The last time I ran it was in the company of an Olympic Gold Medalist. Mary Peters won the Pentathlon in Munich in 1972 and came home to Belfast, Northern Ireland to face the kind of adulation currently enveloping NI golfers Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Mary Peters raised money for a running track in Northern Ireland which was built in the early ’70s in the most privileged part of Belfast. (Nobody thought this was odd at the time). I, aged 12, happened to be hanging out at the site with my siblings, cousins and friends the day the Daily Mail was taking photos of Mary in support of her fundraising efforts. In lieu of any actual oppressed “children of the troubles”, we were drafted and thus photographic evidence of me in motion still remains. I am the child in unflattering stripes in the middle of the picture. I only did it for the cameras. Believe it or not, I am one year older than my sister and cousin who feature in this picture. No wonder I thought of myself as an Amazon from an early age.
In my view, walking is only slow running and is also to be avoided. Duke Diet and Fitness Center would like me to take 10,000 steps a day, speed optional. This is a distance of nearly 5 miles at my stride and truthfully there is nothing or no-one I want to see enough to cover that amount of ground. The nustep is an option here, but it won’t be at home, so how am I to make up the missing mileage?
The beavioral health team at Duke are full of bright ideas for creating Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic and Time-focused goals. They ask us to come up with “Someday Goals”, “Everyday Goals”, “Bad Day Goals” and to look out for red flags. We then have to think in advance about remedies that can help us get back to our everyday goals and closer to our someday goals when we backslide.
So if the Someday Goal –what Mary would call a Gold–is10,000 steps a day, the everyday goal or Silver can be 4,000 steps a day and a commitment to adding an extra 50 every week.
The Bad Day or Bronze goal can be remembering the everyday goal and being prompted to take the stairs, or park further a way from the house, or run round the kitchen half a dozen times.
The Red Flags might be failing to wear a pedometer for a week, or using the elevator 3 days in a row, or using the “it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s raining, I’m tired” excuses across a week to avoid walking to work or walking at lunchtime or whatever way you originally planned to cover those 4000 plus daily steps.
The Remedies? (these are hard) Well I am hoping these can work for me: Line up friends to walk with so they hold me accountable, boost my spirits and keep me company. (Marilyn and Peggoty, you have been warned) Treat myself to a new Pandora download or an itunes audio book for my iphone or give my kids my paycheck and keep after them until I can get it back –this last is a desperate measure, to be used only as a last resort.
I am not sure that the late, lamented Buster McShane ever had to employ these tactics with his world-beating pentathlete. It’s been 40 years since Dame Mary and I were last in touch. Perhaps I’ll write her another letter and find out.