Peebee, an extremely ancient deity, was the son of Lucasade – Goddess of Divine Energy and Impetus – God of Getting Off Your Arse. The myth goes that one day he was chased by an angry momma she-bear. Peebee decided that this had been a bit of a close call, and that he should probably practice for this kind of eventuality. After all, even if he could not outrun the she-bear, all he needed to be able to do was run a little faster than the person next to him. Peebee’s consort is Facup, the goddess of award silverware. She is sometimes unkindly regarded as a trophy wife.
Peebee is worshipped by amateur athletes who relentlessly chase the ever moving finishing line of self-improvement. The underlying philosophy of the faith is that the greatest opponent one will ever face, one’s ultimate nemesis, is oneself. To them the virtuous life is achieved when one does not strive to best another, but to best the person that you were yesterday. Pursuit of this goal means that followers of Peebee experience the joys of victory and the agony of de feet. This is also a fantastic religion to join if you want to meet people. Especially paramedics.
Although acolytes may undertake their devotions at any time, formal communal worship of Pee Bee usually takes place on either a Saturday or Sunday morning. The congregation will congregate in a local park, and the priesthood will undertake the role of marshals to guide their flock through the ritual and the course. They will jog your memory if you get lost. Once the ceremonial starting pistol is fired, the assembled worshippers will attempt to run through the act of worship in the shortest time possible. The faster one can complete the ritual, the holier one is. This worship takes place weekly regardless of the conditions. The one person who still turns up to worship Peebee on a day when the weather is a torrential tempest is declared to be the current “Raining Champion”.
If you attend a rite of Peebee you will notice that the faithful divide themselves into four distinct sects.
The Park Runners are the most dedicated and fundamentalist of these factions. They worship Peebee daily and ensure that they meet all their targets. It is thought that the phrase “to exercise religiously” originated with them. Park Runners can be recognised by their smart running gear and the expression on their faces which suggests they may be enjoying this a bit too much (compared to everyone else’s expression of mild agony). Before each rite, members of this sect will anoint themselves will the sacred unguent known as Vasaline, and during the rite itself they will fast, consuming only specially formulated energy gels*.
Members of the Park Runner sect tend to be vociferous evangelists. They spread the word and their own achievements loudly and constantly (whether anyone cares or not). If you happen to know one, they will probably be constantly trying to indoctrinate you. The leader of this sect is Guru Strava, who constantly monitors every member’s every move. He is assisted in this by his faithful deputy Endomondo. Park Runners do not count an achievement unless it has been observed and acknowledged by Strava. Hence their mantra of “Strava or it didn’t happen”. When attending the communal rite, the Park Runners will form a dense phalanx at the front known as the “Joggernaught” formation (this is to mow down any stray dog walkers and small children and clear the path or righteousness). When people see a Park Runner jog by they think, “Look at that fine athlete!”
The second, more liberal, sect tend to only worship at the communal weekend ritual. They are much less invested, and only really attend the rituals as pre-emptive penance for the massive fry up they are about to eat. Dressed in old tracksuit bottoms, ten year old trainers and faded band t-shirts, this sect are known as The Pork Runners. There is a degree of tension between the two sects. Mainly because the Park Runners will keep making zoom-zoom race car noises as they run past them. When people see a Pork Runner plod past they think, “Aww. Good for them.”
The third are the Silent Runners who worship without music or conversation. In order to remind them of their non-verbal vows, they wear the distinctive “running gag”. They undertake their rituals at night on a course that runs through the serial killer district for the increased heart rate and extra cario-burn. This sect are universally celibate. They are chaste everywhere.
The final group are an extreme cult called the Marathonians. They can be recognised by the papers they have pinned to their shirts which bear identifying numbers. They additionally worship the Ancient Greek warrior Pheidippides as a phophet of Peebee. Little did Pheidippides know, as he proclaimed “Nike!” and expired following his 26 mile dash, that two thousand five hundred and ten years later a multitude of devotees would be re-enacting his heroic act dressed as a bananas.
All these denominations are united under the benign guidance of the High Priest Miles Stone.
Unlike many religions, the faith of Peebee enthusiastically adopts modern technological developments. These have ranged from the latest hi-tech 18 tog goose down lined running shoes with genuine shark tooth spikes, to the Fitorinox Smart Watch (features stopwatch, MP3, GPS, pulse oximeter, en suite bathroom, cork screw and hoof pick). There is even a research wing of the church which are engaged in developing new running technology. Sadly, the team working on developing go-faster stripes that actually make you go faster have been going nowhere fast for years. (Yet somehow they continue receiving funding from Adidas.) There is also a, much more successful, software and social media development team. As a result of their work the church sends out constant support and encouragement to the faithful through a range of handy smart phone applications. They fully acknowledge that their followers sometimes need more than just the spiritual rewards. Even if it is just a virtual medal. In reality, the main benefit to health and fitness of using these gadgets is the added weight you will carry.
Worshippers of Peebee believe that if they can only master some kind of formula or routine for the perfectly healthy life, not only immortality but eternal youth are theoretically possible. It is just that no one has got it quite right yet. When an acolyte of Peebee dies the undertaker will ritually anoint the remains with Body Glide to ensure the funeral runs smoothly.
Whilst incredibly popular, and continuing to grow, the faith of Peebee is unlikely to ever achieve total domination. The priesthood often bemoan that if only running felt great whilst you’re doing it and terrible afterwards. Then it might be as popular as drinking and sex.
*There is a dark rumour that these are actually formulated from sugar, wallpaper paste and cold horse semen.
Thank you to Richard Jackson for suggesting Peebee, and to Rebecca Stothard, Dave Redford and David J E Fuhr for additional punnage.
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