On this morning’s mile, I pushed my break-stride point beyond a half mile, to the Samaritans office on Magdalen Road — not exactly Roger Bannister, but continuing progress. The new approach to breathing continues to help, and the new trainers are more comfortable; and the result was a time of 10:50, my first time sub-11:00, so that’s encouraging. Next comprehensive milestones are (a) making the whole mile without breaking stride and (b) 10:30.
About two years ago (or was it three? must be two), I started skipping rope first thing in the morning to start my blood pumping and to improve my aerobic capacity. The first time I tried to skip rope (after years of decreasing ‘athletic’ activity) I managed to swing the rope over my head and jump over it ten times. That’s ten individual times, interrupted by many more feeble failed attempts. I was gasping for air, perspiring copiously, and at a loss for how I could have gone from playing Ultimate Frisbee for hours on Friday afternoons in the Princeton Seminary summer season, to struggling to make my stout frame get over the skipping-rope at all.
Today, while I’m still very, very far from being fit, I daily skip-rope between 500 and 1000 bounces, except on days I set out for my mile, and hard as running is for me, I have cut three minutes off my mile time and can now run a half mile without breaking stride. That’s what they call ‘improvement.’ I’m not especially proud of my condition, but I am proud that without revolutionising my life and making fitness a rival for my days’ time and energies (work, prayer, and devotion to Margaret come in the first three places), I’ve changed the way my body functions slightly for the better. And I will keep at it. This morning, about two-thirds of the way through my mile, I had the fleeting thought ‘Someday I’ll try two miles’ and ‘I could do this another time a week’ (this last is false, at least during term-time — 7:30 Morning Prayer is an unforgiving governor of my time).