Yes, this one will run and run. . .

5th December 2003 at 00:00
Picture the scene. Night has fallen. The streets in Carluke's popular "near the brickworks" district are quiet. A lone figure emerges at speed from a driveway and begins to jog along the pavement. His lips form the words to songs by the Proclaimers or rhymes from King o' the Midden (an ideal Christmas present), though none are audible above his laboured breathing.

Chariots of Fire it ain't.

Yes, I have taken up running. No longer able to kid myself that I am as fit as I was 20 years ago, I decided to do something about it. A month or so ago I started to go for a quick skelp around the block. At first I didn't know if I'd keep it up, so I ran in the trousers I use for painting, rather than spend money on new trackie-bottoms.

It was the loneliness of the long- distance interior decorator, except for the long distance bit.

Previous attempts at prolonged self-propulsion above walking pace had been far from encouraging. I would try to do too much at too high a speed. This invariably left me with a taste in my mouth as if I had swallowed a box of matches, lungs apparently filling up with sulphuric acid and a body leaning on a lamppost at the corner of the street hoping a certain little paramedic would pop by. Not this time. I started small and worked up. Realising that I could not hope to match the fellow car pool pal who was an ex-triathlon team member or the significantly older colleague who recently ran a marathon, I decided to compete only against Gregor Steele.

It worked and already there are measurable physical changes. I have athlete's foot, for a start, although I'm told you can get that from sitting at a desk all day in sweaty socks, just as you don't have to ride around in freight trains listening to country music to contact Boxcar Willie.

Seriously, I feel better mentally and physically. I know that there is a long way to go, though whoever said that the first step is the most difficult obviously never got as far as the 927th. Improvement is the thing, and improvements I am seeing.

Last week I couldn't do gradients. The week before I could think of nothing other than how my legs felt when I ran. This week I ran up wee hills and made up cheap jokes for articles as I did so.

It may all just be a coincidence that this is happening at a time in my life when I am involved in a project on formative assessment. Or it may not.

Gregor Steele believes he is the out-of-focus red blob in the Holyrood Park.

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