Wednesday, 2 May 2012

My Ten Worst Running Mistakes

Not my finest hour as a runner!
RUNNING is supposed to be a good way to stave off the effects of middle and old age. However, something's not quite working properly, for I had a serious 'senior moment' at a recent race.

Eager to set off and complete the Felsted Flyer trail race, I somehow managed to leave my car with its doors wide open, a situation not rectified until the race ended about 60 minutes later! The car contained all manner of valuable items, but fortunately the genteel Essex village of Felsted is not a crime hot-spot, and nothing went missing. Perhaps any passing potential thieves steered well clear, thinking the open doors must be some sort of cunning police trap?

Compared to some runners I know, I'm normally fairly organised when it comes to preparations for racing and training, but clearly my increasing state of 'Clapped Out-edness' is taking its toll.  This incident got me thinking about other running cock-ups that have occurred down the years. Rather sadly, I was quickly able to come up with a Top Ten.  And here they are (in no particular order):

(1)   After a staging of the Fenland Relays at a school in Cambridgeshire, I headed through some double doors which I thought would lead to all the changing rooms and showers. In fact, it was the entrance to just the women's showers, nowhere else. Just a couple of feet inside the door, facing me and frozen with shock, were two female runners, wearing not a stitch. To compound the error, these were not two strangers, but two clubmates that I knew well. And now I knew them very well. Better than ever before, in fact!  To prove it was a genuine error, I immediately averted my eyes (well fairly quickly, anyway) and beat a hasty retreat.

(2) At the Sudbury Fun Run a few years ago, some workmates noticed there was a prize for fancy dress runners and a handful of us agreed to run together in silly costumes. Wearing a strange black-and-white  body-stocking affair, I completed the run as a very spooky-looking skeleton. Not only did it prove hot and uncomfortable, many of the small children watching the race became genuinely scared as I approached. For an hour or so, I was Sudbury's Public Enemy No.1.

(3) During an organised running week at a sports resort in Lanzarote, we were being supervised by none other than Eamonn Martin, Basildon superstar, London Marathon winner and former 10,000 metres UK record holder. On the very first day he set off across some rugged terrain for what he called a "steady" run. It proved to be very hot and very fast. I had no choice but to keep pace in order not to get lost. I thus collected the largest blister in the history of running - on Day One of a seven-day running holiday!

(4) While living and working in sunny Portugal many years ago, I casually set out one day to run to the next town down the coast, but without checking the map properly. I took a diversion and ended up doing far more miles than was good for me. I was a dehydrated wreck on arrival in Portimao and needed fluid pronto. Despite having no money on me, I flopped down at a harbourside cafe, ordered a large cold beer and an orange juice and noisily necked them. I then waited for the waiter to look the other way and legged it before he could react. Only later did I reflect that my own newspaper could so easily have been running a story the following week on the lines of "British editor jailed for drinks theft."

(5) During a trip to Brazil, I was pleased to locate a road run taking place in the Bahian city of Salvador. I assumed it would finish in the same place as it started - i.e. fairly close to my hotel. Wrong. It was a point-to-point race, and ended 10k outside the city, in the middle of nowhere. After the hottest 10k I've ever done, I sucked on some exotic fruit at the finish line and then headed all the way back again (through some dangerous-looking shanty towns, I might add!).

(6) Having been a Sunday morning footballer for a  few years, I thought running would prove to be a 'non-contact sport' in comparison. Wrong again. During a 10k in Peterborough an aggressive little fellow (as old as the hills and twice as craggy) started a bizarre jostling match with me  involving much use of the elbow. We  'entertained' the city-centre crowds for several hundred yards. Well it was him wot started it!

(7) Having written a book about old-time champion Alf Shrubb, I was invited to be a guest runner in the Shrubb 8k road race in the Ontario countryside during a visit to Canada a few years ago. Nobody told me they'd changed the race venue since my first visit a couple of years earlier. Despite breaking all speed limits in a  hired car, I only located the race after the large field had departed down the road. Had he been alive, Shrubb would not have been impressed.

(8) On honeymoon in California, wife Katie and I visited Los Angeles and - true to form - I soon found a race I could enter!  It was a 5k based at the city's Olympic stadium, being staged in memory of the singer Minnie Ripperton. Non-runner Katie rather rashly agreed to make a very rare appearance herself and set off well behind me. On finishing I made the huge mistake of not positioning myself at the finish-line to witness and applaud her brave efforts. She came home without any familiar faces to greet her. It may have been our honeymoon, but I was not spared a major ear-bashing.

(9) With the help of the office staff at Luton Town FC one year, I agreed to run the London Marathon dressed as the Luton club mascot 'Kenilworth the Cat'. On collecting my costume from the ground I found it was heavier, smellier and more claustrophobic that I had ever thought possible. After a surreal and very short test-run down a country lane near my house, I quietly returned the costume to LTFC with tail between legs (literally).

(10) During last summer's Trail Relay near Stebbing, I got completely lost and made the mistake of entering a secluded farmyard to try and get directions. Instead of a farmer, I was confronted by a lorry being loaded with boxes by a group of blokes who looked distinctly unlike Essex farming people.  Something not entirely legal appeared to be underway, and I was not a welcome visitor. Luckily no sawn-off shotguns were produced as I jogged swiftly back from whence I came. I remained hopelessly lost, but at least still alive.

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