I think the last time I deliberately put something resembling sports shoes on and tried actually moving faster than a walking pace was in about 1993, and when I say "deliberately" there I mean "under duress". I had got my mum to write me a note saying I couldn't play any rough sports because I was taking my Grade 8 piano exam (true) and didn't want to risk damaging my hands (also true); my games teachers, having slightly more wit than I had given them credit for, said they quite understood and therefore I'd just have to run round the track on my own instead of playing tennis. (After that point I got better and better at getting out of games: rearranging music lessons to clash, being ill, wasting time, forgetting kit, generally fannying around, or -- once unavoidably on the pitch/track/field -- just doing the P.E. equivalent of "being the only one in a group of people moving a heavy object who isn't actually bearing any of the load". But that's another story.)
The last time I remember running The Mile (always in capital letters, dreaded impossible distance) I managed it in about 10 minutes, by which time most people had already finished, and I thought I was going to die of exhaustion and out-of-breathness. (I didn't.) Part of the problem was that instead of being a run along roads or countryside which might have been marginally interesting or given some impression of progress, it was just stumbling around the lanes of the track, lap after lap, while Miss Benney and Miss Pearson shouted (they may even have intended it to be some kind of encouragement) from the sidelines. So after only one lap you were already a) knackered, and b) bored witless, and it was downhill from there. Not downhill in a "gentle coasting downwards on a bicycle with the wind in your hair and no danger of any traffic or potholes or rain" kind of way, of course; downhill in an "oh god" kind of way.
I can't actually remember how many laps made a mile. I also have only the haziest idea of what "a mile" looks like on the ground or on a map, let alone whether I can "run a mile" (except when confronted by crocodiles, stalkers, thongs, crap web design, etc). So I decided to forget all about school running and Miss Pearson's minimal expectations of my sporting competence, & I just picked a route that looked like it might not be too impossible and figured that if it got too bad I could just stop.
If the Google Maps thing worked, you should be able to see my route here. (I didn't in fact have to ford the river twice, or swim; there are a couple of bridges that aren't marked on Google Maps.) I stopped when I got to one of the bridges (map-and-a-bit-of-string reckons I'd done 1500m by that point) and stretched my legs a bit and went "ooof" and looked at the river, and then ran on to Botley Road, and then there were loads of people in the way and I ended up just walking from Ferry Hinksey Road to the Seacourt Park & Ride, and then ran the last little bit. All of which took just under half an hour.
My thighs ache a lot. I am trying to keep them moving and stretching (oh do behave). I also discovered the other problem with running, or rather two other problems, which probably need propping up in some way or other, ahem. But I didn't feel like I was going to die (and have also subsequently not died yet, which is doubly reassuring). And I didn't feel too embarrassed, at least not as embarrassed as I'll feel when I have to go and ask the orange-faced ladies in M&S about sports bras. (I mean, honestly, you'd think I might have got over being a character in a Judy Blume novel by the age of nearly 30, but, ugh.)
I still reckon going clubbing is better exercise though. Anyone for indie disco?