Born to Run (not really…)

beginner-runners-dream-resized-600

I’ve never been a huge fan of exercising for pleasure.  Yes, I’ve been a gym member and I’ve done the hard yards to keep my weight down (well, actually, so I could eat more cake).  I have enjoyed the odd boxing class from time to time and for a while there I followed Cindy Crawford’s exercise DVD (guess how old I am??)

Running has never been something I was interested in.  It seemed pointless to me.  I’m a fairly well endowed sort of lass so any form of exercise requires at least two sports bras (forgive me) so why would I want do something that results in some fairly serious bounce?  But then one day an email came around at work asking for participants in the Blackmores Bridge Run.  It was a 9km run for charity and I decided to go for it.  I had three months to train so I hired a treadmill and got going.  I got up at 6am every morning whilst the children were sleeping and began by walking briskly, which lead to a slow jog, which lead to fully fledged running.  On the weekends, I started doing the Bay Run, which is about 7km.  That last stretch over Iron Cove Bridge was my nemesis.  I would look down the whole way, determined not to focus on the end of the bridge which seemed so far away.  Within three months I could run the whole way.  Who had I become?

On race day I was so nervous but I strapped on my iPod and off I went.  It was quite a warm day and I struggled a bit with the quite heavy charity t-shirt I was wearing but I carried on regardless.  As I reached the half way mark I began to think I couldn’t make it.  I slowed to a walk and decided I would have to throw in the towel.  But I didn’t.  Once I made to the top of the hill I got my second wind, and inspired by the 9 year olds who were sprinting past me I started running again and ran all the way to the finish line.  9 kilometres in 1 hour and 13 minutes!  For a beginner I thought this was pretty damn good.  I was so proud of myself.  I then went home and slept for the next 6 hours straight.  It was 3 days before I could walk again without my muscles screaming and the blackened toenails stayed for weeks afterwards.  But I did it!!

I vowed to become a runner from then on but of course I didn’t, I made excuses and I slipped back into my slothful ways.

Recently however, I have become re-inspired.  I work in quite a stressful industry and a few weeks ago I left my previous job after months of bullying by a new manager.  The bullying had taken it’s toll and I have been feeling very low for a while now.  So I decided to start running again.  I’ve been reading all about the running adventures of Steph over at Mamamarmalade and this has got me all revved up and ready to go.

This week I started.  I got up at 6am and jumped on the treadmill.  I downloaded a beginner’s running app and it has a pleasant English girl urging me on which is rather a lot better than a real life personal trainer shouting at me.  I like it.

Now, I realize that these sorts of posts can be boring for some.  But stay with me dear readers, the very fact of my beginner-ness is sure to delight.. or at least bring an amused smile to one or two of you…!

Obsession.. Doggy Style

doggy style

When I moved into my new house, I made a concerted effort to get to know the neighbours.  To be honest, most of them made it pretty easy. I moved in just before Christmas and there were several cards in the letterbox welcoming us to the street and wishing us a happy festive season.

On one side I have a “hello, how are you” relationship with the neighbours.  They are a lot younger than I am, they both work (as do I) and I only see them from time to time.  Also, I did ask them if they could do something about their tom cat beating the living daylights out of my poor cat at every opportunity.  This may be dampened relations somewhat.  On the other side there is a retired couple.  They were very welcoming from the start.  They invited us in for afternoon tea and there was general chit chat over the fence whenever we were in our respective backyards.

Right away Betty*  was very friendly, particularly towards our dog.  She would say hi to the dog, pat her through the fence and occasionally throw over a bone.  The dog, needless to say, loved this extra attention.

One day I came home from work to see a brand new dog toy in the yard.  And then a couple of weeks later, another.  When I queried this, Betty said “oh I hope you don’t mind, I just thought Spot might like something to play with”.  I thanked her and insisted she needn’t bother.  I thought it was a kind of nice thing to do.  But then it started happening more frequently and it made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  Betty started commenting on how hard it was for the dog when we were at work and school respectively.  It felt a little judgey but I let it slide.

When we went away for a week, I asked Betty if she would feed the cat and she readily agreed.  She went on to say she wished she could take care of the dog for us but it was too much for her and her husband.  “Of course!” I exclaimed.  “I hadn’t even considered such an imposition”.  I had, but she’d made herself very clear on that front.

And so the little gifts for the dog kept arriving. One day I noticed a new blanket, then a new dog bed.  It was starting to get out of hand – at first it had felt like a neighbourly kindness but now it felt like she was suggesting our dog wasn’t being properly looked after.  Once, when I was at home sick I watched her climb over the fence into my backyard with yet another toy for the dog.  When I went outside to ask what she was doing she claimed to be deeply embarrassed, that she never usually did that, that she just wanted to bring a toy that her dogs didn’t want.  Oh, that’s right.  I forgot to mention.  She has TWO dogs of her own. Every time she brings something over she says her dogs didn’t want it.  She also has a husband, two grown up children and four grandchildren.  So she isn’t lonely or isolated.

From time to time I would come home and see the dog’s bedding hanging on her line.  I was going to say something, this felt like boundaries were being blurred, but I figured she thought she was helping and I didn’t want to cause any issues.  She’s our neighbour after all.  So I simply thanked her

But things started to turn slightly sinister about 3 weeks ago.  I was admonishing the dog for taking my pegs, yet again, when suddenly Betty appeared at the fence and said “hello Alice” in a low and menacing tone.  As though she’d caught me beating my kids or something.   (I should mention here I wasn’t beating the dog either, simply yelling at her to “drop the pegs”).  I felt like she was going to report me to the RSPCA or something.

A week or so later when I was checking the doors at bedtime, I noticed the dog’s bedding strewn across the back porch.  And I couldn’t find the dog.  I glanced next door and the dog’s blanket was hanging on their line!!  It had been in the dog’s bed only an hour or so before.  When I mentioned this to my mother, expressing my increasing concern, she said that sometimes dogs pull their beds apart.  When I queried as to whether they then sometimes take their bedding and hang it on the neighbour’s line, she admitted no, they do not.  Clearly, my neighbour had stolen into my backyard under the cover of darkness and hastily taken the dog’s bedding.  So she could wash it!!!!  When we were home!!!!

And the most recent display of absolute madness?  She bailed up my very sensitive daughter when she came home from school and stated that we should probably give our dog away since we were struggling to look after her.  What bloody cheek!  My daughter was so upset, she rang me at work sobbing.

Admittedly, our dog is an idiot.  She regularly escapes despite the fact that I’ve nailed every bit of fence down with tent pegs, doubled up with chicken wire, sustained scratches the length of my arms just trying to close up every possible gap in the fence.  I’m going to change the dog’s name to Houdini.  But we love her.  Suggesting we get rid of her is like suggesting we get rid of a member of our family.  It is my firm belief that an animal is for life so I’m hardly going to give her away.

I think my neighbour must have some sort of mental illness.  She regularly lets herself into our yard, and has openly admitted to bringing her grandchildren over to see our dog, but never when we are home.  She no longer comes to the front door, she simply strolls into the yard when she thinks we are not here.

What to do?  I don’t want to start a big thing, I have no intention of moving and since she has told me they moved into their place in 1972, I don’t think she’s moving either.  I could padlock the gate but this impacts on my children.  So now what?  How can I tell my neighbour she’s way past crossing boundaries and well into crazy dog stalker obsessiveness territory?

*Not her real name.  Obviously.