I’m not exactly what you’d call a key demographic for Sports Direct.
I’ve never run, cycled, pumped iron, or played for a team in my life, bunking off rugby and cricket at school, preferring stud poker sessions and cigarettes with my friends.
The only sport I’ve done with any regularity is swimming, so when the David Lloyd closed down their pool in March for Lockdown #1, I needed to find something else to compensate for my spirited consumption of juniper and ethanol based treats.
Dressed in double breasted overcoat, fedora and umbrella, I entered Mike Ashley’s emporium on The Headrow with a degree of trepidation, having read in the press about their “Victorian” working conditions.
A beacon of opportunity for any aspiring Artful Dodger, I tucked away my silk handkerchief into the depths of my out breast pocket, and surveyed the madding crowd.
A sea of baseball caps and nylon cladded youth lay before me, a huge security guard on the door completing the vibe of a young offenders institution.
Somewhat overwhelmed by the towering walls of trainers, and fluorescently lit floorspace large enough to accommodate a Boeing 747, I cornered a shop assistant unpacking sweatpants from a box and smiled:
“Excuse me. I’m thinking of taking up running and don’t really to know where to start. Can you help?”
By the look on his face, requests for a personal shopping service are few and far between, but warming to his task, I was duly whisked around the store like a contestant on “Supermarket Sweep.”
Never a fan of sportwear, and swerving the “Casuals” look of the 80’s, when brands like Fila, Ellesse and Sergio Tacchini were all the rage, price was my motivating factor on purchase decision.
Within fifteen minutes I was at the till, clutching a shiny blue Adidas top with white go-faster stripes, Puma shorts and a £35 pair of Nike trainers, which I would quickly discover, had the flex and supportive credentials of a pair of clogs.
Back in my bedroom, I threw on my new kit, and looking like a prisoner on home release, sheepishly entered the kitchen, to braying squawks and snorts of hilarity from my wife and daughters.
A determined, but to be fair, disastrous attempt at stretching, sent them over the edge.
Enthusiastic as ever, I got stuck in, my style and pace akin to that of a wounded gazelle, and then bang, disaster struck, a flashing pain to the side of my knee, leaving me limping to a stop, like a premiership footballer hobbling off the pitch after a heavy tackle.
Back at the ranch, it was decided I should ‘build up’ to running, perhaps starting with a vigorous walk to the top of the Chevin.
A week later, and with renewed fervour, I set off along Birdcage Walk, swinging my arms and throwing my feet forward, with all the vitality of a marching North Korean soldier.
The Michelsberg Goosestep would have Kim Jong-un breaking out into spontaneous applause, in his absence bringing cheers of encouragement from passing white van drivers.
Since March, it’s fair to say I’ve come along in leaps and slightly arthritic bounds, and there’s hardly been a day when I haven’t gone for a trot.
Only yesterday, bouncing through misty woods over a carpet of autumnal leaves, blue sky, heart thumping, house music in my ears, left me shouting for joy with my hands raised in the air.
What a buzz.
I’ve now invested in some decent trainers, upgraded my Liam Gallagher top for something less flammable, and might even splash out on a hat and gloves for the winter months ahead.
Running is highly addictive and there’s no doubt I’m hooked.
It’s a wonderful way to get the positive juices flowing and makes you feel totally alive.
Right now, confined to barracks in Lockdown#2, anything that swells the Michelsberg heart and calf muscle, has got to be a good thing.
Here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend!