One of the curses of having a butterfly brain is that I have a tendency to look for the gag in everything. This caused me a little bit of a dilemma the other week, with a comment that politeness prevented me from correcting without offending the person concerned.
I was running in The Forest of Dean Half Marathon, which is conveniently staged in The Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. This course is notoriously ‘undulating’, which for those uninitiated in the idiotic pursuit of ‘running’, means it is bloody hilly and you generally get puffed out.
The participants are a very friendly and supportive bunch. In the first mile, a rather athletic looking man ran alongside me and nodded at my right leg.
“How is it running with that on?” he asked. He was referring to the rather industrial leg brace I wear to stop my knee from falling off. I have no ACL or cartilage left in it. Recently it’s started to make a rather worrying clunking noise, but that’s another story.
I smiled stoically and told him I was used to it. He informed me that he was going for a knee operation and was looking for something to wear while recovering.
Usually, people give me shouts of encouragement, rather impressed that an old cripple such as myself can manage to run at all. I tend to agree with them.
Lots of other runners (mainly female) put their head to one side and mouth “Awww!” as they jog past, showing sympathy. My shallow nature and large ego means that I’m grateful for any attention from fit attractive ladies in lycra.
So it came to pass five miles into the race. A young blonde lady eased up beside me and said “Awwww”, staring at my leg brace. I was wearing long lycra shorts which never, ever chafe but one day may result in my arrest. The shorts covered the top of the knee brace.
“Have you lost your leg?” she asked me and I puffed along. I didn’t even think about it.
“Only the top half,” I explained, pointing to my obvious lower leg. There was a pause before she gasped.
“Oh my word, how did it happen?” she enquired. I looked at her closely out of the corner of my eye to see who was teasing who here. I realised it was definitely me doing the teasing.
“Oh, it was a surfing accident off the coast of Falmouth. Shark attack,” I told her solemnly, knowing this should do the trick. I waited for the laughter. Or the slap. Or the trip. It didn’t come. I looked directly at her watery eyes and wobbly lip. This had gone far too far now. But I couldn’t stop.
“The shark ate my thigh, but I managed to swim ashore using my lower leg as a flotation aid. Some kind holiday maker called an ambulance which rushed me in for emergency surgery.”
I could sense the young lady thinking beside me.
“So how do you feel your lower leg?” she asked.
I told her about all the sophisticated electrical devices available to surgeons these days. By now I was starting to feel a little ashamed.
“Well, I’m amazed at what doctors can do,” she said, “and I think you’re amazing too.”
She gave me a sympathetic rub on the top of my arm and increased her pace.
“Just wait until I tell my boyfriend about this!” she called back over her shoulder.
As the run progressed, I forgot about our short conversation.
I was chillingly reminded of our chat five minutes after I’d crossed the finish line. Leaning on my haunches, trying to return to some form of normality rather than looking like I was playing ‘air bagpipes’, I looked up and caught a glimpe of a blonde pony tail and pink running top. My sympathetic, gullible girl. Talking to a rather muscular, 6’3” man, who had a bemused look on his face. I watched for a couple of seconds as he pointed to his own leg, chuckling. The expression on his pretty girlfriend’s face darkened as she immediately started to scan the crowd of competitors. I deceided this was a good time to slink back to my car and drive home.
By the way, the race itself was a complete disaster for me, my worst by far. Which means there is such a thing as divine retribution.