It takes half a million steps to train for a marathon. Around 500 miles, more or less.
And if I haven’t managed quite that distance this time, in those 18 weeks, it’s because for quite a few of those, I didn’t know that I was training for a marathon. Even now, I’m not certain that I was.
It was a slow and injury-bound winter which forced me to jump on my bike last Spring. Hills, more hills and harder hills fell behind my forks in place of long runs beneath my feet. Frustrating in a way, and yet somehow refreshing, too.
I’ve never played at St Andrews. That’s a poor admission to make, for any keen golfer. Playing at the Home of Golf is a sporting ambition which I must one day address, since although I’ve played some of the best seaside courses in England, Wales, and the west of Scotland, so far only Stonehaven has witnessed my hacking on her eastern coast.
It’s always a marvellous battle with the elements on a links course. The wind, the dunes and the sea make such fine companions, that the experience can become almost sacred.
‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.’
Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott), 1982
A long, perfect beach in southwestern Spain, August 2005. Five miles through another blue morning under flawless skies in Zahara de los Atunes. It’s an elemental sort of place – the summer ocean is murmuring in the distance through the breeze to my left, the waves sparkling on the bay beyond the sand dunes front of me.
Your sun so bright it leaves no shadows
Only scars carved into stone
On the face of Earth
U2 – March 1987
If I think hard enough, I can probably remember each and every one. Not just my marathons, each of which are easy enough to recall, but the long runs which go before, which form the basis of any training campaign. Those twenty-milers which lie at the far end of all those long weeks of running.
It must have been just after 1 am on Sunday when Jude Law called. Of all the people to phone at that time, he seemed the very least likely, but it wasn’t really me that he wanted to speak to.
He was having some trouble with his childcare arrangements (allegedly) and although I might well have offered a view, it was our houseguest he wanted to reach for advice.
And it only took a glance at the next morning’s papers to conclude that, for all of my experience in sorting out problems with nannies, even I couldn’t have helped Jude much on this occasion.
We talk and we talk
Until my head explodes
I turn on the news
And my body froze
I’m going underground, going underground
So let the boys all sing
And the boys all shout for tomorrow
The Jam – March 1980
Many thanks for your note earlier, as well as for your concern. It’s been a terrible day.
Fortunately, I wasn’t up in town this morning. Although I have been unaffected directly by today’s events, that is not to say that I have been unmoved. It has been quite simply the most remarkable and poignant week in London that I can ever remember.