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Column: I’m running scared without a phone
Pretty much all journalists appear to have an iPhone. It’s one of the unwritten rules of journalism that you should be beholden to Apple products and go on about them at any given opportunity, maintaining the illusion that Apple products, with their shiny cases and vast costs, are somehow more popular than anything else.
Read papers or magazines, listen to the radio or watch the telly, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that iPhones were much more significant than anything else.
They’re not, of course - Samsung smartphones outsell iPhones by a vast margin - but that’s just how the world works.
So I have an iPhone, as the rules of journalism dictate. And, like a fool, I updated the software in it, which was supposed to make it work better but has now resulted in it slowing down, stopping working properly and deleting all my music and podcasts. And that’s why my jogging routine has hit the buffers.
Sorry. Did I go too fast? Was that terrible excuse a bit too swift to follow?
Well, I’ll explain. My conversion to running hit a terrible post-Christmas slow-down and it’s all the fault of my phone.
You see, I’ve always found jogging to be a rather unrewarding experience if it’s not accompanied by something else.
I know and admire plenty of people who are happy to run for miles on end, lost only in their own thoughts and in their admiration for the passing scenery. They have focus and determination and an indomitable spirit.
But me? Well, I get distracted easily and, to be honest, my willpower tends to flag if my mind realises how hard my legs are working.
The tried and trusted formula for me is to work out how far I want to go, then occupy my butterfly brain with something else while I run half the distance, then accept the fact I’m going to have to run just as far again to get home.
And occupying my brain involves - you’re ahead of me here - using my phone. Or at least using the stuff recorded on there - music, audiobooks and podcasts. Without them, I’m sunk.
That’s why updating the software was such an error. Sure, it made the icons looks a bit more new and spangly, but the previously simple act of adding songs, podcasts and Tony Hancock recordings is now all-but impossible.
Motivation, though, comes in other guises. If the podcasts are the carrot (and believe me Desert Island Discs is the perfect thing for a middle-aged man to listen to while running), I’ve now hit myself with a stick.
I have signed up to run a half marathon, which means I have no choice but to get fit again to avoid physical collapse and battered pride.
In October, I shall be on the start line for the Royal Parks Half Marathon, which looks gorgeous and snakes its way through the middle of London.
What’s more I’m going to be raising money for the National Autistic Society, so I simply cannot pull out. It would be one thing letting myself down, but letting down a charity as worthy as that is unthinkable.
It’s more than twice as far as I’ve ever run before. It’s a lot further than most taxi journeys I’ve ever taken and, as the crow flies, it’s the distance from Watford to Oxford Street in the middle of London.
It is, in short, a long way. I’m going to need a fair number of podcasts.
I mentioned this challenge to a friend at the weekend, who told me he had already done the Royal Parks run.
His wife and children came to watch and waved at him with a few miles to go, giving a welcome boost to this flagging spirit.
Having got across the finishing line, he went to the meeting spot to receive their congratulations, but they were nowhere to be seen.
Only 40 minutes later did the rest of the family turn up, by which time the poor bloke was fuming, demanding to know where they’d been and why they hadn’t met him.
It turned out he’d looked so utterly drained when they saw him run past, the whole family went straight to the medical tent to wait for him to arrive on a stretcher.
The idea he’d actually reach the finishing line, rather than collapse in a heap, had barely entered their minds.
He also confirmed there’s another problem I need to confront - the assured embarrassment of being passed by novelty runners.
In his case, it was a guy dressed as a squirrel who would pass him, then stop to sign autographs or pose for photos, drop back a bit, then start running again and overtake my friend.
There was also a man who, in the later stages, whizzed past while talking to his girlfriend on a mobile phone, calmly arranging where they might go out for dinner.
The trick is not to allow this to affect you. If you’re beaten by a group of people dressed up as rhinos, you’ve got to take that on the chin.
If a human cuckoo clock sprints past you, then just smile to yourself. Although if the guy in the complete deep-sea diver’s costume is going quicker, it might be time to catch the bus instead.
So there it is. The challenge for the next seven months is not to beat the world record or win the race, not even to get too worried about the finishing time (although two hours does seem a nice round target), but to get to the end in one unbloodied piece and raise a bit of money in the process.
I’ve just this minute got one of those fundraising pages on Virgin Money Giving (oh go on - it’s
uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AdamParsons1 as you didn’t ask) where you have to plead nicely, and I’m even getting a running vest with my name on it so people can identify the guy who’s just been overtaken by Chewbacca and a pantomime horse.
In short, I’m ready to go, if only I could get the iPhone fixed.
Or perhaps, somewhere in the back of the cupboard, my old Walkman might just be waiting for its comeback . . .