Keep on running…

Blogs, ‘eh? You go more than six months without writing one, then two come along at once. It’s no coincidence. I’m not one for new year’s resolutions as a rule, but I’ve resolved to be more resolute and one of my aims is to write for pleasure more often. So here I am.

The second resolution is a little more difficult to achieve. I’m aiming to shed three stones in weight before seeing in 2013, which I realise is a big ask given my genuine love of pizza and curry and pies and crisps and that, but I’m doing my damnedest to stick at it.

To that end, I’ve done something fairly drastic – I’ve started to run. Well, I say run, it’s more of an awkward, wheezing stagger around the block at the moment. But, it’s a start.

Those who have only known me in adulthood will understandably struggle to picture me as a runner. Something to do with the aforementioned pizza, curry, pies and crisps, I’ll bet. Those who’ve known me a little longer will know differently, though.

Y’see, as a teenager, I was quite the promising middle-to-long distance runner, following in the footsteps of my dad, a former Birchfield Harrier in his own right. The plan was for me too to develop my talent, join a club, and perhaps enjoy a lifetime of competitive athletics. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that I’m pretty much made of glass as various injuries took hold. A knee complaint saw me housebound for an entire summer at the age of around 13, and near constant ankle-knacks eventually led to me calling it quits a couple of years later. Shortly afterwards, I began to gain weight, and the rest as they say, is history.

So, why have I started again? Well, it’s not quite the sudden epiphany some have when they take up a new fitness pursuit. Nor is it any sort of desire to try and recapture past glories. It’s more a matter of practicality.

Just under a year ago I began, along with my colleagues at S&X, to look after PR for New Balance (the world’s finest purveyor of athletic footwear, I’ll have you know). One of the perks of this was being gifted with a few pairs of trainers, including some of their lovely fashion-led shoes which quickly became acquainted with my everyday attire. However, there was one pair of shoes which remained firmly in the box – a pair of shiny, top of the range running shoes.

Frequently I would see them peering out at me from the wardrobe, almost pleading with me to try them on. “Come on, Tom. We’re worth ¬£95, for God’s sake! Wear us!” And it was tempting. But knowing that I’d become so unfit that sprinting for a bus left me fairly breathless, I felt sure that my running days were over forever.

That was until I read about a new iPhone app called Run5k, an ingenious little system which builds you up from running in bursts of just 45 seconds to begin with to, hopefully, being able to run for half an hour non-stop by the 8th week. It’s early days, but I’m at least getting out and doing my bit and setting out on that road to being three stones lighter. And, touch wood, none of the old injuries have flared up just yet, which is promising.

So, why am I writing about this? Well, it’s quite simple – I want to make sure I stick at it, and I feel that by announcing my intentions as publicly as possible I’ll be extra motivated to, y’know, actually go ahead and do it. The logic is simple – if I tell you all now that I intend to lose the weight, I feel obliged to do it so I don’t sound like some knobhead who’s full of good intentions but not willing to put in the effort. And it also means that if we get to new year’s eve and I’m still a fatty, I’m giving you a free pass to direct a ginormous torrent of abuse in my direction. Win-win, in a way. Sort of.

Here’s how it will work – my progress will become a regular topic of discussion here and on my Twitter feed. I’ll keep you up to date, let you know how far I’m running, and how much weight I’ve shed. I’ll be open about when I’ve done well, and honest when I’ve done badly. And a little encouragement would be appreciated too, if you feel at all inclined to offer it.

And in the spirit of openness and honesty, if you saw this message earlier, I have to confess – I didn’t go. My dinner was ready when I got home and it looked so ruddy delicious that I couldn’t wait a minute longer. But I’ll endeavour to get up early in the morning…

You know I will. I really will.

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My name’s Tom… and I’m a karaokoholic.

The best part of The X Factor each year is invariably the audition stage, and without fail it tends to boast some poor bloke who assures the judges that he’s ‘brilliant’ at karaoke before the inevitable tuneless drone is met by the boos and jeers of the baying crowd.

I fear the day will soon come when that poor bloke is me.

Last month my mate Perksy arranged a night at the Tap and Spile karaoke in Birmingham as a pre-Christmas gathering. I sang a couple of duets, had a laugh with friends, and looked on in amazement as Rachel New stole the show with a frankly magnificent performance of White Lines by Grandmaster Flash. It was wonderful.

That would have been that, except it awakened something in a few of us. Perksy, Kerri, Sarah and I went back. And then again. And this weekend we racked up our fifth trip to the karaoke in little over a month.

We’ve developed significantly in that time. Kerri and I have finely honed our performance of ‘The Bad Touch’ by The Bloodhound Gang, I’ve shed the initial nerves to the point where singing several songs without copious amounts of Dutch courage doesn’t particularly concern me, we’ve become well known enough that we were entrusted with the compering of the midnight countdown on New Year’s Eve, and ‘Karaoke Richard’, our master of ceremonies, has bought us drinks.

However, amid all the considerable fun we’re having , I must confess that I do have a lingering concern that we could be becoming those karaoke people. The ones who show up every week, the ones who take it really seriously, the ones who develop a high opinion of their own ability… the ones who end up getting carried away and audition for X Factor. Oh God…

While jovially I’ll always steadfastly insist that my singing is worthy of any stage, the truth is that my limitations mean that I’ll generally perform something between spoken word and parody opera. Only, I must be honest, there have been occasions recently when I’ve tried to actually sing. Y’know, properly, like. I know that Perksy has too. What is becoming of us?

Kerri and Sarah, on the other hand, are perfectly accomplished singers, so I’m less concerned that they might end up embarrassing themselves. However, their in-depth summits during the process of song selection suggest that they too might have been afflicted with the mindset of the regular karaokist, let alone the occasions when they’ve continued to sing the refrain of a song acapella long after the backing track has finished. Milking it, obviously.

Our most recent visit, though, made me think that we may seriously need to take a look at ourselves and work out if things need to brought under control.

You see, midway through the evening, spots of water began to drip through the ceiling, which soon gave way to several significant streams of water. As beer buckets were brandished to catch the errant liquid, I realised that it kind of looked like piss. And it kind of smelled like piss. And it kind of… WAS piss.¬†Real life, genuine human piss, coming from a flooded toilet upstairs. With that in mind, spare a thought for Karaoke Richard who, in the initial confusion as to what could be causing the leak, had decided to TASTE the mystery liquid. Bless him.

At this point, you may imagine that with the bar covered in significant puddles of human waste, the pub would have closed immediately due to environmental health concerns. You’d be wrong. As fairly cultured and intelligent people, you might imagine that we would have made a collective decision that a pub with piss literally raining down from the ceiling wasn’t the place where we should be spending our Friday night. Sadly, again, you’d be wrong. We just bloody love karaoke so much, and if it takes an inadvertent golden shower to do it then that’s just something we have to put up with.

It’s time to admit it, we have a severe problem, and we can only get through it with your unwavering support.

Until then, I would like to sing ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’, please.

You know I would. I really would…. BABY BABEH!

Here’s a little bonus feature for you, dear reader.

After reading this blog, you’re probably anxious to go and do karaoke now. It’s OK, I don’t blame you.

As a self-appointed expert, though, I do have some tips for you to follow. Take heed of these, and you too could become a world-class entertainer.

1. Only sing songs you actually know

It may seem like a very obvious thing to say, but there’s an incredible amount of people who get up to sing a song without seeming to have the first clue how the song goes. Yes, we all know the chorus of ‘Especially For You’, but if you don’t know the verses you can eff off, tbf.

2. Only sing songs everyone else actually knows

Some lad a couple of weeks ago got up and sang some obscure death metal song that was eight minutes long and which nobody else had ever heard of. Everyone was bloody well pissed off.

3. If you want to feel like a rockstar, sing Oasis

There’s something about Oasis songs which makes everyone want to sing along with you. Feels nice, man.

4. If you’re not a great singer, just make it funny

A humorous ad-lib has saved many an average singer. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than somebody getting on the mic and thinking they’re hilarious when really they’re just a loud annoying pisshead. All about balance, isn’t it? Needless to say, I’m ALWAYS hilarious.

5. Don’t be shy

At the end of the day, it’s a laugh, and nobody is going to think any less of you for taking part. Well, they might, but they’ll have forgotten about it tomorrow. Just have a drink, grab the mic and have fun.