The day before the vigil of Party Conference, I have touched “Let’s go” on the 5K Runner app for the last time. Since August 1st I have almost diligently put on my running shoes and very flattering runner leggings three times a week, hitting the streets of the posh side of Croydon in all weathers at various times of the day with a playlist of folk music, Hillsong and indie classics.
There have been the days I’ve cheated (but the app couldn’t tell because I just walk that fast…), the days no painkiller could have possibly seen me through half an hour down a bridle lane, massive headaches within 2 minutes of starting and a lot of unglamorous hay fever, none of which would appear in a perfectly retouched and filtered Instagram selfie.
Behind every cute duck in front of a sunset there’s a story of suffering, of knowing that despite many paralympians with worse conditions than myself winning gold medals, I have some limits to what I can do, although they are far beyond what most people think I can do. I’m not as unfit as I’m constantly accused to be. To an extent you could say that picking up a new workout regime is a good way to know who your true friends are. People who are supposed to support you will be most likely the ones to tear you down, and people you thought were mean, vapid and self-obsessed will actually treat you like it’s perfectly normal that you’re doing what half of Instagram says they are doing.
In a way, it’s both rather annoying and extremely comforting to do what everyone else is doing. It’s like joining a secret club which is just about too big to be exclusive, but you’d still rather be in than out. I used to be extremely self-conscious about it, as the only public exercising I’ve ever done without being judged in my life was yoga classes at FRAME (can you open in Croydon? Pretty please…), but people smile at you when they give you the way on a narrow path, and I’ve found everyone to be much less judgmental than I was expecting. In fact, people who are really into fitness seem to have been the most supportive ones throughout.
Despite being told that I would get used to it and end up loving it I still don’t actually like it. I’ve spent 3 months staring at the same scenery despite trying to variate the actual route as much as possible not to die of boredom, and I’m so goal-oriented I really don’t like to just wander around without somewhere to go, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. It may not look like how it should be in the eyes of other people, but I’ve done it and that’s the thing. I have ticked “Add Running” in my personalised Nike Training App regime because I can do it and I can do with small doses of it. I guess I just don’t get it the way people who love it do, and now term time is starting again I don’t need an excuse to leave the house before I spend days on end at my desk, but it adds variety if taken in small doses and I appreciate that. I may not like it, but it feels good. Maybe that’s a way of liking it after all…
At the end of the day, it’s a choice between letting diabetes take over my life and delaying that for as long as possible, so I put up with it for a greater good too. It’s also good to do something to channel the frustrations of the day, which are a lot when you run a business, and once a week ballet classes aren’t really going to cut it. As the cold season start, I expect my health not to be as good as this past summer, and the GP is already chasing me with semi-urgent blood test results to discuss, but if I’ve learnt a lesson this past few months is that it’s nobody’s business if and how ill I am, and it was wrong of me to feel any guilt about not being able to do what people thought I should be doing because the truth is, I’m not lazy or unfit. I have a disability. It’s something about me, but not all that there is to me, nor something over which I have any control. When I can, I can. When I can’t, I can’t and that’s ok. If I can today and can’t tomorrow that doesn’t mean I’m being lazy. It means arthritis is unpredictable. To use the words of Louis Litt in the magnificent series which is Suits, “This is Rome, and I’m a gladiator”. And as a gladiator, I’m going to fight.