Saturday, 25 August 2012

London Calling

Are you, like me, suffering from withdrawal symptoms, now that the London Olympics have drawn to a close? What a great fortnight. Even the closing ceremony, with all of its choreographed naffness, was quite an event. Why do these things always have to descend into interpretive dance? And to think, just two weeks earlier, we all thought that Britain had great musicians and poor athletes. How wrong we were. With Liam Gallagher, George Michael, Russell Brand, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell on the bill, it’s a good thing that the games’ last mandatory drugs test had taken place earlier in the day.


As I mentioned in my last blog, my next running engagement is the Philadelphia Marathon on 18 November with my friend, Mary. Here’s a picture of Mary in training over Christmas, fell running with two Olympians: the Brownlee brothers, winners of gold and bronze in the men’s triathlon. I understand Mary gave them some training advice and they haven’t looked back since.

Belgium House, London 2012
My own Olympic journey, which started with the torch relay on 20 June in Appleby, ended at the medieval Inns of Court, Inner Temple, watching the men’s marathon from the gardens overlooking Embankment. The Belgian Olympic team had taken over the Inner Temple and renamed it “Belgium House” for the duration of the Games. Having successfully played up our Belgian credentials, which don’t extend much beyond an interesting debate with three customs officers about 50 kilograms of washing powder and a replica hand gun (true story, one for another blog), we found ourselves eating waffles and sipping Belgian beer on the lawn. Meanwhile, the runners did all of the hard work before our very eyes.

Belgium has more marathon-running heritage than you might imagine. For example, Stefaan Engels from Ghent holds the Guinness world record for the highest number of consecutive marathons, having completed one a day for 365 days (see http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/10/us-belgium-marathonman-idUSTRE7192DL20110210). Kind of puts five marathons in eight months into perspective.


Men's Olympic Marathon, 12 August 2012
The day before the marathon, we’d been to see Brazil take on Mexico in the men’s Olympic football final at Wembley. Having carefully studied the form, we purchased some Brazil tops and joined the resident samba band. Unfortunately, Mexico hadn’t read the script and took a highly unexpected 2-0 lead. I expressed my discontent by querying how they’d even managed to field an Olympic team, given that any Mexican who can run, jump or swim is already across the border into the USA. The Mexican couple behind me tended to disagree.

Men's Olympic Football Final, 11 August 2012
Last week, I was invited to talk to the Rotary Club of Manchester about carrying the Olympic torch and the fivemarathons which led to my nomination. After the talk, the various Rotarians and their children and grandchildren made donations to Christies and Macmillan to have their photograph taken with the torch. My friends at Iceland Foods did the same thing on Wednesday, raising money for Alzheimer’s Research (www.alzheimersresearchuk.org). In Leeds, both Pinsent Masons and my own DWF have made similar efforts, raising money for Macmillan and the Leeds Children’s Charity respectively. The torch has already raised nearly £1,000 for good causes and, I’d have to say, it’s been a lot easier than running the marathons. The excitement generated by the torch has been great, especially since Team GB’s fantastic performance at London 2012.

With my friends at Iceland, 15 August 2012
I’ll leave you with a couple of, fortunately unrelated, incidents from the weekend before last. On the drive home to Shap, we overtook a lorry from a Manx butchers. When I read the name aloud, “Isle of Man Meat” (see www.isleofmanmeat.com), Jay looked absolutely horrified. After taking a few moments to compose herself, and doubtless choke back a few tears, she asked me why I’d just admitted, “I love man-meat”? I went for my long Sunday run and tried to let the aftermath of that ill-advised declaration die down. Just as I was reaching Haweswater, I stepped to the side of the road to let a farmer go past in his 4x4. The lazy beggar was walking his sheepdog by driving at 5mph with the window down, as the dog ran alongside. That would have all been fine, had the dog not decided to take a big bite out of my backside as it went past. I shouted to the farmer through his open window and he kindly sped off with the dog in hot pursuit. He didn’t bargain on me chasing him for over 6 miles. When he finally stopped, and to his amazement, I put my head through the (fortunately still open) window and made clear my discontent. He tried to maintain that the dog didn’t bite, so I helpfully offered to remove all doubt by showing him the teeth marks in my cheeks. By the time I finally retraced my steps and made it back to the house, Jay was starting to worry and asked what had taken so long. My explanation that I’d been offering to show my bottom to the local farming community only served to confirm her worst fears about the whole man-meat debacle.

NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004