The Story of an Unlikely Runner: 4 days post VLM 2015…Moving again, and meeting Mr Bannister

[Extract from my diary 30th April 2015… 4 days after London Marathon]

30th April 2015: Four days post-marathon

Moving again, and meeting Mr Bannister

So it’s now Thursday – 4 days post-London marathon 2015. I took Monday and Tuesday as rest days. These were predominantly taken up with travelling back up North and working, which helped to enforce rest as I was too busy to even think about running or punishing my oh-so weary legs. Knowing my head, it would have still tried to run, given half the chance. Circumstances prevailed.

However, yesterday I’d been stuck in my dingy cupboard of an office for most of the day, and I felt myself going slowly insane. Lack of natural light, too many badly made coffees, staring at endless emails on my computer screen. It got to 2.30pm and I’d had enough. Desperate to get outside and move, I decided to head off home early and run up to Tilly’s pre-school so I could at least stretch my legs and get some fresh air. We could then have a nice walk back down the hill together. I decided on a route with a few steady miles along the canal, then forking off and meandering up through some woods – quite a decent climb on fresh legs, never mind dead ones. I enjoyed the fresh air, although my legs felt somewhat removed from the rest of my body. It was a brave (or stupid?) call for me to attempt the climb, but alas, I had to stop a few times when the leg screams were just more than I could bear. Still, I was grateful to have been able to run at all, whilst juggling it around work and Tilly.

That was yesterday.

Today I’d planned on running home from dropping Tills at school, after a scheduled “parents review” meeting. Sitting at the tiny pre-school table in my running shorts complete with long compression socks and Garmin in full view – poised for action, alongside Tilly’s dad who was fully suited in his tweed jacket and expensive work shoes. Juxtaposition at its best – we must have looked an unlikely coupling (no surprises we didn’t work out then.) Happily, we were told that she was doing well – to be expected given my own geekish tendencies. Not being one to put herself in the limelight, I asked how this aspect of her development was coming on, to which her pre-school supervisor replied “Well actually, she did announce to the whole class that her Mummy was going to be on the television last week – that she was running the London marathon.” I smiled to myself – one day my girl will really understand what that means, my long journey to get there, and the incredible sense of achievement it brings.

I set off running. My plan was to take it very steady – legs still wobbly and grumbling at the mere mention of trainers. The route I had in mind was around 7-8 miles. First half mainly meandering downhill, then flattening out to meet the canal and wind my way back along the wretchedly familiar marathon training route. I felt entirely grateful to be free and able to run on my own terms – not stuck in a life-sapping commuter traffic jam, or slowly letting my soul crumble at a sterile office desk somewhere. If I let myself, my head would spin with the injustice of it all. I would have no answers on how it were possible for me to be running free without a care in the world (I know it’s all relative), whilst others don’t have such luxuries. Best not to even go there and open that can of whoop ass in my overly analytical mind: just be grateful and savour those moments.

Along the canal towpath I happened to cross the path of my old geography teacher – Mr Bannister. Incredibly strict back in the day, he was infamous for insisting that we each draw a 2.5 cm margin down the left hand side of each page of our workbooks. Said margin must not be 1.5cm or 3cm – perish the thought. Only 2.5cm, or face the consequences (OCD you say?)

I was far more interested in stories and history than I was in rock formations and his stern approach to arable farming. He was into his sports, often doubling-up as PE teacher in addition to his geographical and margin-width prowess. Further, he seemed only concerned with those who showed particular talent in the sporting arena – no time to waste on the ‘also-rans’ (or worse) such as myself: those of us who had been written off and thrown on the scrapheap when it came to sport. I had no idea at the time, but I subsequently discovered he was a keen runner himself, having achieved a time of 2:37 at marathon distance (very impressive, but understandable given his personality type and high “OCD” tendencies.)

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As unfit and miserable as I’d ever wish to be…

“Hi Mr Bannister!” He looked slightly taken aback at my greeting him, and we stopped for a brief chat.

“Hello there. I remember that face. How are you?”

“I’m good, thanks. Just out stretching my legs – I ran the London marathon on Sunday”

“Oh – Oh right. How did you get on?”…”3:17! Oh that’s pretty good!” he said with a blatant look of shock on his face. “Did I see you in the Courier the other week too?”

“Erm, yeah possibly. No idea what race it would have been, but the chances are it was me”. He will have caught sight of a local post-race write-up sent in by the running club. We exchanged some banter around races, pacing and times, speeds, distances and goals. He seemed genuinely taken-aback.

“You’ve lost some weight – trimmed down quite a bit haven’t you?” he said.

I replied that if I’d known back then – when I was in my pitiful teens – how much joy, happiness, and confidence it was possible for me to gain by becoming fit and discovering running, I would have done something far sooner.

For me, his acknowledgement of my running achievements was testament to my journey since those days, when – to the likes of Mr Bannister – I was invisible.

I’m not invisible anymore.

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Joy! Just that, really.

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