I suppose I was asking for trouble. Swan-white limbs, lanky, and with ginger hair, early Saturday evening in Glasgow amidst the aftermath of a sectarian bout is no time to pound the streets in shorts and a crop top.
My running route through the area of Partick is punctuated with pubs. I don’t deviate for anyone, cutting through the pissed, pavement man-spreaders like a torpedo. As in life, so in running.
You can always feel it coming, of course: if you fingered the air, like someone deftly reading braille, it’d be there:
“Nice tits, hen.”
The bloke, sporting five bellies and a complexion redder than my tresses, sucks on his fag outside the pub and leans back triumphantly, like he’s delivered the winning goal at that afternoon’s match.
“Likewise, mate,” I shoot back.
His friends guffaw right in his face, as he stares furiously in to his pint, no longer held aloft like today’s trophy. I pray the traffic lights release me from running on-the-spot, five feet from his emasculated form.
There we have it - the microaggressions that must be negotiated every day as a female, serving as a reminder that in the 21st century you’re still not use, you’re very much ornament.
It’s ubiquitous, and my particular postcode has past form in this conviction: cycling home in a dress years ago on a male racing bike, the words “I can see your fanny” are delivered with a drunken sneer.
“Yeah, I’m also looking at a cunt...”
And then it kicks in, that specific bit of spare energy that all females unwittingly keep in reserve, in case they have to cycle or run or walk slightly faster in order to avoid peril, like a living, breathing reserve of human dynamos, spread right across the city.
Almost fifty now, I last ran properly in my early twenties. Depressed, highly anxious, and half-mad from a starvation diet, I’d streak from my Hillhead tenement at 4am with the Blue Nile in my ears and the Clyde in my eyes. As fast and as far as I went, however, I just kept running smack bang in to myself. Not any more, though. Two decades later and I’ve finally cracked it.
The start of the year, and I’m ready to stick a shotgun in my mouth. 2016 onwards brings mind-bending infidelity, the death of a parent and the long-term excruciating pain of shingles.
Apparently even my teeth are planning their escape, threatening to separate from my gums, like unhappy lovers secretly dividing a shared record collection up in their heads. Then a friend who really ought to know better suggests I try weightlifting...
It’s hard for a reason. To succeed you need to be possessed. Five months on, my burning brain has stopped whirring and I’m fitter, stronger and more self-assured about my body than I’ve ever been in my life. 23lbs lighter, these racehorse legs run 3 x 5k a week as a given and for the first time ever, my back and torso undulate with muscle in a way I never thought possible.
Don’t I fucking know it.