I am Uncle Paulie!

Flushed with success at graduating from C25K I decided to buy myself some running kit.

Up to now I had been running in a pair of shorts originally designed for swimming in and a t-shirt from my leisure couturier of choice, TU (recently relocated closer to the wine aisle, thanks Saisbury’s). No-name Chinese shoes and cheap socks made by Indonesian slave-children completed my amateur's ensemble. But as a new ambassador for the C25K brand, I felt I needed to be a more responsible and upbeat consumer.

I last owned a track suit in 1971 at a time when most sports gear was made, like Pakistani Bokhara carpets, from the recycled wool of well-used British army socks. Co-incidentally, 1971 was also the year when the Nike brand was first launched in Oregon but the whole sports clothing revolution had rather passed me by over the last 43 years. So I was faintly alarmed to find myself in sports shops on Saturday browsing the rails in the company of a lot of very young people.

I started in a smart boutique called Up and Running where a muscular South African (who combined charming, helpful and scary in an unusual mixture) described how they would float over my quads if I chose the larger size. (“Quads?” I thought “What are they and do I still have any?”) I retreated to the initimacy-free brightness of a shed called Sports Direct in the shopping centre.

Then came the dilemma. What kind of a runner was I? Was I Adidas? (featureless and slightly serious) Nike? (featureless but a bit swooshy). Probably not, so I went in search of a British design brand I could patronise. Was I Lonsdale geezer with that bad kind of British sixties glamour that mixes Carnaby Street, Henry Cooper and the BNP? Could I could buy Karrimor shoes when they should be offering me bike panniers? Was I a clean-cut Slazenger chap, at home on the tennis court since Ralph and Albert of that ilk launched their first tennis ball in 1881? Should I support second-division Umbro, natives of Manchester since 1924?

Oddly, I plumped for Everlast, despite them featuring pictures of ripped boxers from the Bronx, an image they have used ever since Jack Dempsey asked Jacob Golumb to make him a head protector that would last. So I am now the proud owner of a delightful black hoodie that makes me look less like Rocky Balboa than his alcoholic Uncle Paulie.

Googling around the world of sporting brands when I got home I was happy to find that Everlast is now British – part of the all-encompassing Sports Direct plc which owns most the above brands and is in turn largely owned by reclusive billionaire and saviour of Newcastle United, Mike Ashley. My £16.99 will be heading for Shirebrook in Nottinghamshire, not to New York (so that’s all right then).

So hey, Mike, a message from your latest customer, how about promoting C25K in your 400 shops?

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6 Replies

  • Ha ha! Ta for making me laugh out loud!!! I can identify with all you say as I too found that exercise just passed me by. I too was in the cathedral to Nike the other day, at good old SD HQ. I was quite impressed as it was miles better than the local one which is tiny and the stuff seems for some inexplicable reason to be hung up near the ceiling. Keeps the floor clears for pushchairs and mobility scooters I suppose.

    I got plenty of good stuff from Aldi when I first started out. I really like it, it seems better quality than Karrimor. I have Karrimor too mind you. I have one of their running jackets and I love it

    I bet Mike is well aware of C25k as he has his foot soldiers everywhere. I hear he's busy trying to rekindle his relationship with his wife, so he's got his hands full at the minute. Plus he has the new season coming up, and I dare say lots of failed shops to snap up. He owns just about everything these days

  • :-) Nice to know billionaires have their problems too. Not sure the Kindle is the answer though. he should give her proper books.

  • I love this post too! I have been kitted out by Aldi for the last year. Ventured into sweaty Betty a few days ago tempted by the 'sale' signs in the window but didn't feel at all comfortable once I'd gone in. Also the couple of items they had in the sale were about 4 times the price of my current outfits. I think I might head to sports direct next, bright intimacy free shed sounds appealing. :)

  • I admire you! I always want to slink into 'sports' shops with either a paper bag or a balaclava on my head - or even better, just ninj in so that the teenage staff don't notice me at all and I don't have to suffer their amazed stares and desperate lunges for the 'fat person alert button' :D Not that I care at all, it just gets irritating after a while. I like the higher quality ranges but no way is my Yorkshire soul going to pay good brass for something to get sweaty in, so the likes of Aldi, Tu and good old M&S are okay for the moment! I'm glad you found something that suits you - happy running :)

  • V amusing :-) Captures that "entering sports shop angst" perfectly! As a Lancastrian-in-exile I am entirely in sympathy with you on the pricing front and was annoyed to find that I could have ordered the item online for two quid less.

  • I wouldn't be at all worried about going into a branch of SD! If you are worried just hover by the main doors for a bit and check out who's going in. You'll be amazed!

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