As you may know, I’m a bit of a runner. One of those slightly eccentric people that likes to leave their house in a state of semi-undress, usually in bright colours made of materials better suited to super heroes and run myself to near exhaustion before ending up where I started. Somehow, this is classed as entertainment and is good for you.
This is how I ended up at Cheltenham today, to run the half marathon, an annual event that has grown in popularity since its inception 3 years ago. Actually, I didn’t enter until late on, encouraged by the other delivery staff at (almost) voluntary work, namely Little Andrew and Mrs Napier Brown Ellis Jones latterly of Leckhampton. It was Mrs NBEJloL’s first half marathon, after vowing that she would never do one 3 years ago. This is how runners evolve, like drug addicts. They start off small, thinking they can handle it and before they know it, they’re pounding the streets, spitting on the pavement and having their gait analysed. Little Andrew, like me, had run quite a few half marathons, so we knew what to expect.
But we didn’t. Arrive an hour before the race, the race booklet told us. You’ll be led to the start half an hour before the off. None of us took any chances. It’s a 20 minute journey from my house, so I set off an hour and a half before the start…
To find myself in the biggest queue ever to get in. Conveniently, they’d organised a schools’ challenge race on the same day. As I sat in the traffic queue, parents abandoned their cars on the side of the road and dragged their kids to the entrance. The poor sods would’ve been knackered before they started. Text messages were exchanged. Little Andrew convinced a lovely lady attendant that I was disabled and needed to park next to the start and that I’d be there in 10 minutes. It worked.
Just before the start Mrs NBEJloL texted
‘Still in traffic ffs’
Not very Mrs NBEJloL, to be honest.
Running around Cheltenham is always a pleasant experience, since they do so well to hide all the less posh bits. My half marathon times (in fact my running performances) have dipped considerably in the last three years. Maybe it’s my age, although others seem to go from strength to strength. My body, however, has come to an agreement with my brain.
“Look,” says body, “I’m fed up with being blistered, worn down, puffed out and bruised. Can you tell him?”
“Tell you what I’ll do,” says brain. “I’ll let him get all confident, then at mile 8 I’ll tell him to fuck all this speed nonsense. You just squeeze the lungs and make the legs go wobbly. It’ll work a treat.”
And it does. I’m now resigned to having to just enjoy the scenery and do very little uncomfortable efforts.
The volunteers and general public are very helpful. The water stations give you sports bottles of water rather than plastic cups, which tend to spill everywhere except in your mouth.
There is also a concerted effort to make you eat sugar. Volunteers trying to foist sugary sports drinks into your hand and special ‘jelly baby stations’. It’s as if the British psyche, scared that we’ll lose the one thing we’re top at, namely obesity, will be lost.
I plodded around, encouraged by the crowds and the local radio presenters, who set their speakers up 4 miles from the end.
“Yeah, come on, nearly there,” the young lady in a pink tracksuit lied at mile 9, ‘you’re all doing amazing!”
I flinched. Hopefully Mrs NBEJloL wouldn’t hear this terrible adverbial faux pas, otherwise she would have to stop and berate the enthusiastic media type.
By this time, a sub 2 hour finish was the best I could manage, struggling in at 1hour, 58 minutes and 43 seconds. I refused more offers of sugary sports drinks and jelly based confectionery. Instead, I spent the next 20 minutes getting all my internal organs back where they belonged and asking my legs very nicely if they would be kind enough to propel me back to the car to get a change of clothes.
I returned to the finish line, missing Mrs NBEJloL, who had gracefully completed with a royal wave of the hand and immediately changed into her customary high heels, I’d imagine. Instead, I cheered on all the other finishers and waited for Little Andrew.
“Fook that,” she exclaimed on finishing, “I’m not doing that again!”
Quite. I was in the same mood. I returned home, showered and languished on the sofa to watch the Champions’ League of Darts. If The Olympics can inspire people, so can darts, I
thought. Maybe I should take it up. I’m sure my nipples wouldn’t chafe. It wouldn’t make me walk like I’d shit myself. Perhaps the wild hairstyles would suit me, covering up or hiding the grey.
Then again, you couldn’t discuss the colour of your piss with your counterparts. Also, I hate wearing jewellery.
As I contemplated retirement, a Faceache friend posted her success at a 5K today.
“You should try Cheltenham Half Marathon,” I replied.
“I’ll do it next year,” she posted back, “but only if you do it with me…”