Last Saturday morning, 6:42am: I clamber out of bed, relinquishing the warm embrace of the duvet. I lift the bedroom blinds a little and glance outside in the bitter blackness. Urgh. Stupid running. Nevertheless, I cast off the pyjamas and bundle on the running gear before heading downstairs, all under cover of darkness so as not to disturb the rest of the house. I fall over the cat on the landing. I quietly call him a dick. He sulks in the bathroom for a bit. Downstairs, I slip the trainers on and unlock the back door. The cat has re-appeared. He’s in and out of my legs like he’s weaving an invisible wicker basket. ‘I’ll feed you when I get back, you great vat of dripping’ I offer. I open the back door. Having been denied food, the cat settles for the consolation prize of ‘go outside and harass nature’. I also head out, plodging through the flooded garden into the quagmire that is the chicken pen. I unleash the poultry (not a euphemism), yet no bird seems in a hurry to dart from the coop. From the inky innards of the chicken house I hear a small cluck. A small cluck that appears to translate as ‘bollocks to that, we’re staying in for a bit’. I leave them to and head out for my 4 mile run.
I returned from that run to find I’d completed the whole thing with a train ticket stuffed in my right shoe.
And it was a return ticket. So it was effectively two tickets. ‘Two-tickets Taylorson, that’s what they’ll call me’ I thought. Quite who ‘they’ were (mental health professionals?) is open to debate. But it did get me thinking. Firstly, that perhaps I should put a light on when getting ready of a morning. Secondly, that regularly having a train ticket in my shoe could be my ‘thing’. But then I thought further. Surely a thing is only a thing if other people know it’s a thing? If they didn’t know, I’d merely be some tit impeding his own mediocre performance with a return train ticket in his shoe. If I’m going to have a ‘thing’ when I go running, it needs to be an obvious thing. But what? Let’s contemplate the options:
1) The headband
Subtle yet stupid, this is a possibility. Although the biggest drawback here is accidently straying into the world of sporting something ‘ironically’. Which I don’t really understand, but it makes my toes curl anyway. It seems to go a little something like this:
Pete: Hello Dave.
Dave: Alright Pete.
Pete: New moustache?
Pete: Looks pretty stupid, mate.
Dave: No, no, you’ve got it all wrong mate, its ironic.
Pete: I take it back then, you’re the king of cool.
And because of that, I’d have to head into more sincere territory with the headband. It could be an earnest tribute to the sporting superstars of yesteryear who donned one. John McEnroe – he wasn’t being ironic. Laugh at his headband and he’d force-feed you it. Bjorn Borg too – that Swedish villain from Star Trek. And LeBron James. The big basketball chap. But he’s stopped wearing his. He said it was because he didn’t want to stand out from his teammates. I reckon it was really because it was slowly crushing his brain. Maybe I’ll pass.
2) The bandana
One notch up the nutter pole from ‘headband’ comes ‘bandana’. Lets be honest, it’s a look only a few gents can pull off. Hulk Hogan – he covers that baldy head with bandana-fuelled aplomb. Tupac Shakur sported the bandana. Although I do think it looked a bit like he didn’t know what he was doing, and none of his chums dared point it out. I imagine the following whispered conversation between his acolytes (I’ve made up suitable rapper names for them to protect the innocent/fictional):
Y-Zee Smallpantz X: What’s Tupac got on his head?
FixxyDooDoo: I think it’s a bandana.
Y-Zee Smallpantz X: Why is it tied at the front? He looks like a little old woman doing her cleaning, or a Christmas present wrapped by an impatient toddler.
FixxyDooDoo: Maybe it’s a statement?
Weevil P: Maybe he was in a hurry?
Master KranShaft III: I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.
Y-Zee Smallpantz X: Should we say something?
FixxyDooDoo: Are you insane? This is rap. People get shot for less.
To be honest, I’ve donned the bandana for a few races before, when my locks were long and flowing and had a tendency to get in my eyes mid-run, and thus I was required to sport a square of hair-retaining cloth. And I quite liked it. Although a crushing lack of self-confidence (fuelled somewhat by regular running chum Matthew Jones’s penchant for referring to me as ‘Bendana’) meant I abandoned it. One day though. One day. I’ll join a biker gang or a pirate crew and be ‘just another bandana in the crowd’.
3) Electrical appliance
There’s that chap who runs with a fridge on his back. I suspect there might even be more than one. I could follow his/their lead and head out with an electrical appliance of my own. I could be ‘Ben The Kettle’. Or ‘Ben The Toaster’. Or ‘Ben The Battery-Operated Coffee-Frothing Whisk’. Sadly, however, the only real option – now the baseline has been set with ‘fridge’ – is to up the ante. ‘Ben The Commercial Washing Machine’. ‘Ben The Ceramic Kiln’. ‘Ben The Twin Tank Industrial Deep-Fat Fryer’. That last one could work. I could get to the finish line of races and destroy it, like a rock star breaking his guitar during the climax of a performance, in some sort of ambiguous statement relating to the evils of fried foods. Hmm, how much does a twin-tank industrial deep-fat fryer cost? Fifteen grand? I’m out.
4) Challenging costume
Now, I’m not thinking ‘Superman’ or similar. Lets be more ambitious. There was that dude who did the London marathon in a 120lb antique diving suit. Also, popular folklore speaks of a chap in darkest Country Durham who roams the streets/countryside dressed as a Roman soldier. A degree of Internet research reveals he may in fact be a Greek soldier. Still, he exists. Here are some actual testimonies from seedy Internet forums:
“He is a Kernel [I have not purposefully misspelt this for comedic purposes…] in his Army, and he thinks he is a Roman centurion”
“Often see him walking along the A167 towards Thinford acknowledging cars with his sword”
“Apparently there used to be a fella that worked in the fish ‘n’ chip shop in Chilton that turned up for work each day dressed as Elvis”
So, he gets noticed. Not necessarily in a good way, the more reading I do, but noticed nonetheless. I could do this. Not sure what the IAAF would make of the sword, should I qualify for the final stages of an international athletics competition. We’ll perhaps worry about that when the time comes. But no, no – we’re aiming to innovate, not imitate. What’s mightier than a Roman/Greek soldier or an antique diving suit? How about the Power Loader from Aliens? Imagine crossing the line in that?
Or I could go the whole hog and dress as the Queen Alien. My race-day ritual could be to stop every other mile to lay an egg and then tear a biomechanical humanoid in two.
Lets add a touch of symmetry to this post and end where we began. As a chicken keeper, I should use the poultry to differentiate myself (I would wager good money that no-one has ever typed that sentence before).
But how? I foresee only three ways:
1) Fashion some sort of elaborate running-headdress using the feathers from my birds. I could then incorporate a certain amount of Native American wisdom into my outlook. I foresee a situation where I overexert myself, collapse and require medical attention and a little foil blanket. My wife will report later that the paramedic said I was shivering having hallucinations. ‘No, no’ I’ll offer ‘we call them visions’.
2) Run dressed as a chicken. Not sure I fancy that much. Negative connotations abound.
3) Run with a chicken. Or two: one under each arm. They’d not like that, though. Neither, I fear, would the RSPCA. Or the IAAF. The bastards.
Perhaps I’ll just persevere with the train ticket down the shoe, in the hope that one day the secret to my on-going mediocrity is much sought. Then I’m interviewed for the BBC or I put out an autobiography where I reveal all. And people say ‘well I never’ before moving swiftly on to wondering what’s for tea.