You can tell that it’s jogging season. The Reading half-marathon is a couple of weeks away, which must mean that the London marathon is six weeks away.
How has this manifested itself? Simple. The growing number of hi-vis jacket clad lunatics pounding the slippery streets around these parts. We may be thirty and eighty miles away from those places, but it seems as though hundreds of local masochists are preparing to take on one, or other, or more likely both.
Don’t get me wrong, I was persuaded against my better judgement to run the thirteen miler at Reading myself around twenty years ago (and no, I haven’t just finished it, smartarse!). As February hit I thought I should get some preparation in, picked a pub seven miles away, and ran there every Sunday with the intention of running back again.
I know it sounds obvious now, but it was quite a surprise to find myself grabbing a lift home again at closing time. Come the day, if memory serves, I managed around eight miles of perpetual motion before an old boy overtaking me with ease offered me a fruit gum.
If the sugar was intended to give me an energy boost he failed in his good intentions. Fear of choking on the chewy little sweet, combined with growing levels of pain in places I didn’t know existed, caused my legs to slow to a walk. There followed five miles of stop-start torture before finally I crawled over the line to claim my medal.
For a few hours afterwards I got it. I fully understood the attraction. Two hours of thousands of complete strangers cheering you on, urging you forward, and sympathising when your motor burnt out. The best of human kindness is a wonderful experience.
But jarring delicate bone, skin, and muscle on tarmac for hours very quickly came into perspective for me. The following morning I could not walk. Nothing to do with fatigue from the run. More the scrotum-burning of the most severe nappy rash known to man, added to the pain of what I have since discovered is known as ‘joggers nipple’. Foolishly I had not noticed the two pools of blood on each side of the chest when removing my Woolworths heavy cotton running vest, or the scabby crust that had formed on the inside of my skin-tight, eighties nylon football shorts.
Three industrial size tubs of Germolene and two soothing baths a day for a week later you could not have got me to run thirteen yards, never mind miles, even if you promised me that Kate Bush would be waiting in a French maids outfit for my personal pleasure at the destination.
So, hundreds in your bright yellow fluorescent chest graters, can I suggest you do some proper research into what is required before taking on such a pointless journey, just so you can jump on a train and come home again. Then come and join me watching the London Marathon with a full English breakfast, toast dripping with real butter, and a couple of mugs of navvies tea.
You know it makes sense.