When looking back across the previous 12 months, it’s important to remember that achievements come in many forms. We can’t all be Sports Personality of the Year. Or Rear of the Year. Or winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. ‘Her flocculent fingers slid inquisitively up his muclulent…’ nevermind. This past year, I completed a Master’s degree. I elongated my poultry enclosure. And I ran a stupid marathon. Urghghgh…meanwhile, in November, Otto the Bulldog set a new world record for skateboarding through the longest human tunnel. 20-year-old Venezuelan Jeison Orlando Rodriguez Hernandez was officially declared the man with the world’s biggest feet (size 59, if you’re wondering). Whilst earlier this month, Coleen Nolan and Linda Robson tried and failed to break the world record for eating the most mince pies on the set of Loose Women. To be clear, the record attempt was for the pie eating, which could have taken place anywhere – the set of Loose Women does not have a collection of world records of its very own, as if it was a state somehow independent of the rest of the world. You know, I do wonder when world records became less about the extremes of legitimate human achievement and more about dogs, freaks and desperate attention-seekers. I imagine this began via a scenario where an elite athlete was ruled out of his record attempt at the last minute through injury. Devastated, furious and desperate, he made a grab for a nearby cutlery canteen and promptly balanced 57 teaspoons on his forehead. The chap from The Guinness Book of World Records was impressed, but explained there were no world records for stupid, piddling things like that. Unperturbed, Terry Teaspoon held the chap hostage with a fish knife until a frantic telephone call to head office concluded that ‘forehead teaspoon balancing’ was to be included in next year’s annual. And behold, the floodgates are opened for obscure records seeking oddballs everywhere…
Anyway, back to the running review:
The month began in monsoon conditions at the Sunderland Half-Marathon. It was as if I was offering a modern interpretation of that old saying ‘even the longest journey starts with the first step’ when I declared ‘the hardest part will be getting out of the car’. Freezing, gales, lashing winds – there was a lot to convince me to stay in the car. And drive home. But I didn’t. And it was almost worth it for the stadium finish and the medal. Almost. Later in the month I began looking forward to (i.e. dreading and assuming I was going to die) the 26.2 miles pencilled in for October, and hence began ACTUAL MARATHON TRAINING. An elaborate if somewhat baseless 22 week training plan was drawn up. That would keep the demons at bay. And the month came to an end with an annual favourite – the Middlesbrough Riverside 5k. Now that’s a distance. A short, sensible distance. Stupid marathon training…
I had a revelation. It came to me in a vision – like Moses receiving a touch of tablet-based life guidance up Mount Sinai. Or like Darth Vadar finally realising The Emperor was quite the plonker and could really do with being hurled into a big hole. Or Noel Edmonds thinking ‘I know! I’ll dye the beard! That’ll keep me young and relevant and not make me look at all like a creepy, face-fuzzed, Action Man doll that’s come alive and started presenting Deal Or No Deal’: I decided I’d start a running blog. To share my pain anguish crushing insecurities joy of running with like-minded folk. After all, just how had the collective running world made it this far without hearing about how, at the end of a run I like to sit on a step by my patio and let the perspiration form a ‘sweat puddle? Or acquiring a yoga mat from a shop in central Middlesbrough amidst an atmosphere of hysterical terror? Or encountering an elderly chap at 6:40am, wading shin-high through a beck, adorned in only a tight fitting pair of beige shorts whilst puffing away on a pipe? How indeed.
Things heated up in July. And not in a way that implies conflict or an intimate encounter or some sort of outstanding achievement. No, I mean literally. I almost melted at The Croft Pitstop 10k where temperatures reached an estimated 168 degrees Celsius. Then only a few days later I sweated around stupid, hilly streets for a middle-class running spectacular at the Harrogate 10k. Neither race resulted in a medal. Not that I’m bitter *screams into pillow* Towards the end of the month I went for a 10 mile run in the Lake District and got lost. For a while. But I panicked, had a bit of a cry, composed myself and got there eventually. Which, coincidently, is a broad synopsis of the worst ever episode of The A-Team.
As the year progressed, the races came like an express, viscous milkshake – thick and fast. First it was something of a taster as to the marathon to come, when I hit York for a mere 10k. I saw a man punch a bee out of the air. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen. Then it was on to Darlington for 10 more kilometres. And away from the glitz and glamour of the North-East amateur running circuit, I was putting in the hard miles ahead of the ol’ 26.2. In fact, I put in 153.4 miles in August. That’s ridiculous. For me, anyway.
As this is likely my last post before, if you’ve been good, a large bearded chap deposits packages beneath an indoor sapling (I mean Christmas – this is not a coded warning as to some sort of garden-centre bombing), I’d like to take this opportunity to wish anyone who reads this nonsense a fantabulous yuletide period. In the spirit of this blog, I should urge you all to try and ensure you pop the trainers on at some point over Christmas for a few festive miles, but I’m not going to. Sod the running crap: feet up, telly on, mince pie. Running? That’s 2016 Ben’s problem…