Getting Run Down (by dogs? By a car?)

I reached a point when I suddenly started to look thin. Veins had crept, unnoticed, across my fore-arms, like fat blue worms. The fine, youthful bone structure of my face, which had reappeared for a season, and which I was secretly proud of, was replaced by a slack-cheeked, wasted look. The taught line of jaw and throat became…well…scrawny. My collars were too big. My wrinkled head protruded from them.

I looked like a startled tortoise.

But by this point, I didn’t care how I looked. It was all about the numbers, now, my continued progression. Or retrogression.

I atomised my body, examining individual body parts for signs of further wasting (encouraging) or heft (disastrous). It didn’t matter what I looked like overall.

Of course, the thinner you get, the more anxious you get, and the more running you need, to reassure yourself. You become obsessive about it, and you don’t sleep, so, when I woke in the middle of the night feeling alert, I might think, “maybe I could go for my run now, to get it over with.” But, if I did, I’d still feel the need to fill the up the time, and cultivate the hunger, the next day, so I’d do another run anyway.

I wanted to get it over with because I hated my run. It was so miserably painful and exhausting. And lonely. By this point I was shuffling around the park before dawn, barely conscious from exhaustion, and so bent up that my head was below my shoulders, face to the ground, like a little old man in bedroom slippers with severe osteoporosis. (and I do have osteoporosis) Just because you act compulsively, doesn’t mean you are reconciled to that compulsion. Perhaps the fox in the hen house is horrified by his own violence.

The weaker I got, the better: the more unpleasant the effort required, the more it made up for the indulgences of life. The challenge grew greater and so the achievement was also greater. Exercise became my job. It satisfied the need to work, to make account of myself.

Running was my urgency’s methadone. By the time I got to my actual job, I’d already made such a heroic effort, and it had so weakened and exhausted me, that I was incapable of expending much more energy. The run explained and necessitated sleepy languor. It excused my ineffectualness, especially after I’d been diagnosed (that double-edged sword), when I could claim that my poor performance was caused by an acute medical condition and I was, actually, showing great strength of character by continuing to turn up at all, even if I then just leant against the wall and passed out – a highly effective form of self-sabotage. No wonder more and more boys are joining the profession.

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