I was out for a run the other night in the absolute Baltic cold of January in Scotland. Leggings aren’t a strong look for me but who cares how you look when it’s dark and you’re out running, right?
But imagine my horror when I thought I spotted a member of my employer’s senior management team up ahead when out for a run dressed in stretchy fluorescent garb. I imagined their cheerful greeting followed by an incredulous "What are you out running for in this weather?" as their eyes scanned down to my spindly ankles, wrapped in lycra and gently steaming.
The first answer that popped into my head was “Oh I like to keep fit so I’ll be ready when the revolution comes.”
Luckily the senior colleague I spotted turned out to be a low-quality lookalike and not the real thing (it was dark and snowing) and this conversation didn’t actually happen, because if it did I feel certain that there would be some detailed notes appended to my HR file quicker than you can say “We think your talents would be better deployed literally anywhere but here.”
But this hypothetical conversation made me think about running as an actual practical skill. If I’m honest there really are few scenarios in which running would be the quickest, or the easiest, or the only form of transport left in a crisis.
We’re going to need a War of the Worlds-eque apocalyptic event in which every car on the planet suffers a simultaneous electrical fault (for example), in which every bicycle is also stolen by a marauding alien overlord (could happen), all the horses have been put into Iceland burgers (underway) and there are also leaves on the line and/or overrunning engineering works at Darlington (all but guaranteed). Seems a tall order.
Even then, the heroic task that will save the day needs to be no more than about 20 miles away if I’m to be any use when I get there to do it and ideally this cataclysmic event shouldn’t happen too close to lunch because I am really not up to much - let alone saving the world - with a side stitch.
I once read that Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond became stranded in a winter flood 16 miles from home at 3am, and rather than miss his daughter’s birthday the following day he abandoned his car, changed into some running kit he happened to have with him, and ran the rest of the way. That makes running seem like a skill worth having.
I suppose the closest I’ve ever come to genuinely using my one and only very mediocre superpower is that I’ve caught a few trains and buses that others would have missed, because I don’t mind running a mile or two flat out if needs must. I once caught a series of connections that meant a sprint to a tube station, a run across the concourse into a train station and later an amazingly long jog to an airport bus. I sweated in the queue for security then sprinted through the terminal and was the last one on the plane, which took me from London to Edinburgh. The following day I had a job interview, a day after that I had a job offer, and a month later I moved back to Scotland and into a flat with the Crew Chief.
That was five years ago, and I’m so glad I ran for it.
2015 to date: miles run 71.59