The Naked Runner

I’ve had a week of ups and downs as far as running. Lend me your ear/eye.

I’ve always had a thing (bad thing) about people (men) running shirtless. They’re normally annoyingly well sculpted and look, at first glance, to just be flaunting that fact. Being not so well sculpted, no doubt there is a sliver of jealousy in there somewhere.

Recently, we in the UK have been experiencing a glut of hot, sunny weather. So much, in fact, that nobody really knows what to do with it. Even those who normally just burn are now tanned through perseverance; real people are having actual conversation about the possibility and requirement of having Air Conditioning – previously unheard of. So, the other day, I went for a run in the aforementioned hot weather. 10k, nothing mental but long enough to get seriously warm.

I went out in my only-a-Brit-could-wear-such-short shorts and a tank top/vest running shirt. I’ve long been a proponent of both due to the the level of freedom they give the inhabitant. But on this day, it wasn’t enough. The hot tarmac shimmered in the sun and my brow became increasingly damp (I’d say moist but I know it doesn’t go across well with a female audience). Eventually my shirt became, well, sodden and clung to me like a small child begging his parent for an ice cream on a hot day. Normally I would have just kept chugging along but all this warm weather must have gone to my head and, right there in the street, I took my shirt off and tucked it into my shorts. Not a care in the world.

Well, dear reader! What had I been waiting for. What an experience. One doesn’t realise quite how well (or in this case badly) clothes do their job 95% of the time. The go-fast, super-light, as-breathable-as-a-tea-bag running vest had in fact been restricting quite a bit of air from passing over my averagely sculpted torso. It’s removal immediately precipitated a glorious frisson of previously impotent wind made its way over my chest and flank, cooling me to previously unthought of levels.

As well as now thinking that serial shirt-taker-offers aren’t quite as bad as I did previously, and wondering why I had waited all my life (well since I was about 5) to experience this joy, I had another, more profound thought.

Why hadn’t I taken my shirt off before? If I’m honest, embarrassment. All those complete strangers looking at me as I ran past for the whole 5 seconds that I was within eyeshot. Nope, sounds horrendous. It wasn’t. Sure, I got a couple of looks, and when I say looks they were probably completely neutral but in my paranoid state thought they were of the dirty variety. But otherwise, nobody batted an eyelid. And, you know what else? I’ll probably never see a single one of them again. Ever. So who cares anyway. I wasn’t dropping litter or playing obnoxiously loud music, or anything that actually affected other people, I was merely showing my torso – something that happens daily at swimming pools and beaches all over the world while I ran past.

Why is all this important? Because it made me realise something. That to get ahead in the world, you need to truly not give a shit about what other humans think of you. This doesn’t mean you can act like a total [insert expletive] but if you can’t do something as innocuous as taking your shirt off – when it is entirely legal and appropriate – then how can you expect to do the really important stuff that truly gets you ahead/makes you happy when it counts? Ask yourself what you’re doing/not doing that is just to please/not offend other people, then start doing/not doing it. If you’re not brave enough to do that, go and take a run without your shirt on.

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