About two months ago I gave up something I loved (more on that on Thursday) and took up something I hated. Jogging. I had only jogged once before, a disastrous mission when I was home from Vietnam one Christmas. I set off in the bitter Manchester cold with multiple layers on and a vague idea of jogging to a bridge on the canal, then jogging back. I had no idea how far it was or how long it would take. Off I went, quickly over-heating and struggling to remove hat and gloves and stuff them into pockets, hurtling along at my (pretty poor) top speed and quickly gasping for breath and clutching a stitch in my side. Jogging did not become a hobby, or even a habit.
I decided to try it again this year when a friend asked me what my aim was at the gym and I realised I didn’t have one. I decided that taking up running would give me specific time and distance targets to aim for, and I could even think about signing up for a race or two if it went well. With my previous failure in mind, I decided to do it properly this time, and armed myself with the NHS podcasts for the Couch Potato to 5K training plan. I marked the weeks and days to run in my diary, not really believing I’d see it through to week nine. Every week I’d look at my running times and targets and think to myself ‘Well, I won’t be able to do that but I’ll give it my best shot’. Yet every week I met my target. The first time I did a ten minute run without breaks, I felt such a sense of achievement, I could have just run the London marathon. On Saturday I did my last run of the nine week plan, running 5K in 30 minutes in the heat and humidity. As it came to an end, I half expected a bit of fanfare – but I simply dragged my bright red, sweaty self home and promised myself to keep up the running and see if I can work my way up to 10K.
It’s been tough to stay motivated – if I drag myself out of bed in the early hours, it’s the hottest, sweatiest morning ever. If I wait until after work, there’s a torrential downpour and I have to splash through the puddles (and encounter people with umbrellas ON THE JOGGING PATH – that’s just not on, surely). But I find it clears my mind in a way that the gym doesn’t, and anyway if I want to continue eating lots of cake I should keep it up. As I’ve been posting a lot of treats recently, here’s a healthier recipe for balance as well – perfect after a gruelling run.
Mexican Bean & Tomato Soup
Serves 4, from River Cottage Veg Every Day
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chilli powder (mine is extremely potent – use as much as you like, or fresh chillies)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
600ml vegetable stock
400g tomatoes, cored, deseeded and finely chopped
400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
handful chopped oregano
pinch of sugar
juice of 1 lime
handful chopped coriander
1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium hear and fry most of the onions (reserve a few for the garnish) for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, chilli and cumin for another minute.
3. Pour in the stock, passata, tomatoes, beans, oregano and sugar. Season and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Stir in the lime and most of the coriander.
5. Serve garnished with a little leftover onion, coriander and some black pepper.