The glass of the second bottle felt moist and cool in my hand. Inviting.
5.30 pm at an exhibition in Earl’s Court, London’s very own suburb of Melbourne. It wasn’t an Australian beer in my hand, this time, even if three of those had slipped down effortlessly the evening before.
One more had disappeared just a moment ago, subsumed in seconds and without a thought. As they always are, at the witching hour which closes any trade show.
It was hard to believe my eyes, really, but it was happening. The bottle, so helpfully handed to me just a moment before, was moving back towards the table. My papers were gathering themselves into my bag.
Time for a decision. I collected my coat, mumbled a few feeble farewells, and headed out into the dusk and the rain, raising my collar and shuffling forwards along the wet pavement towards the tube station.
Happiness – more or less
It’s just a change in me
Something in my liberty
Oh my mind
Happiness – coming and going
I watch you look at me
Watch my fever growing
I know just where I am
Well, how many corners do I have to turn ?
How many times do I have to learn ?
All the love I have is in my mind
The Verve – September 1997
The runner’s high. Goodness knows, I’ve sought it long and hard recently. I’ve waited long enough.
Some would argue that it’s exercise-induced narcosis which keeps us running in the first place. But I know that’s not true. Because whilst I appreciate the benefits of running, and a certain post-run clarity of thought is up there on my list, there really is much more to it. You can’t manufacture those moments – they just happen.
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ’d the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor.
Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
It’s unusual to find a poem on the side of a building, especially picked out in brick and 15 m high, but that is one of the unique attractions of the Guildford Travel Inn.
It may be one of the few, actually, since its location right beside the booming A3 dual carriageway is nowhere near as lyrical as the inspiration adorning it. But it cheered me to learn that its author Walter de la Mare was born in Maryon Road in Charlton, just a short sprint from mile 4 on the London Marathon course.
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.
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.
2004. A year all about rain. And one glass of grapefruit squash.
It’s a year since I wrote about the first long run of my 2004 London Marathon campaign. A wet and miserable winter run which uncovered some forgotten history on a wooded bluff above the River Wey. A line of tank traps forming the last line of defence for London against a Second World War invasion which never took place.
It was an unexpected and thought-provoking find, and I’ve learned a lot more during my running year of 1 000 miles since then. A year unlike any other I’ve run through.