THE RELUCTANT RUNNER: Time for my first court appearance

The Reluctant Runner with Bridlingtons badminton star Paul Robinson

The Reluctant Runner with Bridlingtons badminton star Paul Robinson

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I’ve been surprised by how much I have enjoyed going to the gym so far.

I like the virtual runs, which mean I can watch a screen taking me through Chicago city centre or the Utah mountains as I work up a sweat on the cross-trainer.

I can even watch TV programmes like Countdown while I am on the exercise bikes, although the only nine-letters words I get are EXHAUSTED and SHATTERED.

But I can see how doing the same thing all the time might be a bit uninspiring, so it’s time to try something else at East Riding Leisure.

I made an appeal on Facebook for somebody to come and have a game of badminton.

Good news: Someone replied. Bad news: It was Paul Robinson, Bridlington’s number one player and captain of the town’s Yorkshire League team.

He gave me an hour’s coaching and soon got annoyed because I kept ‘giving him the finger’. Not a rude gesture when I got frustrated, but connected to the fact I didn’t hold the racket properly.

If finger movements had riled him, me standing on one of his prized shuttlecocks wound him up even more.

He taught me forehands, backhands, serves and smashes – each new shot being introduced as “the hardest in badminton”.

We rounded off by having a game. I was struggling by this stage after 50 minutes of hard work, but I threw myself into it.

Paul was always ahead, but I managed to win a few points, either by shrewdly leaving his slightly over-hit shots or by mistiming shots of my own, which were supposed to head to the back of the court, but ended up coming off the frame of my racket and luckily landing on the other side of the net.

Eventually, Paul won 15-10. And just to rub it in, he admitted he had only been playing at 25%.

It could have been worse, he could have said 10%. He told me: “When you put me on my backhand, I was really putting the effort in.

“I was shocked how good you were for a beginner. You will only get better with practice and coaching.”