Recently, I joined a running club with the sole aim of meeting men. That’s what they recommend if you’re single, isn’t it – drag yourself along to evening classes until you finally get lucky. They say you should learn French, or take up badminton, or spend two hours every Tuesday sensually moulding pottery. Ideally you’ll meet your match there, and the pair of you will leave arm in arm, never to speak French again.
Well, whoever ‘they’ are, their wisdom has proved surprisingly enduring. In our Tinder era, when Casanova12Inch is just a quick right swipe away, evening classes are catnip to traditionalists. That speccy bloke staring intently at you as he kneads his clay? Never mind his sweat stains, or his oddly vulval take on ceramics: he’s why you’ve splurged £50 on making an urn as opposed to just watching the telly.
I decided, if I was going to attend an evening class, it should at least be roughly aligned to something I was doing already. If I took up cajon box drumming, say, I’d end up resenting it. No amount of amatory potential could compensate for the cajon box drumming. I mean, I’m a busy woman – I have friends, and a job, and a broadband connection. Why should I carve a giant hole in my schedule for cajon box drumming, when my coupled-up friends are spared the horror and permitted to go the pub?
A running club it was then. I run a fair bit anyway, so of all the monstrosities I could have chosen it seemed like my safest bet. Worst comes to the worst, I told myself, I’ll just get better at running. There’s something to be said for supercharging your cardiovascular system and adding an extra layer of striation to your calf muscles; even better when the dangled bait is lots and lots of men.
In theory, this would be an excellent way to meet them. You set off in pace groups, and with iPods sadly banned, you’re encouraged to chat en route. So you’ve got nearly an hour of talking, after which the thirstier members can rehydrate with a pint. Boy after boy, many of them single, all pumped up with running endorphins and possibly Guinness: what’s not to like?
What’s not to like, it turns out, is a many-splendored beast. I’ve been to the running club three times now, and that’s enough to have a handle on the key flaws in my plan.
To begin with, there’s the talking. Talking while running is like attempting to dance while typing, or sing an operatic two-part harmony while downing a can of Coke. It is like rubbing your head while patting your stomach while playing the banjo with your feet. Others can do this: they can glide around those parks, chatting away as volubly as if they’d gone round their mate’s house for tea. I, on the other hand, can barely string two syllables together before I am forced to take a bronchitis breath.
Secondly, there’s the aesthetic element. Some girls look great while running: svelte and gazelle-like and beaded with sweat like dewdrops on a balmy spring day. I tend more towards the drunken wildebeest end of the spectrum. One time, I finished a run with mascara all down my cheek. The next time, I finished a run with five drowned flies embedded in my neck sweat. It’s the sort of look only encountered in very niche corners of the internet.
Thirdly, there’s the men themselves. Unfortunately, the sort of men you meet at a running club tend to be men who like running. So, while I have a love-hate relationship with the ‘sport’ (I tend to love finishing a run, and hate actually doing it), they’re the type who do things like embark on ultramarathons for fun. If ever you wanted to feel like a lazy lush, you could do worse than charge alongside some sprightly chap who’s just about to accomplish his ‘first 100’.
I probably should give the club more of a chance. It may be that I need to join a more sensible pace group: evidently I am going full pelt, while my cohorts are gently jogging far below the threshold of their abilities. But the slower the group, the less favorable the gender ratio, and it is necessary to run as fast as possible if one is hell bent on meeting men.
As I fall behind them, in mile 5 or 6, I am placed in the unenviable position of literally chasing them. I am the pursuer, not the pursuee, hounding them down and panting like a dog as they slip further and further away. As it is in life, so it is in running. I wonder if I’d have any more luck with making pottery.
British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands