Murder on the pavement

Dreams—those ambitions and goals we all have—are truly wonderful things. They give us focus. A sense of optimism. Hope for a better future.

But as I sat there, exhausted and dripping with perspiration, I knew it was time to let this dream go.

That’s the funny thing about dreams. We often admire people who chase their dreams in the face of adversity. And we tell our children they can be anything if they just dream big and work hard. But dreams have a darker side.

Think about how much sadness in the world can be attributed to people pursuing unrealistic dreams. Or how many people have achieved their dreams only to discover success didn’t bring the happiness they craved.

Surely, there is a point when the best thing to do with a dream is to kill it. To release yourself from the burden of expectation, the feelings of inadequacy.

For me, this was that point.

You see, for years I dreamed of being a runner.

I don’t mean competing in marathons or anything remotely serious. I just always loved the idea of hitting the pavement once or twice a week. Alone. Leaving all my stresses behind.

To me, running seemed like the perfect form of exercise. No expensive equipment. No gym memberships. And you could do it night or day, listening to your favourite music or podcast.

But for reasons I couldn’t pinpoint at the time, running had never become part of my regular routine.

My wife had always thought running was a form of self-administered torture that only masochists would enjoy. But I never let that discourage me.

On this particular day I was feeling optimistic, so I decided to get out there and try again.

I pulled on a pair of baggy basketball shorts I’d owned since the nineties, laced up my old runners, and headed out the door. The freedom was wonderful—no phone, wallet or keys—just a beautiful day and a clear head.

But it didn’t take long for the cracks to appear—or rather one enormous crack—thanks to my loose-fitting shorts.

And the problem wasn’t just in the rear. My underwear offered little in terms of support—important parts of me were bouncing wildly up and down like a nightmarish episode of Baywatch.

All I could think about was how uncomfortable I was. How hot it was. But I pressed on.

Another few gruelling minutes passed and more symptoms appeared. Chafing on my inner thighs. A nipple soreness that, if I’m honest, wasn’t entirely unpleasant.

And I was wet. Very wet. My tee-shirt felt like it was vacuum-sealed to my back and the sweat patterns on my shorts suggested incontinence.

In my distressed state, I mistakenly took a route that ran beside a busy suburban road. Straight away, I could tell people were slowing down to see the poor man dying before their eyes.

One jerk made a wisecrack about my weight, suggesting I was trying to get to Krispy Kreme before it closed. What an idiot… KK didn’t close for hours.

I ignored the insults and pushed forward, refusing to give up. My breathing was dangerously heavy—I was expelling more CO2 than a Volkswagen.

As I reached the coast, the cool sea-air provided momentary relief but I was still struggling. And the slight incline wasn’t helping. Then all of a sudden I was joined on the path by a fellow runner and she was noticeably drier than I was.

Amazingly, my form instantly improved. My head steadied. Arms were no longer flailing about. My pace even quickened. I must have broken through that mythical pain barrier runners always talk about. Or maybe it was a second wind.

Whatever it was, it didn’t last. The pain quickly returned and I desperately wanted the madness to end. But I didn’t want to seem like a quitter in front of my new running partner, so I briefly considered faking a hamstring injury.

Then I remembered something I’d seen in the movies. I stopped running and in one calculated motion glanced at my wristwatch while simultaneously checking the pulse in my neck. A pro move. Of course, I wasn’t wearing a watch, but I don’t think she noticed.

I walked the rest of the way home, defeated. With each painful step, the realisation grew. I had been in this place many times before. The charade finally had to end. I had to face the truth.

I hated running. I was not a runner.

Clearly, I was in love with the idea of running rather than the running itself.

I arrived home, dishevelled, but I wasn’t ready to go inside. I sat on the grass, head between my legs, trying to process what had happened. And waiting for the sweating to stop.

When my wife came out to see me, I was too embarrassed to make eye contact.

“So how was your run?” she asked with a wry smile.

I sighed heavily before replying, “It was murder.”

“Well, maybe this will make you feel better,” she said, as she presented me with an offering.

I looked up and there on the plate was one delicious-looking glazed doughnut.

I couldn’t help but smile.