And Did Those Feet?

My English brother from another mother uses Strava to record exercise activity. He’s into maps, and GPS tracking and routes and self-improvement and running and cycling. Anything I can do, he can do better as Irving Berlin never said.

When we used to run together, he would always absent-mindedly run sideways when I wasn’t going fast enough, inadvertently illustrating that my breathless top speed was his warm-up exercise pace. In Daft Punk’s mangled words, he’s faster, stronger, fitter. (He’s also better for the environment, so I’m going to sequester his lifestyle to offset any carbon from my Easyjet ‘flight'I)flying cattle tube from ‘London'II)Luton to Israel.)

Minimalist footwear is my new excuse to be injured and let my UK brother win

Whenever I record a run on Strava and he’s injured he might publicly throw out a thumbs-upIII)I think it’s kudos in Strava. If I mention such a thing in person, or if I’m doing more yoga than him, he’ll respond in the time-honoured English way of calling me a git. That’s how I know that we’re in competition and when feels he’s losing.IV)None of this American culture of support and encouragement

My other big tell that I’m taking the unwritten competition too seriously is that I rack up excuses about how I can’t run or cycle. Recently I went as far as to return a bicycle to the store after using it twice. I also try new shoe styles with alarming regularity and injure myself thanks to a dodgy left hip and my tendency to believe unsubstantiatedV)aka internet claims of revolutionary footwear manufacturers.

My American brother (from altogether different parents) likes to walk when he’s away from home. We both carry apples, and the extent of our social media fitness shaming sharing is that we very occasionally send each other screenshots of Apple HealthVI)Yes there are probably much better ways to share health data, but this works and it’s easy to show number of steps taken in a day.

I lost out on glory and many other things when my phone was stolen during my ill-advised attempt to walk across Togo on that fateful day in 2019. He got the glory the other day after emailing me the screenshot summarising a 30,331 pace rampage around Oregon on March fourth.VII)March Forth!

This most recent incoming email missile attack on my sense of fitness was an inspiration, and I devised my own pedestrian campaign around Jerusalem. I resolved to lay down some soles in the city of three religions, humming the refrain of Jerusalem as I went. Whenever the bus looked complicated, busy or stressful, I contented myself to walk the journey instead and rack up the stepsVIII)Check out this pilgrim’s progress later. Of course, at the back of my mind, thirty thousand seemed a reasonable walking budget for a Thursday crusade.

On the train back from JerusalemIX)And did those feet, in modern times, walk around Israel’s idling tour coach land? And did those nostrils, get assailed by diesel particulate emissions? Yes they did. Yuk. No apologies to William Blake – the dark satanic mills are now mobile, or idling outside monuments with their air-conditioning blowing. to Tel Aviv last night I was tired, and resigned to finish at about 20,000 and go home for some bread and flatus-inducing Israeli foodstuffs.X)The standard fare of hummus, falafel, shawarma and a side of borborygmus At 22,000 steps – just three minutes walk from my Airbnb hovelXI)Seriously it looks like a Third World concrete box wired up by a distracted infant in a hurry, and decorated by kicking the side of a tile-carrying lorry and collecting the broken pieces that fell off and gluing them to the floor in the dark with cream cheese – I walked past a Thai Massage place in whose window was displayed a big picture of a foot carved up by apparently meaningful lines.

“Want foot massage,” was my first thought, but I didn’t slow my trudge when my second thought kicked in, “Don’t deserve it, poor step count.”

A block later, my third thought won supremacy in the cacophony of indecision which is characteristic of a hungry and tired Ron’s inner dialogue, “Really want massage. On holiday.”

Shuffling back in my minimalist footwearXII)Second cheapest on Amazon, I poked my head around the door to be met with an Israeli-Thai brusque response, “Twenty minutes! You come back.”

I decided to concur, and walked back and forth around the block seeing the sideways scrolling red scrawls of a Tel Aviv stock exchange in Flu-IIXIII)Covid-19 meltdown until the prescribed hour, noting with pleasure that I’d racked up some three thousand more steps in the process.

Flu-II – It’s the reason for the bear season

After my foot rub, the guilt of self-care / pleasure / expense spurred me on to lay down the remaining foot falls so that I’d meet my target for the day. Of course, at this point I wasn’t interested in self-improvement, or measuring myself against past accomplishment. With the clarity gleaned by 45 minutes of staring at the inside of my eyelids and wincing in pain at the hands of a brutalXIV)Years of life in Tel Aviv Thai ladyXV)Woman, I wanted to get just a few steps more than my American brother.

I returned to my Airbnb marginally triumphant and fully exhausted. I gleefully put my key in the front door with visions of sleep and electronic taunting to follow in no particular order. That’s when I snapped the key off in the lock.XVI)Not a euphemism. Never a euphemism. Shudder.

Gold – ductile, malleable but not durable or suitable for hovel keys

Unable to raise my host via cellular communication, I resorted to wandering around looking for somewhere to buy tools to mount an assault on the flimsy door hardware, thereafter to gain access to the AirBnBunker and the much needed shut-eye.

I wandered between closed tool shops, and watched alley cats patrol the bins. I sent more messages to my host and my mind turned to hotels.

When my host finally contacted me and arrived to let me in with a spare key (all of 30 minutes later), I had mournfully stroked out a few more vinegar steps with diminishing returns on the additional time spent on the street.

The bittersweet message to my brother is included below.

“Thanks for the inspiration.”

Perhaps because I’d laid down more shoe-pleather than he, he responded by admiring the degree of my competitiveness.

Both of my brothers are entirely correct. I’m competitive and a git. But I maintain my belief that I can be inspired by my fellow humans.

Footnotes   [ + ]

I. flying cattle tube
II. Luton
III. I think it’s kudos in Strava
IV. None of this American culture of support and encouragement
V. aka internet
VI. Yes there are probably much better ways to share health data, but this works and it’s easy
VII. March Forth!
VIII. Check out this pilgrim’s progress later
IX. And did those feet, in modern times, walk around Israel’s idling tour coach land? And did those nostrils, get assailed by diesel particulate emissions? Yes they did. Yuk. No apologies to William Blake – the dark satanic mills are now mobile, or idling outside monuments with their air-conditioning blowing.
X. The standard fare of hummus, falafel, shawarma and a side of borborygmus
XI. Seriously it looks like a Third World concrete box wired up by a distracted infant in a hurry, and decorated by kicking the side of a tile-carrying lorry and collecting the broken pieces that fell off and gluing them to the floor in the dark with cream cheese
XII. Second cheapest on Amazon
XIII. Covid-19
XIV. Years of life in Tel Aviv
XV. Woman
XVI. Not a euphemism. Never a euphemism. Shudder.

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