In which I fight prejudice, one sweaty sock at a time.

To be printed 20/05/10.


There are many prejudices in this life. While we, most of us, do our best to dodge the main ones - race, gender, sexuality, haircut - we are still living lives influenced daily by numerous other, more socially acceptable, prejudices. In the interests of self-improvement (and because my other option for this week's column was the words "Why did you all vote Tory, you south coast idiots?" in massive letters), I am addressing one of mine. I have, my whole life, been prejudiced against sporty people.

I could try to deny it - after all, some of my closest friends are sporty - but it's about time I confronted the issue. Every time I look at someone in workout gear, with their ergonomic trainers and their iPod strapped to their arm like an IV, a little voice in my head goes "coughPILLOCKcough."

There is, naturally, a lot of horror tied up with sport in my mind as a result of having to wear uniform knickershorts in public for four years (take note, Davison - you might have ruined a potentially great olympic career). But I think the main reason I tell myself I don't like sporty folk, same as with vegans and people who don't watch TV, is the smugness. It's the idea that their flagrant energy and desire to take care of themselves is all done to make me feel like a substandard person. In my head, the fact that they will live longer, and die thinner, and spend the time until that day feeling a lot less out of breath than me, all come second to their desire to scream, "Look at me, all healthy! Look how good at being human I am!"

But imagined smugness is not an excuse for persecution. "I torched her house because I thought she briefly pictured me in a bikini" would not stand up in court. Besides, there are plenty of things I'm probably smug about myself, without meaning to be. I don't smoke, I don't take recreational drugs (apart from Berocca, and I can quit that any time I want to) and I know all the words to Subterranean Homesick Blues. I probably ooze smugness. So in an effort to put aside my prejudice and become a more tolerant person, I am undertaking some aversion therapy and joining the ranks of the sporty. I have started jogging.

It took a while to put the plan into action, because first I had to find some proper trainers and an outfit that didn't immediately prompt other joggers to assume I must be lost and extrodite me to the nearest Starbucks. I settled on my PE trainers from year 10, because they might trick my brain into thinking I have the cardiovascular system of a 15-year-old, and a t-shirt from Hairspray the musical, just to make it subtly clear that I'm not really One Of Them.

So now, I am a jogger. I am a person who jogs. I am, by the way, still working with the word 'jog' rather than 'run' - baby steps and all that. Which, incidentally, is also how I'm doing the actual jogging. But still, it is exciting new territory. I can use words like "metabolism" and go shopping for sports bras. I think I may only be weeks away from a rucksack with some rocks in it. Prejudice successfully obliterated.