When I started training for my half marathon 2 months ago, my friend Sam suggested a simple programme to follow. You do two runs during the week and one at the weekend, when you double the distance of the weekday run. So, for example, on Tuesday and Thursday you do 2 miles, then 4 miles on Sunday. Then the following Tuesday you crank this up to 2.5, then 5 at the weekend, and so on, until you’re so fit you set out on a quick loop of Clapham and end up in Scotland without noticing.
It might not surprise you that I haven’t really followed this programme to the letter. And by to the letter I mean I haven’t followed it at all. These training things always look easy in theory, but post-work drinks, an extra hour in bed, early evening E4 and feeling like you generally cannot be bothered are inevitably so much easier. So instead my programme has encompassed going out on a run when I feel guilty enough in any direction from my house for as far as I can without being sick.
I try to remember where I’m going, then come back and go on mapmyrun.com, a clever website which tells you how many miles you’ve run using google maps. I hover in front of the screen, red-faced and panting, while my computer works out how well I’ve done, like a contestant of Fun House watching Pat Sharp count the tokens. And somehow, no matter how hard I try, and how long I seem to have been running (I don’t wear a watch) I’ve never topped the 5 mile mark. So on Monday, with just over a week till the day itself, I did the fitness equivalent of cramming for an exam and set out on a 10-miler, taking Ed with me so I’d have someone to swear at on the big hills.
We were down at my parent’s house in the countryside after a boozy Sunday (apparently giving up drinking hasn’t really happened either) and mapped out a rectangle-shaped route that spanned between 3 villages I have only previously travelled to in a Ford Fiesta to go to the pub. The road up to Tillington makes a very pleasant drive. Attempting to run it is an exercise in slow physical torture, where your body has an impromptu lactic acid festival as you struggle up the 2:1 gradient feeling like Rick Waller has sat on your chest. You get a psychological hammering too, as you emerge on what you believe must must must be the brow of the hill, puce-faced and heart beating like a hamster, only for another slope to loom treacherously into view, laughing at your effort.
In London there are always welcome interruptions to a run; traffic lights, for example, are a lovely excuse to stop and catch one’s breath / have a quick cigarette. Worst is when you approach the crossing looking forward to a little rest only for the green man to appear, or when a driver thinks they’re being helpful by slowing and cheerfully waving you over the road. Bastards. On Monday it was far worse: we were in the countryside with not a whisper of traffic, the Everest of Sussex to negociate, a few spectator sheep and Ed shouting ‘come on fatty, kill the hill!’ in my ear while occasionally prodding me in the stomach. In retaliation, I grabbed the back of his T-shirt on the final slope and made him drag me up it. I’m hoping I can do this to Mark on the day without him noticing – he is my super fit army friend who announced last weekend that he’s signed up to do it too:
‘oh… that’s. That’s nice…’ I said, not thinking it was nice at all, ‘are you going to run it with me?’
‘No. I have to finish in time for work on Monday’
‘Oh, ha ha ha’
I’m now envisaging the embarrassing gap between our finishing times, in which the assembled spectators will congratulate Mark, go off for lunch, take a long walk on the beach, have tea, read a Tolstoy novel, write a play based on it, cook and eat an 8 course supper, then nip back to see me finish.
My plan was to insert a Just Giving link here, so all this carry-on can come to some charitable use. But I cannot – to quote my Dad when last using the internet – ‘work out how to use the bloody thing’ so I’ll do it at the weekend. Watch this space.
In the meantime, here’s a picture of Pat Sharp: