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Colourful couture and sweaty Betties

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

IT’S never too late to run, especially if there is a pesky pandemic lurking around the corner. In fact, during the darkest days of the lockdown, even though in self-isolation, I became great friends with an American woman who, as regular as clockwork, advised me on how my attempts at aerobic fitness were going. Even though she was encased in an app on my phone, I christened her Coronavirus Kate and sometimes talked back to her, especially when she’d assert that my pace was slower than a geriatric snail.
“Áine, your average pace is 19.59 minutes per kilometre and that is on a downhill trajectory.”
(Or words to that effect.)
“Shut the f**k up, Kate,” was my usual retort.
I much preferred my online yoga teacher, Adrienne, from Texas. I’m not sure if it was her accent, y’all, her sense of humour, or perhaps that nobody was in danger of ever witnessing my Downward Dog or Sun Salutation.
“Phew.”
But back to the rising religion of running. Other than the obvious health benefits – mental and physical – what really fascinates me about this pretty basic human activity – you put one foot in front of the other – is how it has become such a high-couture fashion statement.
The Greenway from Westport town to the Quay might as well be a red carpet roll in the fashion houses of Paris or Milan. Swap Versace for Lululemon, Vera Wang for Asics and Stella McCartney for Sweaty Betty and you get the picture.
The majority of the running-models are lithe 20, 30 and 40 somethings: the females usually have long hair that swings rhythmically back and forth to the steady beat of their running rhythm whilst plugged into earphones probably playing ‘Got to Keep On’ by the Chemical Brothers, whilst the males sport perfectly developed biceps and, if they are extra cool, black knee socks and wraparound shades, framed by just a hint of stubble.
So it is no surprise that when I ran my first formal 5k several years ago I did it on the other side of the country where nobody would recognise me, other than my running companion, who shall remain nameless. Even though he was recovering from an illness at the time, he still managed to beat me by six minutes, 36 seconds. Indeed, by the time I traversed the last 800 metres of the long avenue to historic Castletown House in Celbridge I was almost in a state of cardiac arrest. It hadn’t helped that the first kilometre involved a disarmingly deceptive incline up one of those grey concrete link roads where the only markers are lines of Big Brother street lights staring down superciliously, daring you to trip, break down crying, call it a day.     
What ultimately got me over the brow of the hill was my visualisation of barefooted pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick. Imagining the soft soles of their feet being cut by the sharp shale and stones as they slipped and slid on the last precipitous part of the pathway put my little odyssey into perspective.   
I subsequently felt like Sonia O’Sullivan as I embraced the gentle decline down the old Maynooth Road, towards the gates of the stately home once owned by the 18th-century speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly. Indeed, my hyperventilating had eased so significantly I managed to smile back at the stewards who egged me on at every junction and, furthermore, the gaggle of girls standing waiting on the 67 bus, about to embrace a hen party according to the rainbows of paraphernalia in which they were attired.
Like the armies of runners out there, it is still all about couture and colour, even during these socially distanced coronavirus days.