Joe Frazier in training for the 1971 fight against Ali. Image from Google’s new archive of LIFE photos here.
And so it begins. On Christmas day. That’s right. Yesterday, while everyone else was watching happy feet or madagascar or Sinbad and the eye of the tiger i went out and ran around one of the largest urban parks in Europe. Well, not the whole circumference. Just a short festive jaunt. But people were still impressed. It was obvious. As i jogged past the local harvester i could see the look of awe in their eyes. They were thinking about my dedication as they filled up their salad bowl (as many times as they wanted). Even those keen outdoorsy families who were walking aorund the park were impressed. their eyes said, “wow, he’s fit, he’s in shape, he’s probably some semi-professional athlete of sorts, running on christmas day and all that”.
I just nodded, acknowledged their silent praise, all stoic like. Masking my true feelings with a look that said, “yeah, this is what i do. i run. on christmas day. what’s the big deal?”. What i was actually thinking as i ran around the park, and which i think i hid quite well beneath a veneer of athleticism, was “OH DEAR GOD THE BURN! THE BURN, IT’S SO DEEP MY LUNGS HURT SO MUCH WHY HAVE I DONE THIS I WANT TO STOP SO BADLY I’D GIVE ANYTHING FOR A CUP OF TEA AND A BISCUIT NEXT TO THE FAUX-FIRE IN THE FRONT ROOM READING MY BOOK HOW IN GOD’S NAME AM I GOING TO RUN FOR FOUR AND A HALF HOURS ARRRGGGGHHHHH I’M GOING TO HAVE TO STOP SOON, JUST AROUND THIS CORNER ONCE I’M OUT OF SITE OF THOSE KIDS.”
But thankfully, after about half an hour or so, that feeling ebbed away and i began to, dare i say it, enjoy the run a little. My tunnel vision disappeared and i began to take in the rather stunning surroundings of the park, which i had the adolescent audacity to take for granted while growing up. Towards the end of the route i even “opened up” my stride a little (as i imagine one does when one is a serious runner). This lasted for all of two minutes before exhaustion forced me to walk the final half mile home, but it felt good and satisfying and deserved.
So that was training run number one. Hard, cold, a little daunting, but beautiful.