During the period of lockdown, from March until June, more than 858,000 people downloaded the NHS’s Couch to 5K app. At least 857,000 of them appear to be doing it in my local park, which has started to resemble a Frogger-like arcade game, where you have to insert yourself into the onslaught of joggers with a dexterity that requires a training app of its own.
It is a remarkable number of downloads, but then, it is a remarkable app. It promises to get almost anyone moving. It builds you up from spluttering through a solid 60 seconds without stopping, through to 30 minutes without stopping, in just nine weeks. You can choose your trainer, the person who cheers you on through your headphones, from a selection of famous voices. There’s Jo Whiley, Sarah Millican, Sanjeev Kohli and Michael Johnson. But for the purists, the old school among us, there is still Laura, the original trainer. Just Laura, the voice who has seen me through the entirety of Couch to 5K on three separate occasions. Her soothing tones telling me “You’re halfway through, you’re doing so well, keep going” is so life-affirming that I’m tempted to start playing it when I’m just sitting around, wondering if it will ever be possible to go to the corner shop for a pint of milk, or to the pub for a pint of anything, without taking a vat of hand sanitiser and accidentally holding my breath for 10 minutes.
As well as the health benefits, and there is no doubt that it can turn even the most scarred-by-PE fitnessphobe into someone who runs for pleasure, there is a lovely community around this programme. I follow the Couch to 5K subreddit, and the encouragement and advice given by total strangers is a reminder of how widespread human decency can be. The stories of perseverance and achievement, too, sometimes against all odds, are like mini-instalments of Humans of New York. It is a wonderful place to visit.
The fact that I’ve done Couch to 5K three times now makes it sound like it has no sticking power, but it’s just that I keep getting over-excited as soon as I can run some distance, then I injure myself, then rest for so long that I think I might as well start all over again. But every time I go back, there will be someone else. And every time I do, there’s Laura, telling me and a good proportion of those 858,000 amateur runners to pace ourselves, keep at it, and get to the end. No wonder it’s so popular right now.
Sandra Oh: Diversity matters behind the camera too
For a TV nerd, the very idea of Shondaland alumnae Sandra Oh and Kerry Washington getting together for a natter is almost too much to bear. Oh, star of Killing Eve and Grey’s Anatomy, and Washington, star of Scandal and Little Fires Everywhere, were paired up for Variety’s Actor on Actor segment, where they spoke for an hour and eight minutes, though I would have taken double that, and the bloopers.
The pair swapped anecdotes and got in-depth and actorly in a way that I find impossible to resist. Also, I’ve just powered through Little Fires Everywhere, surely the glossy classy-trashy drama of the year, and wanted to know everything there was to know about it. When Washington asked Oh what it was like to be the only Asian person on set, Oh laughed and said she was used to it. She went on to explain her experience of being an Asian person on a British set, with Killing Eve. “The UK, I’m not afraid to say, is behind,” she said. “The development of people behind the camera is very slow in the UK… Sometimes it would be me and 75 white people.”
As the BBC launches its creative diversity commitment – £100m of commissioning budget, over three years, given to prioritising inclusive and diverse content – Oh’s comments are even more pertinent. What is going on behind the camera matters. It determines who is telling the stories and how they are told. Opening that up to new voices can only be a positive force. If it works, we will get more variety, different stories, new visions, a balance to the overwhelming familiarity of television. Who can deny how thrilling that will be?
Kim Kardashian West: Salad days for a new billionaire
God, in his infinite wisdom, has taken a little time out from his present tinkering in human affairs – I imagine it to be a bit like when you want to give the junk cupboard a quick tidy, and then suddenly, the entire room is covered in Ikea Allen keys and elastic bands and bills from 2007, and you wish you’d just watched Come Dine With Me instead – to make Kim Kardashian West a billionaire.
On Monday, Kardashian West sold 20% of her cosmetics brand KKW Beauty for $200m (£160m). The company was valued at $1bn, which is the sort of thing I don’t understand on Succession. Forbes, whose new strategy seems to be to deflate what the Kardashian family says they are worth, disputes that she is a billionaire, estimating her fortune to be a meagre $900m.
Nevertheless, Kanye West said God was shining on his wife and congratulated her on achieving the big B, as nobody calls it, with a photo of three tomatoes and some flowers. “So blessed this is still life / So I made you this still life,” he wrote. I would like to add my congratulations, to West, for lowering the bar for gifts. The next time I want to celebrate a loved one, I’m sending them a still life of the salad drawer.
•Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist