there. But the truth is that I'm a sucker for their gear. I've got one of those black and white anti-racism bands on my wrist and a stack of swoosh-adorned football equipment in my wardrobe at home. And that being the case, it probably doesn't hurt for friends to remind me that Nike still has a certain reputation . But you do get a free t-shirt.
An unflattering photo is to blame for this. More accustomed to being the hunter, karma caught up with me, and I became the hunted, snapped unawares, with a face displaying unwelcome chin extensions the likes of which John Hurt's make-up artists would be proud. God damn you, Flickr, and your photography-encouraging ways!
Big Brother is to blame for this. The sickening sight of Single White Male Craig's jiggly man boobs were too much. Some men like to 'joke' that they wish they had breasts, to play with all day. Don't be fooled, man boobs are not to be cherished, and their association with that unhinged infantile stalker has resolved me not to follow that physical path.
My imminent wedding is to blame for this. During the first measurement for my suit, I was shocked to discover my waist size has expanded 6" since my slim (starved) university days. I didn't feel fat, yet here was clear empirical evidence. I haven't dared step on those body-fat-measuring scales since that first fitting.
I am to blame for this. With an inability to moderate my food intake to a level appropriate to my declining levels of activity, the dreaded 'spread' has slowly taken hold. Gym membership has not helped. There is nothing less suited to the mentality of a team sports fanatic than the loneliness of the treadmill runner.
Organised activity is my only salvation...
It all started with the London bombings... I started to walk home from work to avoid the Tube, drawing a straight line between home and office on my A-Z, then stomping along a path as close to that line as was possible. It was exhausting at first, a solid hour of marching that would make me red in the face and sticky all over and too breathless to order a medicinal gin and tonic once I got to the pub on the home stretch. Then one day, the walk had gone from "mountain trek" proportions to "gentle stroll home" and I thought... well, this is nice. I could run this. That would keep things interesting. That would make me fitter. That would put the bikini holiday locations back on the honeymoon list for next year.
So I put on my trainers last Saturday afternoon and had a short run along the Thames between two bridges, came home puffing, panting, aching and thinking "... if only there was some way of training properly, with some way of checking I'm doing this right and working towards something..."
And lo and behold, on Monday morning, a bright red advert catches my eye and tells me, in a strangely hypnotic and compelling way, to "Run London." By that afternoon I had registered for the Nike 10k.
In contrast to Alex and Ken, I hope I don't lose my boobies and I'm secretly hoping they'll actually get bigger by doing this.
Hazel, Ken and Alex are going to be following a punishing training programme over the next few months and YOU can follow them every step of the way on Londonist. Excited? Yes....us too.