Whole minutes of heroic work.
55 of them. Or was it 53?
To be honest, I was concentrating so carefully on getting over the line without giving up and sauntering over to shake hands with the crowds, I forgot to look at the clock.
And this is how you can tell a winner. As I rounded the last corner and could see the pier, two kilometers in front of me, I realised that it should be just at this point that the instinct to Really Go For It should kick in. The winner would think this without thinking.
Whereas the average me, at this point, will think: “Oh, come on – we’ve essentially done it; let’s give up” and go on to instantly think about cups of tea and a nice sit down. I had to fight this instinct right the way up to the finish line. Crowds leaning over the barriers cheering us all on for the last 100 meters didn’t so much spur me on as galvanise the more motivational forces of pride and shame to stop me from pulling up with a sigh and wandering past the clock checking my nails to join the medal queue.
But, yes – on Sunday morning, I joined with a heartwarming Pier Approach-ful of other semi athletes and hobbled round with my gammy leg to complete 10K in 55 minutes. Or possibly 53. But without giving up. A personal best, from someone who hadn’t run more than twice round a sports hall without stopping for fluids in his life, a week before the Bournemouth Bay Run. Can’t complain.
Of course, as I carefully pointed out to Nick, co-founder of Team Daisy, I was clearly showing them some love of significant proportions by turning up and joining in.
Not merely by agreeing to run ten whole kilometers without pulling over for coffee at any point – only pretending to peel off and sprint oh-so-amusingly into Urban Beach as the masses thronged by the famously congenial seafront bar – but more significantly by agreeing to the team dress code. A tee shirt.
Wearing tee shirts with shorts takes me back to games lessons at school. This is not my best look. The fact that I will now be appearing in umpteen photographs looking, at least in my head, like I did in the famously incongruous photo of me sitting next to, I think, Daley Thompson in an inexplicable sponsored sporting something when I was 13 is an act of generosity indeed.
In this absurd captured visual moment, Daley looks muscularly bored and vaguely humiliated by having to sit anywhere in frame with a skinny sweat-slick-fringed sports-shy sweets scoffer who any legendary decathlete should rightly have despised. I’m pretty sure he could sense, with finely-nuanced instinct, the unmistakable presence of the haunted fear of balls and of catching and of winning.
How did an icon of physical prowess and country-representing determination find himself sitting next to the sort of despicable underachiever who would try to worm out of games at every opportunity, play talentlessly in the appalling school band just so he could use his ‘music’ badge to whiningly jump the queue for lunch, and who would go on to get Bs in Art and English Language O level and be too apathetic to be proud of the two feebly best grades of his life? I almost disrespect him for doing so, had he not had some contractural obligation with his sponsor.
Well, so I tend to feel like that guy on the occasions I’m forced into an ill-fitting tee shirt. And trying to compensate with charisma is an often ill-advised tactic, just making it all worse, somehow. Really, it’s best you weren’t there.
Still. Despite the inner demons and a dicky pull on the calf before I even crossed the start line, I’d say the chance to be a part of Team Daisy was a great honour. Nick and Emma attracted 20 runners to join in, from clouds of friends across the country who all swooped in to stand with them in their incomprehensibly hideous hour of need. And they’ve already raised over eight grand for their chosen charity so far.
Sitting in their sumptuous garden that afternoon, marquees groaning with friends and food and music and love, I felt a bit inadequate next to their decathletic-like heroic efforts. How anyone loses their first child in labour and turns it into an athletics team and a garden party and photos in the Echo and nearly ten grand’s worth of giving is just humbling. And, in a way, empowering. If you have a will, life can always find a way.
So, as I start a new working week and attempt to scale the mountain again, I shall do so with a little more determination. And a few days of slightly fewer carbs.
And I will remember little Daisy. Lovey, though you didn’t even get an hour to make your mark, you’ve still made a difference to lots of people. And lots of people will remember your name. I’m proud to have worn it on a tee shirt.
Good work, poppet.
( PS: Since discovered my chip time was 54:32. Climbed a mighty 18 places from the start to the finish, coming in 571st out of over 1300. ..And go on. Click to pics 1 and 2 on this page of thumbnails for the proof that we were actually there. I should have followed Nick’s brother’s lead by turning up in a comedy wig and moustache, appearing in the middle of all the team shots and not actually running the race. Seems obvious now. )