We love to run. It's no great secret, everyone that knows us is aware of it, and it doesn't make us bad people. We met at a running club during a hungover, Sunday morning long run; wrestling over who would be first to the drinking water taps on the Thames tow-path and unknowingly setting the template for our future married life.
Now I don't go in for that "my sport is better than your sport" bollocks; just remember that's it's all sport, a hobby, and don't take it or yourself too seriously. But we were born to run. Hard to believe when the average high street looks like the result of a mass cloning of Chubby Checker and the Fat Boys, but it's true. No cave painting has ever depicted Neolithic man charging after his prey on a carbon 29er and no great feat of heroism or derring-do has been committed in lycra and SPDs. The day that cycling became widely accepted as 'the new golf' we should have known that the writing was on the wall.
We have met hundreds, possibly thousands of runners in our lives, and some of those have been some mind-blowingly fast, dedicated athletes. International runners, record holders...and I can count on on hand the number of them who were sponsored. One of our local running heroes did the London Marathon a couple of years ago, was going for a really fast time and had go down to 2.5% body fat in the process. I kid you not. We met him in Tesco licking Pepperami wrappers a few days before he ran his way into the top few in the race (then probably ran straight to McDonalds) and he was 'just' a club runner. No free trainers, no entry fees paid, just a willingness to put himself deep in the hurt locker and stay out of the fridge.
We all know that running training is really time efficient. But that applies to racing too. Last week I did a local 5 mile off-road race, held on a Saturday evening, 6 o'clock kick-off, shirts tucked in. I pedalled there as warm up, mullered myself for the duration, didn't bother waiting for prize giving and was home watching Eurovision by 7 o'clock. Perfick. Left my trainers in a puddle by the back door, and when I came back a week later I just laced them up and off I went. No need for hours of washing and lubing - I only had to do that to myself.
Once upon I time I was running an off-road marathon and the sole of my running shoe tore off. It was holding on by the power of prayer, my already less-than-graceful running style now resembled a man on fire as I slipped and slithered through the worst of Wales, but I managed to finish. Then at last week's Parkrun my shoelace came undone. That is the sum total of all the kit issues I can remember during running races (except for some chafing issues that you never want to hear about) and any time that I haven't done well in a race it was because I wasn't fast enough! Cuts down on the post-race analysis / excuse corner - you are either fast enough or you aren't.
We absolutely love the Night of the Knobbly Tread, run by West Drayton. Great race, in the dark and above all it's FANCY DRESS! What do most people dress up as, in the spirit of Halloween? Cross-country mountain bikers, mostly. It may not have helped my racing to wear an ice hockey mask during the race, and having an eye patch and an inflatable parrot the following year was definitely a hindrance until he burst, but I love a bit of dressing up, m'lady. We've done loads of fancy dress running races; we've raced horses and trains, we've carried beer barrels and climbed over obstacles in races. We've raced in France where the last runners are followed round by marshals in Monty Python-style dresses carrying brooms. None of these things make the events better, as such, but it makes for a varied racing year.