Could all hardcore runners please sit down and take a deep breath as I have an important statement to make and i’m sure you’ve just got in from a 80 mile run before dinner. I have decided to officially sack off participating in organised running, forever. It’s over. Finito. I will never pin a race number to my chest again.
I will no longer feel that surge of nerves moments before kick-off or bathe in the glory of crossing the finish line. Gone are those fleeting exchanges of camaraderie with fellow runners when tanks are low and never again will I feel that smug post-race ache which allows you to stuff your face with cake for days after. I wave a final goodbye to the spectator cheers, the free sweets, massages, goody bags and racing chips… And you know what? Thank God for that. It’s about frigging time. At last, my jangling bundle of medals that would put Jimmy Savile to shame have been squirrelled away into the back of my knicker draw and will gather dust quicker than you can say ‘bloody nipples, hit-the-wall, or Haile Gebrselassie’.
Before you start bombarding me with hate mail I would like to add that over the last six years, I have completed 4 marathons, 9 half marathons and more 10ks than you could shake an energy bar at. So I can, and I will, bow out guilt-free, whilst offering you, dear runner, an honest insight into the reasons why. After all these years of racing I have to finally admit there is an overwhelming aspect about en mass running that, to be frank, gets right on my tits.
1) Crowds. I started running to think, to take time out alone – away from emails, phone calls, people in general. I can’t bear being shoved around amidst a pack of thousands all stamped with numbers like cattle on their way to slaughter. 2) The pre-race warm-up. This is the part where I have to suppress apoplectic laughter. What the hell are people doing? Side-way skipping, knee-ups, leap frogging (whatever). Just a jog around the block and a few stretches will do it. It’s embarrassing, stop it. 3) Money. I have better things to do with my spare cash. A 10k for £20? That’s a nice bottle of wine and an M&S microwavable delight, thanks very much. 4) Sleep. Most organised runs start way too early and on a weekend. I need my lie-ins when the working clock is off. Coffee and a bacon sarnie in bed is way more inviting. 5) The mile/klm markers. Could the experience be made any more painful and lengthy by laying it out step by step? By the 3 mile sign I’m already wondering what the hell I was thinking.
This recent decision has nothing to do with the fact that I have recently turned 40 and is in no way indicative of any failing fitness and loss of passion for the sport itself, as I still run several times a week and I love it. Taking part in and completing long-distance races has changed my life, for the better. The majority of my 30s were immersed in the challenge of the taking on the distance – not just in the UK but in Berlin, Copenhagen and Prague – and in doing so has transformed not only my physique (well, one does what one can), but my overall health and mental well-being – I feel and look better than I did a decade ago. I have also raised £10k for charity.
The thought of being back in that crowd once again, crammed in-between a smelly bloke in a Viking outfit and a woman with pink bunny ears and deely boppers fills me with utter dread. I’ve done my bit. And thankfully, due to the happier place running has delivered me to, I also have nothing else to prove.