You know, over the years I’ve learned quite a few things… *edges his rocking chair closer to the fire, straightens the woollen blanket across his lap* I’ve learned how not to install a garden pond. I’ve learned to heed the warning ‘product will be hot when heated’. I’ve learned that when someone uses a pencil to shade in certain parts of the floorboards on your landing, it’s to indicate that there are water pipes underneath and thus hammering a nail through the pencilled-in bit is not advisable, but why in the name of Lucifer’s lampshade they didn’t bother just to write ‘there’s a pipe under here mate, go easy with the effing hammer unless you’re keen on coming down to a flooded living room in the morning, having discounted the dripping noise you heard in the night as ‘ghosts’’ still remains a mystery. And something else I’ve learned is to not always say what I’m thinking…
I try not to be cynical. Sometimes. Alright, I don’t try that hard. But still, if I’m heading into a big, organised run and someone bestows on me a message of kindness along the lines of ‘good luck’, I will of course receive that message in the well-intended spirit in which it was offered. Even though my inner monologue might be thinking ‘Luck? Pfft, what’s luck got to do, got to do with it? What’s luck, but a second-hand eeeemotion?’ Because the inner monologue is, after all, prone to paraphrasing responses to the hits of Tina Turner. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not really one for believing in luck. With running, as with life, the harder you practice the ‘luckier’ you get. But I’m not going to turn the well-wisher and say ‘Actually I don’t believe in luck, as I don’t believe that success or failure is brought by ‘chance’ as you’d define it but rather than through one’s own actions or the pre-existing actions of others’ for two main reasons:
1) That would be rude, and amount to blatantly ignoring the fact that good intentions were central to the gesture. Added that would be the suggestion that it’s not the appropriate time to make some petty point regarding the notion of fortune, that likely just boils down to a semantic argument anyway. It’s like an atheist interpreting someone saying ‘bless you’ when they sneeze as an open invitation to debate the existence of a higher power, which wouldn’t be clever or timely – it would just make them look like/sound like/be a douche.
2) Chances are, the person in question wasn’t actually, strictly speaking, wishing me luck. It’s just a pleasantry. Like if you say ‘have a nice day’ or ‘take it easy’ or ‘keep on rocking in the free world’ when really you’ll not be giving a second thought as to the relative niceness, ease or abundance of rocking that person will endure across the course of the next 24-hours.
All of that said and duly acknowledged, I began to think about luck and its relationship with running. As I interpret it, a sincerely-felt offer of ‘good luck’ pre-race could mean only one of a handful of things:
1) I hope the weather stays fair
2) Don’t soil yourself
3) Don’t die
Which is something akin to a ‘sliding scale of worst-case scenarios’. I concluded that second one alone is enough to make the best of us keep the rabbit’s foot handy. Which led me to contemplating further: just how many lucky omens it might be possible to cram into one run to make it the luckiest jaunt of all time? Hence, I’ve plotted out the Most Fortunate Running 10k (which sounds a little like a poor translation into English):
Start line – I’m limbering up, and it’s early – I haven’t even had time to get my day moving with some Shredded Wheat or a kipper or a line of cocaine or whatever. But then I sneeze three times! Before breakfast! Horray! Plus, I note there are bats nesting in the announcer’s booth. Good luck, in China. Are we in China? We could be.
1st kilometre – The race begins by the sea. Behold! Dolphins swimming near a ship! Do I have to be on the ship in order to reap the positives? Who knows.
2nd kilometre – As spectators begin to line the route, someone hurls money at me. In a good way. It’s not sharpened 50-pence pieces like it would be at a 1980s football hooligan riot. So popular culture leads me to believe.
3rd kilometre –At the 3k mark, a bird craps on my head. See, I take issue with some of these. There’s a stark difference between an ‘oof, what are the chances of that, Beryl’ and a ‘legitimate stroke of fortune’. I’ve been shat on by a seagull before. More than once. And I still haven’t won the lottery.
4th kilometre – At the 4k mark I’m running by some bushes. I note your initials in a spider’s web. Both me and British Telecom rejoice. Then, I pause to strip a pea-plant of a few of its pods, for sustenance. Behold 9 peas in a pod! Super lucky! Apparently!
5th kilometre – Suddenly I note that I’ve put my clothes on the wrong way round. Rather than fearing I look quite the tit, I rest easy in the knowledge that ‘favourable news’ is soon to come my way.
6th kilometre – Oof, cow on the course! Rather than the beginnings of a race-decimating stampede, it’s a sign of prosperity and fertility. Instantly, I’ve never felt more fertile. Plus it’s chewing a 4-leaf clover. Who’d have thought it?!
7th kilometre – With the cow a distant memory, along trots a dog. Wait! Two dogs! One comes near me with an old piece of shoe in its mouth. The other chews on a raw bone. The luck!
8th kilometre – With the end in sight, I feel a tingling in the fingers of my left hand. ‘It’s finally happening! That stroke/heart attack I’ve been predicting all these years!’ I think. But fear not, it means I’m due yet more money! Still, I’ll maybe swing round the doctors’ at some point this week…
9th kilometre – Almost home – there’s a shooting star. Did I mention it was at night now? How can I possibly have been running all day? Pfft, well it’s…erm…a solar eclipse. Is that lucky? Let’s say it is. I pull a pinhole camera out of the base-layer (not a euphemism).
10th kilometre –The sun comes out on the home straight, but its mizzling on a bit and hence: RAINBOW! Not with Zippy and Bungle you understand, the meteorological thing with the Leprechaun. Good luck abounds!
Finish line – At the finish line I’m greeted by a snake. Good news, unless your Indiana Jones or a small rodent. It means ‘someone important is coming into my life’. Hopefully not some sort of anti-venom specialist. And finally, I can hang a finishing flag as a sign of victory and good fortune. Which flag? Any flag: Pirate. Chequered. Nazi. Maybe not that last one…
So there you go. Lucky things to look out for when you’re out and about. I should really follow this up next week with the ‘Bad Fortune Running 10k’…