Rivers of sweat poured down the channel in the small of my back, straight into my running shorts, which made them clammy and uncomfortable. As I ran past row after row of gleaming new Peugeot cars at the Talbot factory in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, all I could think of was the exciting smell you experience with a new car. It was thrilling to get into a shiny new vehicle when I was a child, dreaming of being old enough to one day drive and access a new freedom.
Sadly the Talbot factory no longer exists!
At the time however, looking at all those expensive new cars took my mind off the drudgery of running and helped me think happy thoughts of one day driving everywhere, and no longer running!
I knew the exercise was, generally, good for me. At 13 years old, I had already figured out I felt better when I ran. Back then we didn’t have the internet as a resource, but if we did, I probably would have found an article saying something about the benefits running, or, of wearing a plastic garbage bin liner under my t-shirt. I am not sure where I found that article then or even if it was true, but somewhere I heard a rumour which sounded cool and so I stole a bin liner from my house and carefully cut out a hole for my head and one for each of my arms. As my Mum and Dad looked on quizzically, I probably made up some story about the benefits of wearing such a device during periods of exercise but in truth I knew nothing about the physiological benefits to wearing plastic bags when you run, it just seemed like a good idea.
I don’t want to mislead you, I was athletic, but my sport was Fencing and running was just a way to stay somewhat fit and be a somewhat good Fencer! So I didn’t take running too seriously. Only seriously enough to choose to wear garbage bags over my head, which apparently was ahead of my time, since the trend in the 70’s with Punk Rock was to, in fact, wear green garbage bags, but they would wear them on the outside and generally didn’t run with them.
I never took anything too seriously. In fact, in my humble opinion, children under the age of 35 are forced to take many things far too seriously and make decisions well beyond their years. I chose to deal with each day at a time, much like today.
So it was, when, one evening in a pub somewhere, a friend cornered me and said “You look fit” and added, “How would you like to do a half marathon tomorrow?”. “Great, I said, count me in” as I ordered another beer. With the beer in my hand I quizzed him about exactly what a half marathon was. I was 17 at the time and after he explained it was a 13 mile run, I wondered how bad it could be? The next day, I packed my car, a 1957 Morris Minor with my dog, Polly, my girlfriend Jackie and a pair of shorts that were later used by Simon Pegg in Run Fat Boy Run and registered myself in the Warwick half marathon.
At the end of my first half marathon… never to be repeated for about 30 years!
It turns out many of my former school mates and other friends already knew what a half marathon was and had chosen to do the same thing, and probably, like me, had decided the previous night in a pub somewhere in Leamington Spa. We all had a habit of doing thinfs spontaneously and wanted to have fun. I remember that day being not much fun until it was over… my time was a pretty slow 2 hrs 12 minutes, but I was proud, I had not trained. The night before I didn’t even know what a half marathon was and yet here I was, running 13 miles.
My recent adventure in Guatemala unfolded in almost the same manner, except now I take things a little more seriously and I don’t spend quite so much time in pubs. Last week, as I ran the Cabrakan 100km Ultramarathon, I couldn’t help but wonder why my disturbed mind had, at some point in it’s existence decided running could be fun. Then I found the answer. Run as an advocate, on behalf of someone else. So, I did exactly that on November 17th 2012 with a team of 8 other people running also.
A little over a year ago, I met Matt Blacklock for the first time. I had known of Matt for some time. He was the Base Director for FeViva at their Guatemalan operations. Jackie, my wife had previously visited the childrens home and our charity supports them. Matt is an advocate for our charity, Rally4Life, because he runs so many ultramarathons. I am not sure quite how the conversation went but in listening to his stories of running I do recall my mouth saying at some point “I would be interested in running an ultramarathon” as my brain screamed “NOOOOOO, DON’T DO IT”.
Matt looked me straight in the eye and said “You should do the Cabrakan 100km in Guatemala, it is a pretty straightforward race”.