I’m just back from having completed a 10k run. That is just over six miles in old money. And remember it’s quite hilly here, in North Yorkshire. I got a medal, a T-shirt and my time texted to my phone, as follows:
‘Hi, Elizabeth. Northallerton 10k position is 813, gun time is 01.23.35 and your personal time is 01.22.45. Thanks for taking part!’
I know coming 813th doesn’t sound that great, but we have to bear in mind that a) I still have broken ribs from falling off my horse and b) I only bought a pair of trainers the afternoon before – in a hideous shop with bad lighting. I asked the young man, ‘Do you have any Dunlop Green Flash?’ He looked at me as though I had said, ‘Can you point me in the direction of the hobble skirts?’ I had considered running in my Le Chameau wellies and jodhpurs, but I didn’t want to become an Instagram sensation as I stumbled over the finish line. I had wanted to take my collie Gracie, as I was thinking she might tow, but apparently dogs aren’t allowed.
I ran with my friend, who is in training not for a marathon, but for a hot date. The thought of contracting type 2 diabetes and gangrenous feet was not what spurred her up the hills, merely the prospect of getting naked in front of a man. The NHS should bear this in mind if they want to cut costs. I told her my belief is that jogging ages the face. ‘It’s not my face I’m worried about! It’s my arse!’
The man she has a date with is known as ‘No Legs Man’ as, when she first told me he had got in touch after a gap of a few years, having just returned from a dangerous overseas tour of duty, I enquired, ‘Why does he want to see you? Has he lost his legs in the interim?’
Never mind the gender pay gap, the impenetrable glass ceiling, up-skirting and the biological clock. I believe the difference in the way men and women prepare for dates is the biggest obstacle we face in the fight for equality. Women struggle up hills against a strong head wind in jazzy leggings (when did leggings change from being plain black to being swirly and kaleidoscopic?), puce in the face, and get their hair dyed mauve, their nostrils threaded, slather on self-tan, refuse to touch anything for 24 hours beforehand as they’ve just had their nails done, and spend hours coordinating their outfit, before measuring the distance between house and restaurant to see if it’s do-able in heels.
And what do men do? They merely walk beneath a shower, failing even to pause underneath, before pulling on sagging grey sweat pants and an unironed T-shirt. To complete the ensemble, they slide into canvas deck shoes with downtrodden backs; in other words, they put on slippers. Denis Healey eyebrows go unfettered, nails unclipped (‘Ow! Stoppit!’), teeth unflossed because, well, how can you floss between gaps as wide as the north-south divide? They arrive with a washbag covered in toothpaste (an anomaly, surely), and a toothbrush as bald as my nether regions (again, ow!).
It’s no wonder so many dates are such a crashing disappointment. Who could possibly live up to our expectations? Or be sufficient reward for all the self-flagellation not to mention the expense? There is a reason men should pay for dinner, despite the #MeToo movement. We’ve spent our last penny on eyelash extensions.
Northallerton, where I did my ‘fun run’ (both ‘fun’ and ‘run’ being fairly flexible terms for what I did on Sunday; it was more of a Mrs Overall shuffle, complaining all the way), is fairly near the huge barracks at Catterick, which meant men in camouflage gear and heavy boots were stationed along the route, offering water and encouragement. Every time the purple-faced women in jazzy tights approached one of these hunks, they stopped vomiting in hedges, head and tail shot up, and they miraculously picked up speed despite seconds earlier looking close to death. ‘Did you clock that one?’ my friend said, her head swivelling like a puppet on a stick. ‘I’m going to say I’ve had a heart attack. Demand mouth to mouth.’
The next day, I’m as sore as if I’ve had first night sex with a man I’m trying to impress, Olga Korbut-style, with my gymnastics. Do you remember that ache, where you’ve been touched? Fingerprints on your flesh? Is all the pain worth it?