So, the challenge was to write an account of the funniest / most embarrassing / worst race experience I have had, in a competition to win a place on a Write This Run Running Retreat. Since I read about it, I have been considering all the funny, odd and strange things that have happened what I’ve been out running.
I considered the time I was attacked by a psycho pheasant mid-run. I also pondered on the day I was feeling ill, decided to bail out rather than run the 4 miles back home, and caught a taxi back instead. It was a good plan, except I had to listen to the taxi driver regale me with stories such as “You know that chap that invented jogging? He died of a heart attack one day. It’s not good for you!” Then there was the time I saw a runner ahead of me elegantly slip through a stile rather than clamber over it like I usually do. I decided to do the same, except I was less ‘elegant slipping’ and more inelegant slipping head first right onto my face, following by wriggling to extricate myself.
This afternoon I decided, in order to help me decide, that I should go back and read the flippin’ question (just like all the best exam advice). Good job I did, as I noticed this time the story had to be about a race experience. Facepalm! (as my children would say).
I immediately though of something that had happened in this year’s Brighton Marathon. At about mile 15 I had a real wobble. I’d run such a long way, but there was still so far to go. My family hadn’t turned up yet, so I was feeling a little abandoned and really tired. I walked whilst I drank some water, ate some Shotbloks and gave myself a good talking to. After about 5 minutes of feeling sorry for myself I pulled myself together and started running again. As I ran, I wondered idly if I needed to find a toilet, just in case. Each set of portaloos I’d passed since the start of the race had had a queue outside, and I knew from last year how easy it was to lose 15 minutes queuing. I pressed on, but having thought about maybe needing a wee I was now becoming obsessed.
For a couple of months before, I had been reading a series of books on my Kindle about a little old lady who turned out to be a brilliant detective. She realises that being invisible (as old people often are in this society) can be extremely advantageous, and that a grey haired ‘senior’ can get away with asking questions that a would arouse suspicion with a younger person. The lady in question was also a very committed Christian, with a slightly annoying habit of asking God what to do about any tricky situation she found herself in, with words like “Lord, if I should follow this man to see what he’s up to, then help me find a way to get through this barbed wire electrified fence”.
At this point I was hot, tired and unsure if I was desperate or not. I was ready to try anything, and this book popped into my head. Feeling slightly silly, I said “Lord, if I should go to the toilet, show me one with a very small queue”. Blasphemous? Maybe, but I hoped it was more ‘ask and you shall receive’. I looked around, but couldn’t see any portaloos. Slightly disappointed I looked down the road ahead to the corner, and looked, and looked again, and gaped open mouthed.
As the sun was already shining I can’t claim the clouds parted and a shaft of sunlight beamed down like a giant celestial spotlight, but in the film of my life that’s what will happen. Right on the corner was a church. Outside the church was a sign. A sign! A sign saying “Tea and coffee inside. Toilets” At the corner instead of turning left I dashed inside the cool church, panting “toilets?” to the ladies with the tea urn. They pointed the way, and I found myself in a clean toilet, with toilet paper and water to wash my hands. A little flushing oasis in the madness that is a marathon.
‘Ask and you shall receive” indeed! I felt so much better after this, and pressed on to finish in 5:25. Still slow, but a new PB of over 40 minutes for me. Thanks, Big Guy!