I made a fatal mistake the other weekend. Well, I say mistake. It very much depends on your point of view. Or my point of view. Or perhaps even Points of View with Anne Robinson. Remember that? Middle England would write to say how offended they’d been by various televisual snippets that had temporarily edged them out of their comfort zone. Les Dawson touching a nerve with a mother-in-law joke on Blankety Blank? Some rogue, pre-watershed homosexuality on Take The High Road? Harry Secombe accidentally referencing Satanism during Songs of Praise? Hmm, is Points of View still on the go? It is you know. Now presented by Jeremy Vine? Urgh, the douche. He’s no Des Lynam, who presented it for 5 months in 1999. Didn’t Des Lynam do Countdown for a bit too? He did. For 14 months. Seems he’s got some commitment issues, old Des. I wonder what he’s up to these days? ‘In 2013, Lynam endorsed the United Kingdom Independence Party’…oh Des, surely not. What would old Grandstand colleague Steve Rider think? Let’s see what he’s up to… ‘Steve Rider has upset residents of a village where he owns a second home by lodging a formal objection to plans for affordable housing to be built’. What a guy…
Right, lets get back to it. It? Yes, it. The aforementioned mistake: I bought a large tub of Quality Street for me and the family to consume in the run-up to Christmas. As the sweets were opened, it caused something to occur. A noise in my head that would directly affect my ability/inclination/willingness to go running. A noise best described as ‘BEEEEWWWWW’. Remember the original Star Wars film? There’s a scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi sneaks around the Death Star and finds the levers that shut down a tractor beam. On doing so, a ‘BEEEEWWWWWW’ noise is emitted which is the exact same noise as I heard in my head. Anyway, what does this noise mean? It means ‘AAANNNND RELAX! Running? Physical exertion? Unlikely. Pass me another Noisette Triangle, I’ll see you in the New Year’.
But, I’ve got 35-years worth of experience when it comes to living in the complex, contradictory and ever-continuous battleground that is my own brain. On one level, I knew this was coming – the ‘bollocks, none of that, its Christmas’ approach to running. Or indeed, not running. And I knew just how to counter such evil. With a thing Lazy Ben can’t resist: a medal. Hence, some time back in the autumn I planned for this very eventuality and committed to running a ‘Virtual 10k’ in the depths of winter. And by ‘committed’ I mean ‘stumped up a tenner and said I would’. And I did. Reluctantly.
It was Sunday when I convinced myself to ‘get out and get on with it’. I’d like to say it ‘I enjoyed it’ or ‘once I got going I really got into it’ or ‘I’m not really sure why I ever decided to park this running lark for a bit’, but in actuality I found myself saying ‘Urgh, bastard wind?!’ quite a lot. Storm Desmond had hit. And it was a flatulent storm. As an aside, I don’t like this new-fangled naming of storms. It should have some complex meteorological name like ‘Storm X13a22p’ if it has to have a name at all. It’s all part of the infantilisation of society *shakes cane and flat cap at sky* Plus, every time I hear this one mentioned I think of the old channel 4 sitcom Desmond’s. ‘It’s ahl windy an’ rainy, mon…yeah mon’
Anyway, I ran. Well, ‘ran’… But I got there eventually. I duly logged my time and through the post came this rather fine chunk of metal.
However, the whole experience reminded my of The Windiest Run of All Time Ever which occurred well before the establishment of this here blog. It was back in April 2013, by the golden sands of South Shields, for an event known as The Sand Dancer 10k. And I’ll say from the off, that what it lacked in dancing it made up for in sand.
Back then, pre-cancer, I was about as fit as I’ve ever been. I rocked up to South Tyneside looking to knock out a personal best in the spring sunshine, with the sparkling waters of the North Sea providing the suitably beautiful backdrop to my inevitable achievements. However, one thing I hadn’t counted on was THE WIND. The start line was on a footpath literally right next to the beach. Or, it should have been. In fact, owing to THE WIND, the beach was encroaching somewhat, like an over-eager defender determined to charge down a Ronaldo free-kick. As the race started – amidst a whimpered cry of ‘please get on with it, I’m being exfoliated to death’ from near enough all 191 competitors – a large proportion of the beach had already worked its way neatly into each eyeball and a number of bodily crevasses. Still, I was getting that PB, I’d decided.
Around 4 minutes into the race, I wasn’t getting that PB, I’d decided. As the route edged up off the beach and on the cliffs the relative shelter of the lower ground gave way to the exposed horror of the clifftop paths and winds of approximately 4,000,000 miles per hour. Morale sank. Plus, the course was a dreaded ‘double-loop’, meaning you knew you still had it all to do again when you’d struggled around once. At one specific point one the route (experienced twice, thanks to the aforementioned double-loop), and I can honestly say I am not embellishing this for comic effect, the direction and ferocity of the wind was such that I was making a running motion – arms and legs working in unison – but I wasn’t moving. It was like Satan’s treadmill.
I did finish the stupid thing though. And (un)fortunately the moment was captured for photographic posterity:
I think this is worthy of a closer look:
Plus, the worst of it was – no medal! No goody bag! NUTHIN’ AT ALL! Just the removal of the top 6 layers of skin owing to 40 minutes of sand blasting. And a renewed hatred of nature. However, it would be remiss of me to leave The Sand Dancer behind without mentioning a couple of other ‘memories’ I garnered that day whilst undertaking the pre-race toileting ritual. Firstly, I’d never heard a grown man, in the company of other grown men, refer to urinals and stalls as the ‘standy-uppies’ and the ‘sitty-downies’. I forget the exact context, but I seem to recall that the absence of one or the other was causing him some distress. Secondly, the queue for the standy-uppies and sitty-downies snaked into the changing area – here I witnessed a chap adorned in a jockstrap that was, frankly, more hole than strap. It was somewhat…shredded, lacking the fundamental ability to give the required support. I can only assume it was his lucky jockstrap. Now, had Jockstrap Jeff been slipping into his antique genitalia support subtly, say, in the corner of the room, I (nor indeed any of the other unfortunate witnesses) would have had no cause for complaint. But no. He was centre stage, in the middle of the room, hands on hips, buttocks out, engaging unfamiliar, would-be lavatorians in polite pre-race chatter with only a few strands of stained, grey fabric holding back the bulge(s). Never has a queue for the standy-uppies seemed to move slower, I can tell you…