Just as there is a very clear line between those who go through life stalking and those who don’t, the same is also true of running. You are either a “runner” by nature or you’re not. The divide has become more obvious to me in recent months because there are an abnormal amount of “runners” in Nice. In fact there are so many of them sprinting up and down the Promenade des Anglais, I have come to believe that its 19th Century architects somehow knew that the Riviera would one day be populated by the world’s most beautiful men and women, the long-limbed and honey-skinned for whom Lycra shorts were invented.
When I first arrived here, I too found that I was irrationally compelled to jog along the seafront several times a week. I would get up at seven, be out by seven-thirty and home again before half eight. The promenade was perfect at that time of the morning - the pale sun was warm, the sky was golden - and when I got back to my apartment I was always full of energy and ready for the day ahead. I imagine that even Madonna - a woman who famously claimed that her body ‘doesn’t know it’s Christmas’ - would have found me a nauseating person to be around.
Obviously, I didn’t stick at it for longer than a month. As far as I was concerned, the torrential winter rain and the tragic loss of my Ipod gave me perfectly legitimate reasons to bin the regime. I knew, of course, that I’d simply latched on to the most convenient excuses. If I hadn’t been so careless, if the storms hadn’t raged, I would have found other reasons to stop; because, no matter how much I like to believe that I am a “real runner”, as a serial infatuationist it is impossible for me to make the long-term commitment “real running” requires.
Happily, the recent reappearance of the sun had meant that I have, for the time being, found my running groove once again. With my passion for pavement pounding fully reignited, I settled down last Wednesday with a copy of Haruki Murakami’s, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The book has been sitting on my bedside table since November, taunting me throughout my jog-free winter; last week was the first time I felt I had run enough to justify opening the front cover. Sipping my Diet Coke in the pub on Friday night, I told my Scottish friend that I believed Mister Murakami – a bestselling author and dedicated marathon runner – to be a kindred spirit. He shrugged, ‘Can’t say that it sounds like my cup of tea.’ ‘Well no, I don’t imagine it would be,’ I looked at the pint of beer in his hand with disdain. ‘I think I must feel a sort of personal connection with what he's saying because, you know, I am both a "runner" and a "writer".’ According to my friend, I am also a "twat".
And perhaps he has a point. Thanks to - what I now refer to as - the Murakami effect, my behavior is rapidly beginning to reflect that of a “real runner”: smug and slightly fascist. For example, on Saturday afternoon I was jogging briskly down the promenade to some upbeat Girls Aloud number when I (literally) ran into a Canadian friend of mine just outside of the casino. ‘Sweet!’ he said when he clocked me, ‘I just tried to call you. Man, it’s such a beautiful day. What you doing?’ I blinked, kept jogging on the spot to the Girls, who I had left blaring loudly in one ear, and said nothing; I wasn’t going to waste valuable breath stating the obvious. ‘Was gonna see if you wanted to join me on the beach, soak up a few rays,’ he continued, annoyingly happy to see me. ‘Um, thanks for the offer but, you know, I’m running so can’t right now.’ I spoke to him as if I was explaining something very basic to a child. He began telling me what his plans were for the evening. I blinked harder at him; did he honestly think I had time for this chitchat? He must have registered that my bouncing was becoming increasingly agitated because he suddenly appeared disconcerted. ‘Anyway,' he muttered, 'guess I’ll catch up with you later...’ His lips were still mouthing 'good bye' when I began sprinting off in the opposite direction.
As I waved back at the Canadian, now a fuzzy dot in the distance, it occurred to me that if I continued to behave like a “runner” most of my “civilian” friends were going to dump me before very long. Perhaps this jogging malarkey wasn’t such a good idea after all? At that moment, an Adonis in tiny cycling shorts ran past and gave me a little smile, as if the two of us shared a secret. Fuck friends, I thought, guys like him are too healthy to go to the pub anyway. I held my head high, put my best foot forward and I kept on running.