Monday, 29 November 2010

Slight Return

Well, not slight I hope, but as a son of Britpop I couldn't resist a bit of a Bluetones quote. Hello! Anyone still here?

I didn't mean for the post about Jerome to be the last for nearly three months- it's just that it was very tricky to think what to say next. I wasn't maintaining a respectful silence or anything pi like that, but at the same time I didn't want to follow my tribute to my pal by posting, oh I don't know, something about getting annoyed by a Haribo ad the following week. That's not to say that Haribo ads aren't intensely annoying; they are.

Anyway, I've also been hella busy. People in North West London are now no doubt beginning to get used to the sight of the red faced panting man in the too-small vest pounding the streets of Cricklewood and West Hampstead. When Jer was ill, my pal Julia and I decided that- whatever happened to him- we'd raise some money for cancer research by running the London Marathon. It was one of those grand gestures that's easy to make but which sends your stomach doing flipflops when it comes to fruition. I think part of me didn't believe we'd get a place- that honour would be satisfied by having made the offer.

But. A place was forthcoming, and now I have to run a fucking marathon. I don't know if anyone's told you, but it's TWENTY SIX AND A BIT MILES. All the way from Greenwich to Buck House, and not even the direct way. Just so IMPRACTICAL. Apparently short cuts are frowned upon though, so I've had to start training.

My initial, still-a-bit-in-denial plan was to start training in the New Year and live high on the hog until Christmas. However, the quizzical reactions of some friends (where 'quizzical reactions' means 'saying don't be so bloody stupid' and 'some friends' means 'literally everyone') convinced me that I'd better start taking it all a bit more seriously. Yes, Jade Goody managed 21 miles on no training and having had a curry the night before; however, this is not useful knowledge and can people please stop telling me it.

So, the Virgin Marathon Official Beginner's Plan it was. My first reaction on reading it was 'Oh, the first run is only ten minutes, that should be fine'. My second was OH MY GOD THEY EXPECT ME TO RUN SIX DAYS A WEEK FOR TWENTY FOUR WEEKS ARE THEY MAD?

I'm five weeks in now and although I haven't managed all thirty training runs (I make it *counts on fingers* twenty-five)it's getting marginally easier. What made it much, much easier was running in proper running shoes. For the first four weeks of training I was banging around in an old pair of Evisu plimsolls- pretty, but not really up to the job where things like one's ankles and shins are concerned. When I finally shelled out proper money for some proper shoes (after the exquisitely embarrassing torture that is 'gait analysis') the difference was extraordinary- like lying on a featherbed after having previously slept on something made of sandpaper and vinegar. Distressing thigh/underpant interface, leading to inner thighs the colour of pepto-bismol and a proper John Wayne swagger, was dealt with by the purchase of some lycra running tights. These have the added bonus of making me feel a bit like a pervert every time I put them on.

And I'm getting to know the 'hood I've lived in for ten years. I had literally no idea that just past the gym and off the main road was a magic little pathway through a gorgeous cemetery (I like cemeteries) which suddenly, magically opens out onto Fortune Green. Sadly, I have to do a lot of my running after work, which means after dark. The pretty pathway becomes a little more sinister at night, when I become acutely aware that I'm running through an unlit cemetery wearing a brand new ipod. For any muggers, murderers or rapists who may be reading, I'd just like to point out that I'm over six foot and gradually getting fitter, so there's only a 90 per cent chance that you'd get away scot free with your mugging or whatever.

All courting of danger aside, I couldn't yet say I'm enjoying the training. But I'm doing it. I even did it when I was away working in Spain sans running kit- there I was, running on the spot in my jamas in a Spanish hotel room. It was actually one of my more enjoyable 'runs'- I was able to read a modern novel and listen to Das Lied Von Der Erde. I'd like you all to picture that, if you will. And, of course, it's nice that there's, ever so slowly. less of me than usual. Apparently it's the 'core weight' that is last to go, so I'm slimming down nicely (I have HIPS! and RIBS!) everywhere on my body bar my stomach, which is now hanging off my newly lithe frame like an obscene water balloon. I'm told even that will eventually diminish (and that the fat will turn to muscle quicker if I eat protein within 20 mins of running; I'm getting through a lot of boiled eggs) so there are plenty of consolations.

At the moment, though, it's pure solipsism. I'm doing it because of my dad, and because of Jer; but when I'm slogging through a cemetery in freezing rain, hoping I'm not about to be mugged, with my every muscle screaming 'Why are you doing this to me? I am for wine and sofas!' it's not, embarrassing to say, the thought of my lost loved ones that keeps me going. It's the thought of that day in April, specifically mid-afternoon onwards, when I will be taking as many tube journeys as I can so that everyone sees me wrapped in tinfoil sporting a medal. And it's the thought that for ever after I will be able to drop, ever so casually, into conversation the thrilling phrase 'when I ran the marathon...'

If, that is, I succeed in running the marathon. Watch this space.

Oh, and point any extra pennies in the direction of