"Do you wanna be in my gang, my gang, my gang," screeches Gary Glitter as I run through the Phoenix Park gates. "Jesus, Gary, yours is the very last gang I'd want to be in if I lived for an eternity," I think and press the skip button on my phone.
I’ve started running to the soundtrack of my life and as I set off last Tuesday morning, the song from the serial child abuser came on. Strict rules I’ve drawn up for my soundtrack means he had to get a place but those rules do not mean I ever have to listen to him sing.
I’m not unrealistic and know there’ll never be a movie made of my life. Even if some day Steven Spielberg were to make a film about exciting happenings in The Irish Times – an Irish version of All The President’s Men or Spotlight or whatever – I’d not merit a speaking role. At best I’d be caught morosely eating an over-priced salad in the background of a dull scene before spilling coffee down my shirt while raging at a man I don’t know for saying mean things about me on Twitter.
So I know there’ll be no actual soundtrack to my life but I’ve still spent years drawing up a virtual one with the help of Spotify. My only rule for a song to make the grade is it must have made an impact on me at some point in my life and have the capacity to transport me back to a particular moment in time.
I frequently lie and tell people the first record I bought was by the Boomtown Rats. But it wasn’t. It was I’m The Leader of The Gang (I Am) by Gary Glitter, which is why it is on the list.
At the time of writing there are 327 songs on that list.
We’re going to need a longer movie.
It is this playlist I’ve been running to and the randomness of the selection is great for offsetting the boredom I’ve been fighting.
“Look up here, man, I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose,” I hear next. As the slow tune plays I ease myself into my run before being transported back to a leafy south Dublin “on an autumn day” when my pace becomes glacial.
With the unexpected appearance of “I could love you but why begin it ‘cause there ain’t any future in it,” I pick up my speed again and keep it brisk for three lung-busting minutes before “I kept the faith and I kept voting. Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand,” forces me to ease off.
With “I won’t give up, no I won’t give in, till I reach the end and then I’ll start again,” I run like the clappers, marvelling at the wisdom of a song aimed at kids and it’s all I can do not to burst into full throated song when I hear: “If I hadn’t seen such riches I could live with being poor.”
The shouty RunKeeper app man interrupts “I know what I am chasing I know, I know, I know that this is changing me” to tell me how fast I’m going after which I find myself wondering what a “real estate novelist” is for the thousandth time.
The intensity of “Kill your middle class indecision. Now is not the time for a liberal thought,” means I’ve to move faster even though I’m almost done. Luckily “I don’t have to sell my soul. He’s already in me,” drones the next singer up and I practically come to a halt before it slowly – ponderously – gathers pace.
I sing along to “sometimes I feel like I can’t even sing,” attracting an odd look from a power-walking couple and then, as my run is coming to an end the playlist starts “shouting lager lager lager,” leaving me with no option but to run faster and longer than my legs would have liked.
I look at my watch. And then at my phone and am amazed to see I have run further than I have ever run before.
Conor Pope's 10km challenge
Part 1: That'll be no bother to me
Part 2: I'm hobbling like an auld fella
Part 3: Better off going to the pub
Part 4: My fitness app sounds disappointed
Part 5: My first parkrun was mortifying
Part 6: Running is boring
Part 7: Tell me why... I don't like rundays
Part 8: You run like a rhino
Part 9: I've never felt less like an athlete
Part 10: I was wrong to think running was easy
Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!).
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!