I am sitting in the conservatory, frost turning the windows from transparent to translucent. The heat has quickly left my tea but I am not moving, considering something many people have hinted at recently. Is my exercise routine a help or a hindrance? Are the running and the triathlons keeping me on the road or causing more problems? If exercise is an obsession has it become my latest co-morbidity?
The case for the prosecution is clear. I now spend more on entry fees, kit, physio etc than I did on booze before the Great Immune Attack of 2014 removed my ability to be a happy yet ineffectual lush. I plan holidays around running terrains and the possibility of races whilst away. I have become a running bore and can debate the quality and effectiveness of different carbohydrate gels whilst anyone standing within a three metre radius weeps with boredom. I have pushed myself so hard I have begun to damage my knees. Am I running to stand still, to keep the MS at bay, or have a discovered a subtle way of self righteous self harm?
The case for the defense is simple. Exercise, MS or not, is essential for a long and happy life. We have become a sedentary species, us English, the complications of which may become too expensive to comprehend. Many years ago I had a coffee with the Director of the Institute of Ageing at Oxford. She was expansive in her views that we were the ‘sandwich’ generation, our parents battling dementia, our children diabetes. We need to exercise. My neurosurgeon, who keeps a watch on my friend Nigel nestling at the base of my spine, has shown me the MRI detailing the current state of play of each of my thirty three vertebra. The wear and tear was obvious. When I asked her whether I should stop running the answer (with respect to my back) was no. Doing nothing would create bigger problems still.
I have lost three stone over two years and many people who I use to work with recognise only my voice now. I am guilty of a level of obsession, that is true, but I believe (mainly believe…) that is no more than a side effect of being human rather than a new co-morbidity. Some people go bird watching, others have more shoes than cupboard space. I run. A lot.
But but but…nothing makes you think more than sneaking out the house early on the 25th of December to go to a Parkrun whilst your sons slumber the first moments of Christmas Day without you. Even if it was a seasonal best at 20 minute 43 second.
Ho ho hum.