I Just Ran Five Kilometres

I don’t like reading braggy, boastful blog posts. I know I’m as guilty of them as anybody else. But when I read somebody writing about their recent award, weight loss or awesome new job, and I’m sitting at home all awardless and fat, I feel the little green Kobolds of Envy and Jealousy whispering in my ear canal. It’s petty, I know, but what’re you going to do?

This is one of those blog posts.

Today I ran five kilometres for the first time in my life. I know that five kilometres isn’t very far–for most runners it’s trivial. My siblings are all long distance runners of one kind or another–just this morning my elder sister, bless her, ran her first half-marathon.

But you need to understand what an unlikely achievement this is. I was an indoor kid, and I always hated Phys Ed class. As I said recently:

Whenever we did any kind of long distance running, I would usually come third to last in the class. I’d beat the corpulent Chinese kid and an asthmatic Brit with skin the colour of fluorescent light.

My chief torturer in Phys Ed was one Wayne Desjardins, who owned every cliche a gym teacher could. Once, after executing a particularly awful flexed-arm hang, I cursed under my breath. He made me do push-ups on my birdlike arms while the rest of the class took their turns. We did these things in alphabetical order.

I’ve always hated all kinds of exercise, except for some competitive sports and the occasional hike. I especially despised running. I mentioned running to my step-mother recently and she just sighed and said, “ah, Darren, it’s a hateful thing”. Indeed.

A little over two months ago, I wrote about an iPhone app that helps you get off the couch and running five kilometres in nine weeks. I predicted it would take me 12 weeks, and I was right. I blame lethargy and busyness.

It’s All For Vanity

Do I still hate running? Pretty much, yeah. Though it has granted me 30 or 40 minutes of much-needed free thinking time during a particularly busy couple of months. So that’s a plus.

Will I keep running? I think so. Frankly, I’m motivated by vanity–I don’t want to get corpulent–so that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

Oh, and Mr. Desjardins? He can suck it.

In writing this post, I was reminded of a terrific song by the lovely and talented Gemma Hayes. It’s called “Ran For Miles”. You can watch a live version here in English, or here it is in Irish:

How is it that Ms. Hayes isn’t world famous yet? She’s a great singer-songwriter and, as you’ve probably observed, rather easy on the eyes. See also the single from her new EP.

For you kids out there, ‘EP’ stands for ‘Extended Play’. Ironically, it’s shorter than a full-length album.


  1. Congratulations! I remember running my first 5km (probably not the first one of my life, I did run cross country as a kid, but have no recollection of how long “cross country” is for a 10 year old. But definitely my first 5 km in at least 15 years) and it is a major accomplishment to go from no running to 5 km! I ended up going to the Island to visit a friend this weekend on the ferry home I saw a lot of people with their marathon medals. So envious!

  2. Congrats – not on the run, but for being badass enough to curse your old gym teacher. It’s a relief to see that I’m not the only one who holds these grudges. We had an especially sadistic s.o.b. who loved humiliating kids in similar feats of strength & has left me *hating* gymnastics/aerobic classes/etc for 20+ years. I discovered running later in life & love the privacy factor & how especially awesome it is to indulge in lengthy air-drum solos to embarrassing iTunes playlists (Hall & Oates anyone?)

  3. Its the age old problem of the fact that it feels amazing once you have just done it but like me you will probably not run for another 6 months! I find that getting on a bike is much better as it helps clear your head and it doesn’t take as much concentration as running and you kind think about stuff properly and with perspective while getting away from the day job!

    1. Nah, I think I’m committed for a while, at least. For me, cycling takes more concentration, because I’d have to cycle in traffic for 15 or 20 minutes before I could get on a non-vehicular route. Plus, once I’m on it, I’m moving faster, so I have to be more aware of pedestrians and other cyclists.

      Lastly, I like to get my exercise over with as quickly as possible, and I burn more calories per minute running.

  4. Well done! My wife Air hit her 5 km a few weeks ago, and did another just today.

    Personally, I still hate running as I always have, and probably did 5 km (slowly) at some point in high school, but only to avoid having to play rugby. I’ve long enjoyed bicycling, and have done a lot of that in the past 20 years — at one point I was working at SFU and studying at UBC, bicycling to one or the other from my home near Metrotown each day, and sometimes from SFU to UBC and then back home in one day. That was the best shape I’ve been in my life.

    Alas, with all the cancer treatment recently, the best I can manage now is a good walk once in a while, but I’m glad some of my family and friends can get in actual shape instead. Nicely done. And good thing you did it through the summer, so the rainy cold fall weather didn’t discourage you.

  5. Congrats on the five k! May this spark a lifelong love/hate relationship with running. It’s a great way to stay in shape but it can also be tedious and boring and frustrating and difficult. Like you, I run in order to avoid getting “corpulent.” Once in a while I enjoy it (the fresh air, the scenery, the rhythm) but those days are few and far between. Mostly it’s a slog. Running 5 k is a great milestone.

  6. Darren…while I am impressed with your running manliness, I am most amused by the beauty and simplicity telling Mr. Desjardins to “suck it”. It just goes to show you: iPhone apps beat gym teachers 9 times out of 10. I knew it.

  7. Good on ya’ Darren, everybody has their own personal Mr. Desjardins, and you have beat yours. By the way, add Nike + iPod, Forerunner 405s, and Orienteering to the list of things that beat gym teachers! The geek’s revenge is complete!

  8. Actually EP is not really all that ironic, it’s based on the old 45 RPM format. Sometimes the record companies would release 4 songs on a 45 and term it an Extended Play i.e longer than the normal 2 song 45.

    1. Well, I think it’s ironic to still call it an ‘EP’ about 50 years after the advent of the modern ‘long play’ album.

  9. I always thought, that an “EP” was an extended length version of a song, usually one per side of an LP, produced primarily for DJs in dance clubs ( usually a special mix, still produced today for the same purpose ). I believe this first became popular in the late seventies and early eighties when other people besides DJs started buying them.

  10. Great job with the 5k! I used the couch-2-5k podcasts on my ipod to do my first. It was such an incredible feeling to be able to run that far. You see I too had my own ‘Mr. Desjardins’. Unfortunately my gym class didn’t have any other disadvantaged foreigners to take the heat off of me.
    I am still running 3 years later. I found I needed a couple of goals to keep me running through the less pleasant Vancouver Fall and Winter. Although I run to keep my weight down and I never enjoyed running, lately the free time to think and the fact my mind isn’t yelling at me to stop any longer have made running an enjoyable part of my life. Apparently it only took me 23 years to learn what I should have learned in high school, had I had a good teacher. Congrats once again!

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