Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Used to Enjoy Reading Julie Welch

If you asked me a couple of days ago to name my favourite running books 'Long distance information' by Julie Welch would have been on the list. It starts with her, at the age of 48, discovering she is capable of completing a long distance cycle ride, without much preparation. After that adventure she embraces the idea of a physical challenge and takes up running culminating with a long distance run in France, retracing memories from her childhood. It is mostly a memoir, both amusing and touching, but framed by the run. As such it successfully illustrates the way that running by a mixture of rhythm and steady exertion can liberate the mind and help us see things more clearly and it speaks to me of things I value in running.

But my good will to the author is now shattered and I am totally baffled that someone who wrote so convincingly about the way running could transform the life of a middle aged woman could write so spitefully about middle aged men who jog. Admittedly it is part of the press campaign to ridicule Gordon Brown in every way possible(and she does spend an awful lot of words mocking the way he looks when out for a run) but the conclusion is that middle aged men should not run. They should stick to the traditional, more dignified pursuits of bridge, gardening or a bit of bowls and she describes jogging as a modern plague brought to us by the Americans before delivering this dire health warning.

But Gordon Brown is in his late 50s - not an age to hurl yourself into a fitness regime from scratch.

It isn't good for the ageing knees, it will inflame sciatica and it risks bringing forward the date of a hip replacement.

Most worryingly, the sudden strain on ancient heart valves can occasionally be fatal.

The implication is that after you have reached a certain age you should fade away to gentle irrelevance and not strain yourself too much because it might be dangerous. I can almost feel the metaphorical pat on the head and the "there, there dear. Now you mustn't overtax yourself" (plus of course concern that you wrap up warmly and wear a vest).

This is so wrong.

Every time I see someone out on the road, man or woman, young or old, struggling with their run but still trying, I want to offer support. Every time someone manages to break a personal barrier and for example manages to run for fifteen minutes without walking, they are right to be proud. Every time anybody makes the effort I think their achievement should be appreciated.

The most important thing is to continue to try. It doesn't matter what at, it just matters that you continue to strive. Running is good, people should be supported and Julie Welch in this one mean spirited article has undone much of the good of her other writings.

It is such a shame.


Hauling My Carcass said...

It does seem to fit in with the usual narrow mindedness of the Daily Mail to be honest. Whatever my personal feelings towards Gordon Brown, good on him for trying to get in shape. Since when has it been about looking good??? If it was about that, I promise you I'd never have a photo published of me doing any physical exercise at all. Not a pretty sight!

Highway Kind said...

I try to avoid the Daily Mail for my own peace of mind but someone pointed this out to me.

I was more upset by the fact that Julie Welch wrote the piece. Low hack work from someone who I thought better of.

And I'm with you If looking good was necessary for running I would never set foot outside the door

Adele said...

It's about looking good? Shiiiiit! I happened to look at some photos of Saturday's Parkrun and stumbled across one of me looking truly dreadful, but I was working hard, pushing myself to my own limits and trying to achieve my own goals, and that's what it's all about isn't it? I really struggle when someone shouts out something negative about me when I'm running, instead of seeing that I'm having a go and trying to keep on top of the wobbly bits they are choosing to focus on instead.

Good on Gordon Brown for trying to get fit, it must be a welcome break and a release from the pressures of being PM.

jogblog said...

Five years ago, I'd have agreed with her. But it's a really weird attitude to have if you run yourself. She should know better. Stupid cow.

Highway Kind said...

"She should know better. Stupid cow."

With that JB you have succinctly summarised my whole post.

beanz said...

I'm with you all on this I only ever look at the Mail (on line) for over-excited science articles to disembowel in class.

Anonymous said...

great post, I'm not living in the UK, but I've heard much of attack on Mr.Brown. I completely agree that everyone deserves a "well-done" for at least trying to run. Running seems to demand a talent of not listening sometimes-you know, those "hard on the knees", "bad for your heart"'s just all excuses isn't it?