Yesterday, I entered myself for the Cancer Research Race for Life 10k at Tatton Park in June. Nothing much unusual about that, you might think - unless you know me.
I don't run. It is one of several things I don't do, the others being: apologise, be unecessarily cheerful, drugs, and public transport. I drive past people out jogging on a Sunday morning and I pity them that they clearly didn't drink enough alcohol the night before. I avoid conversations with people who run in the manner that other people avoid smokers, in the fear that some of their get up and go might rub off on me like a viral infection.
And yet, I am about to become one of Them. I should point out that I haven't knowingly run a single step since my schooldays, and have still yet to do so. I'm already imagining myself winning next year's New York marathon without ever having pulled on a pair of trainers - not that I'm mildly delusional or anything. Short of discovering hitherto unknown Ethiopian heritage, that's not likely to happen. And yet, I'm already feeling cheerier (notice cheerIER, not actually cheery) than I have done in months at the prospect of a personal goal to get my teeth into. Factor in the purported anti-depressant qualities of running and exercise in general, and I imagine in a month or two, you could wrap me up and send me off to Pontin's as a redcoat.
I'll confess now that I was actually in the school athletics' team. But this was entirely down to unfortunate circumstances; these being that at the 400m trial, everyone else misheard the gym teacher and stopped at the finish line on the penultimate lap - I was the only one who kept going. More fool me. Humiliation at the hands of Manchester High School followed soon after. And it wasn't just the humiliation that made me go red - I've developed new tones of luminous day-glo pink over the years due to exercise. Some people just turn a pleasant healthy pink, but many's the time I've had to plunge my head into a bucket of cold water after an hour's horse-riding lesson, or risk having my head explode. So I can pretty much guarantee that 5 minutes into any run I do, I'll be able to light a whole street with my face.
So why do it? I can't put it better than Mark Twain, who said: 'Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bow lines, Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.' I might hate every second. I might puke up half way round in front of the official photographer, or do a Paula Radcliffe and get caught short. But I won't know till I try.