I’m sitting here in bed with a pile of soggy, discarded tissues to my left, and an empty paracetamol packet balancing perilously next to the remnants of a cup of tea and half a slice of sad old toast.
It’s day #3 of my battle with ‘Runner’s Flu’ (a worse version of the common cold, but not quite as bad as Man Flu) and I feel as far removed from ‘a runner’ as it is possible to be. I’ve done my best to stem my feelings of frustration, irritation and inconvenience at having the brakes put on my running (and on anything) by the bastard virus that is getting off on multiplying in my nasal cavities. But it doesn’t give a shit, and so is happily breeding away whilst I sit here, waiting for it to fuck off.
And it’s hard to feel bouncy and positive and motivated and all of those irritatingly mawkish sentiments us runners tend to generally be so able to muster. Commonly, I HAVE the motivation to train (see my previous post on ‘The Realities of Marathon Training’ for example); I WANT to challenge myself and push on with whatever the God-awful session of the day might be:
Speed? Short and painful;
Tempo? Usually chasing Dodd around some local bastard incline;
Distance? Usually Dodd chasing me around some LONGER local bastard incline.
But right now, I couldn’t give a fat one.
And it got me thinking. Whilst wallowing in my pathetic, self-pitiful, Dutch oven of a bedroom with nothing even vaguely KICK ASS about my attitude, it got me thinking about some of my worst race disasters. And – unbelievably – it’s making me feel (marginally) better. Why? And how? You miserable excuse for a human virus-breeding machine? I hear you ask. Well, because if I can drag myself through the other side of those Races from Hell, and experience running euphoria on the other side, then I can sit out this pitiful, skanky virus and build myself up to be a positively saccharine running machine once more.
So, in a real treat for you, the reader (notice the ‘singular’ reference) I have put together an overview from a small selection of my Top Ten Race Disasters. So, in no particular order:
- The Kilomathon, 2011 (‘The Pisser’)
I aptly refer to this one as ‘The Pisser’. It will become clear why. The race was 26.2km (16 odd miles) of meandering around some desperately dour industrial estates of Middle England. Endless, interwoven miles trudging around characterless factories, and what looked like 1980s corrugated metallic aircraft hangers. It was part of my build up for the London Marathon 2011, and my journey from the Delivery Room only six months earlier. I was still delicate, and I’d kicked my own arse since that time to prepare for my first ever marathon.
It was all wrong from the start. I wore running tights, and yet it was an unusually warm March day. The purposeless miles circling the ‘80s aircraft hangers seemed endless and lonely. Very rarely do I feel lonely on a run (let alone in a race!) but I did on this one.
Finally, on entering the final bastard lap of the track to the finish, I pissed in my tights. And I couldn’t care less. In fact, I almost felt defiant at my own rebellion as the warm urine trickled down my legs. ‘Fuck this’ I thought, as I limped over the finish line in my sodden lycra skins in an unholy time of 2:31. (Oh, and I’m quite sure Tilly then vomited over me. She was suffering with colic.)
- The Muddy Bottoms off-road 2012 (Garstang? Where the HELL is Garstang?)
‘Is this right? I’m sure this bloody Sat Nav is taking me the wrong way!’ I chuntered to myself as I drove deeper into the smallest, strangest village over on the wrong side of the Pennines. Garstang? Is this it? Really?
Arriving at the tiniest village hall in a seemingly real-life Royston Vasey was not what I’d imagined. Neither was the fact that we had to collect a MAP from the registration table, upstairs. What? I can’t even READ a map! I panicked, taking a poorly-printed A5 sheet from a rickety pasting table in an otherwise empty hall.
‘We advise that you run in pairs or small groups,’ a wily old man said as I stood motionless and panicked staring at the meaningless document.
‘But I’m on my own. I don’t know anybody here!’ I gulped, and made an about-turn suddenly on a mission to Find a Friend. Luckily, I did exactly that, and managed to keep with them over the fields (we got lost within the first mile) and down the sides of shit-filled farm tracks.
‘Is that the child’s playground referred to here at point ‘X’ on the map, just near Mile 6?’
‘Nope. That’s a slide in someone’s back garden. Keep running.’
Anyway, I survived.
- Chester 20 miler 2011 (Never underestimate the power of boredom)
The night before had been hellish. We’d stayed over in some nondescript Chester hotel, and battled for hours to put up the Krypton Factor Travel Cot. Even when we had, she squawked and protested to the point where my attempts at getting any sleep were rendered useless.
Tired – and accompanied by my (then) Running Widower partner, we headed off to yet another long training race in preparation for my first ever marathon.
It sounded pretty straightforward: 5 miles out; five miles back (x2) ‘That’s do-able’ I mused. ‘5+5+5+5 / out-back-out-back’ Simples.
I headed off along the dull cycle path for the first 5-miles ‘out’ of my long run. However, Krypton Factor Travel Cot-induced tiredness accompanied me. I felt shattered. What I hadn’t bargained for was the mental strength I’d need to finish this race. The boredom of and out/back route TWICE hadn’t even registered until I was out there, doing it. It was made infinitely worse being taken over by a Z-list Coronation Street star (he was the dozy one who used to work with Ashley in the butcher’s – I haven’t watched it since.)
We turned around at the five-mile point, and I knew I couldn’t come back.
And then, at the ten-mile turn around, there was a miraculous Get Out of Jail Free card:
‘Any runners who are just running the ten-mile race, go through this funnel. Those who are doing the full twenty, it’s around the cone and back out.’
‘Are you for the ten-miler?’ a vigilant marshall asked me, as I slipped through the funnel. I could see the door to the Sports Centre entrance. I knew there was a bacon sarnie and my baby girl on the other side.
‘Yes. Yes, I am.’ I replied.
*A few days later, once back home and just about over the mental trauma of the whole weekend, a letter arrived through the post. I’d won a fiver getting an age-related place… in the TEN MILE race. There IS a God…
There are many more such delightful racing highlights I could share with you, but for now, I’m dosed up on Lemsip to the point where my wee is yellow for an entirely different reason to the usual dehydration. That, and I’m half pissed from the whiskey shots I keep adding to said Lemsips.
So, for now – my miserable work here is done.