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You can tell when the West has forgotten which way is up: it cuts its pants too low. Consider the early 2000s US rise of the very low-rise pant. It is precisely when our clothes no longer bother to conceal a human crack we should no longer hope that the state will cover our arses. Those arseless jeans unfit for human contours produced a new and persistent neuralgia. They are the perfect fit for GW Bush-era doctrine. The 2000s were a terrible prelude to terrible times, and also I got quite tubby.

Just months before the US invaded Iraq, I was stopped by a shiny display. This David Jones window I hurried by had seemed to contain a crude picture of Britney Spears, but in a fat-suit. I looked again, and, of course, the likeness was mine. Rising from absurdly low trousers, a great loaf of white was reflected. With no waistband to contain it, my gut had grown. Fast, like a weed made out of pork.

In this moment, I knew the term “physique” no longer applied to the forgotten fairground of my flesh. My body was not a body, but a site for mourning and decay. Chiko rolls were laid to rest inside this idle tomb.

It was not much fun to know I had become the place that fried foods came to die. It was not much fun to eulogise my appalling diet. It was not fun of any kind to imagine the physical exercise that I, so inert for so long, should attempt.

If you have also felt the burden of the era, the self and a newly emerged second stomach, you will know this confusion. You know not to look to lifestyle media for fitness guidance, as will soon receive the lesson that they declare every sport and action as the miracle syrup of youth!

If you are new to this whole “I hate hate hate my fat fat body” experience, then never, ever believe that your youthful vigour can be restored by magic. Exercise is not magic, especially not hot yoga, which I tried on the advice of a magazine made for an audience of profoundly deluded modern women.

And the things they said, and still say, about distance running. If all those claims for this return to the runner of decades are true, it is commensurately true that I return all phone calls from my mother.

The partial return of my mother’s calls will never be distinguishable from their full return. This is my contention, expressed by me this early morning as, “I am not ignoring your call from last night about The Bachelor. I am watching The Bachelor so I can return your call with full knowledge of Nick the Honey Badger, and the romance he encountered at Sydney’s finest park of water slides.”

Sure, I dishonour my duty to a mother. But not all the time, and not as much as these health-and-fitness hacks dishonour theirs. They tell you lies about how free and young and vibrant you are bound to feel in minutes, then those who have never run a distance and are ashamed of truth will repeat it. Soon, every other tub of fatally fried foods is telling you things about endorphins and improved complexion.

I will say that I now run distances, and I recommend this to anyone with reasonably functioning legs. Please. Try it. But know that this exertion will not lead you to a paradise full of ancients. And know that your face is going to wither without the care of a surgeon.

The dew of life is lost for good to age’s desiccation, and if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you a picture of me at the finishing line of the Melbourne Marathon. This took me well over four hours to complete, but a little under five — the time at which they take all the bright marathon paraphernalia down and you’re just some git out alone on a Sunday.

My runner face. Did it reclaim its youth from age’s ruin? No. It looked like instant mashed potato before you put the water in. I also borked a tendon and was not euphoric, but returned home to tell my partner loudly that they had neglected their duty of care. Why did they do nothing to avert this day of agony, which followed months of agony in which I ran up to 70 kilometres a week?

Look. There are studies to suggest that running will delay some effects of aging, including deathly aches and death. Further, the longing for death that is depression may be alleviated by running. There is substantial research to make the case for distance running, and, then, there’s my aunt whose 80th birthday was quite some years ago. She completed the City to Surf event this year, and she did it with just months between this great victory and the loss of her marvellous husband.

Is distance running the right exertion for you? Look. I don’t know. Ask an exercise physiologist. And then ask yourself if you wouldn’t mind swapping a face that occasionally resembles rehydrated veg for a pretty decent bum.

I am quite proud of my arse. I almost wish it were not covered so often with high-rise tracksuit pants.