The past week I’ve had a hard time getting out of bed. I mean that in the most literal sense because I’m so sore — I also have a hard time shuffling to the kitchen and sitting on the toilet. It’s all because it’s that time of year again: when I think running will be a good idea.
This time I decided I was going to take it more seriously. I bought some new running shorts and capris with pockets (because where are your house keys supposed to go in pocketless pants?) and asked Stephen to go with me last weekend. He’s a much more experienced runner so I figured he could motivate me. The morning of our run he mapped out a route around Regent’s Park. He kept making it longer and longer. “You know I’m a complete beginner, right?” I told him, but he assured me it was “just 5K” and it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
We did some stretching in the parking lot, then he was off, me trailing behind. “We’re running already?!” I puffed. OK, it wasn’t really running, it was a light jog. After a few minutes I felt that desire to crap out. My legs were aching, my nose was running, and I could barely breathe. I slowed to a walk. Stephen couldn’t believe I was stopping already and tried to encourage me. He tried to get me to run five minutes straight without walking. I tried. “Has it been five minutes?!” I asked, wheezing away. “That was 30 seconds,” he said. I was hopeless. I kept trying to resume a jogging pace, but my lungs weren’t having it.
“Puhhhhhh,” I managed to get out at one point in between gasping for breath.
“What?” Stephen asked.
“Puh! Puh!” I stammered.
Then he saw the pug walk by. I saw three different pugs on our “run,” which was the only good thing about it. Our 5K that was supposed to take a half hour took almost an hour. Even hours after we finished I was having a hard time breathing and could barely move my legs.
That’s when I knew I had to face my fear: I had to go see a UK doctor. If I wanted to run again, I needed to get an inhaler.
I don’t know why I’ve been avoiding doctors in the UK. My insurance is international. I just feel more comfortable going to my doctors in the US, even if they overcharge me. Scheduling an appointment with a GP (general practitioner) meant I was truly an expat. I found the private GP office in my neighborhood and gave them a call.
“Do you have a GP?” the woman on the phone asked. I told her no. “Really? No GP?” I was making an appointment with a GP, why would I have one? The woman at the counter checking me in at the office expressed the same concern. “You don’t have a GP?”
“Isn’t that why I’m here, I’m getting a GP?” I wanted to reply.
Is it really that strange to not have a designated doctor? I vaguely remember seeing “Find GP” on the top of some expat list of things to do immediately after you arrive, but I never saw the point. Going to the doctor is always an absolute last resort for me. Even though I’ve outgrown my fear of shots, the whole hospital and doctor’s office environment still makes me feel uneasy. Instead of “Is this going to hurt?” I wonder “How much is this gonna cost me?”
My doctor was incredibly friendly and helpful, which is probably why he charges the big bucks for a consultation. He only asked me once if I had a GP before addressing my issues. He confirmed my exercise-induced asthma suspicion and wrote me a prescription for an inhaler. I tested it out twice this past week and can report that I felt like I was going to die slightly less than last time, which is an improvement. That may also be because I downloaded the Coach to 5K podcasts. I think I did that program quite too literally last time — I went from sitting on my butt all day to trying to run 5K. This time I started with Week 1: Run a minute, walk 90 seconds, repeat for 30 minutes. If I keep with it I should be able to run 5K non-stop in nine weeks. I’m thinking that may take a lot of inhaler puffs and pug sightings, but we’ll see.