mundane adventures in running
I’ve been on the same pair of blue plastic Swedish goggles for about five years. In that time, they’ve become fucked. They’ve bashed about at the bottom of my kit bag for too long: scratching again bike key locks, locker coins, watch chargers and the like. The strap is broken and tied together. There’s a break in the seal which lets in tiny amount of water, enough to fill the left lens after about twenty lengths. Slipping them on is like immediate onset cataracts. Everything goes creamy and blurred. And they hurt: 1km in the pool is fine, 1.5km starts getting painful, further than that and I come out of the pool with angry red rings round my eyes like I’ve had an allergic reaction to a panda face paint job.
I am a skin flint when it comes to kit. I tend to only buy stuff when i really need it. I think it’s a concession to how self indulgent I am about exercise; I might fritter away hours of my time on running and fitness, but at least I don’t spend lots of money on it.
Goggles, even a new £5 pair of Swedish goggles, weren’t something I could justify. I’ve already spent about £200 on running shoes this year and I need to buy some new shorts and a cap for the summer. Besides I was pretty happy with the old ones. Despite the pain. The utter lack of being able to see was weirdly ok.
I’d run into town and forgotten goggles. The speedo shop in the middle of Covent Garden is pretty much next to the Oasis pool on Endell Street (the perfect pool for a cold but sunny March afternoon). I wanted to swim, I needed goggles, so I went in. Sadly found that the only goggles which fitted on my freaky face were £20 (£15 online, but hey, you need to go to the store to try them on).
So I wore them in the pool and wow, they don’t hurt. I don’t have to tighten them to within an inch of a migraine, they just fit. I don’t have to stop and empty them every twenty lengths. And I can see, the scales fallen from my eyes. No more bashing heads, no more wondering whether someone is waiting on the wrong side as I get to the end of a lane. I get to appreciate other swimmers’ perfect tumble turns and their splashless kicks, or wonder at their uncomfortably craned necks and uneven legs akimbo. Technically, they are great goggles.
That’s the good stuff. The bad. Blind me now. The used plasters, pubic hairs, scraps of tissue paper, nasty rust patches and just… just the sheer amount of crap in London swimming pools. And my fellow patrons with spots and blisters, cracked heels and ill fitting swim suits. I’ve lost my innocence. Pools are disgusting places. There was a romance when everything was blurred: gymnastic, well muscled bodies against white tiles and marble, athletic and wholesome with the shimmery semi nudity of the swimming pool. With twenty pound goggles there is just corporeality, shit and bodies, detritus. Nasty.
So. Go back to the bubble of crap goggles or stick with the new? Reclaim the tranquil bliss of swimming in ignorance or swim in comfort, literally warts and all?