Bushy Park feels like the plain Jane to her rather flashier cousin Richmond Park. For the aspiring athlete, however, it has a number of advantages. First, it is flatter, and secondly it has fewer people in it. For a wobblebottom like me, on only her second training run, both these things are very important: frankly the fewer people who see me running and walking in these awkward early stages, the better.
So one glorious spring morning, having spent several hours carefully preparing, cruising iTunes for running tracks and getting my kit on, the beloved dropped me off by Bushy Park and I jogged forth. Now the crucial thing I have learned about running is that it is vital to deluge all your other senses with distractions so you can pay as little attention as possible to the unpleasant business of putting one foot in front of the other. In sporting terms, I am for all intents and purposes a vegetable, so I am steadily working my way through the couch to 5k app, which has been heartily recommended by a number of friendly runners. Most running programmes tell you to start by alternating walking with running so one does not get carried away with oneself, thus incurring injuries. The app counts all that for you, so you can listen to your podcast or music and merely do what you are told until in eight weeks time you can run three miles all in one big go. Such is the plan, at least.
Paying heed to the signs saying ‘beware of the deer’, I sallied forth up a gentle incline surrounded by cyclists, walkers and runners. Every once in a while the app would issue an instruction, and I changed pace accordingly. In the main though I looked at the gentle yellow scrub of the countryside, pretty much unchanged since Henry VIII decided he needed somewhere to hunt his deer. It looks very similar to Richmond Park: but Richmond is much bigger, traversed by proper roads and absolutely littered with lycra clad cyclists. Speakers in ears, I trogged past the large lake.
My friend Emma had recommended a popular beat combo called the Crystal Method to run to: I pottered along to a soundtrack which would have suited a scene from Tron, when my running style was more in the manner of the theme tune to Steptoe and Son. Every once in a while I gave the thin, enthusiastic, bouncy, lycra clad joggers the evil eye, or got distracted by something I genuinely liked on my iPod – Joe Cornish’s simply magnificent comic ode to James Bond “Sontum of Qualace” for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6CoNUE5Zho.
And it was in this pleasantly distracted manner that manner that I found myself eyeball to eyeball with a small herd of deer. They were standing quietly in the shade and looked as bemused to see me as I was to see them. Heeding the sign’s warning, I tippytoed past the peaceful creatures, trying not to arouse their evil, vengeful side. Mainly I found myself thinking what a peculiar and marvellous place London is, that it has wild deer within the confines of the M25, before trogging back to meet the beloved for a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. If one must exercise, I consider it best to blot out the memory with something pleasant sharpish.