Pride and Punterdom

I’m in orange

Apparently, I am 97.3% mentally healthy.

There are other enriching insights from the last few weeks:  that my inner child is 50% dead; that I should live in Rotherham; that my aura is blue; that I act twenty-four years old and that my role in the family is ‘the perfect one’.

Furthermore, I am far above average when it comes to identifying obscure objects.  And my excellent recall of the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody (faltering only when I pulled ‘the’ trigger as opposed to ‘my’ trigger) makes me a Champion.

Yes, my self-obsession is outstripped only by the availability of the social media on these dark October nights.  I, like so many of my “friends”, have been clicking away to rank or pigeon-hole myself based on the answers to multiple choice questions.  With these startling results.

But let’s close Facebook. I have other data to consider:  the results from September’s Nine Edges Challenge.

My friend Naomi deserves respect: the sixth fastest woman in her first ever fell-race!  Gareth came 20th overall.  I was further down the list….

Hey!  Perhaps there’s a Facebook Quiz, What sort of a runner are you?

The questions would go something like this:

How many Gold medals have you won?

How many races have you won?

OK so how many races have you done an impressive time in?

You have run some races, right?

Ok, so how close to the back were you?

And: what colours do you run in?

Jessica Ennis would smile as it said:   Calculating……. You are an Awesome Runner!

And Gareth: Not too Shoddy

…and I would get:  Punter.  Wearing orange will not redeem you.  But the Most Important thing is Taking Part.’

The most important thing is taking part – was there ever a more patronising phrase?  But I believe it.  And hopefully the twenty-one people who ran the Nine Edges slower than me, felt the same way (their taking part was important to me: it stopped me from coming last).

Gareth should be thankful: had there been no-one slower than him, maybe he would have looked like a punter at exactly the same speed – and he wouldn’t have liked that.

Punters are the lycra that hold our sport together.  Sure, some dude has to be the best and some dudes make great personal sacrifices to make their performances as good as possible.

But for anyone with other commitments (Gareth and Naomi included) training time is limited.  And so, we have a choice:  to never do any running, or to take part and compromise.  Better to have run and lost, then never having run at all.

There are over two million runners in the UK who compromise to greater or lesser extents.  The Olympic coverage would have you beleive that sport is about competition – and it is – but it’s not all about competition. As I get my teeth stuck into my thirties, I am beginning to realise that even being a punter is quite an acheivement.

For example, I started writing this post last night and was just contemplating my punterdom when a text pinged through from my friend Lisa:

‘there is a race tomorrow.  The wirksworth undulator.  Approx 8.5 miles and 1250m ascent…’

‘I’ll stop drinking wine now….’ (it was my third large glass).

‘Wine is practically the same as carb loading, isn’t it?’

‘Brillo.  I’ll finish the bottle….’

I didn’t, but the wine wasn’t the half of it.  I was shattered.  It should have been a Saturday morning lie-in that I’d been looking forward to for at least three weeks.  What’s more, Wirksworth is across the other side of the Peak District.  I had to find my running kit, work out a route, reprogram my insulin pump, persuade the kids…… even dragging myself out of bed the next morning was hard work.

But it was worth it: the race was fabulous.  There were other people going as slowly as me; they were friendly; the race marshalls were super-friendly too: ‘Well done, keep going, it’s all downhill now…‘ (they lied about this several times) and ‘if I’m holding this gate open for you, you’re going to have to run faster than that…..

And of course, because I had been running super-long distances for my previous fell-run, I still had energy when other people were flagging at the end.  So I overtook one or two people!  It ended with a magnificent downhill to a cheering crowd, just on the heels of some old guy.

Some old guy?  Turns out he was actually Mick Fowler.  If you haven’t heard of Mick, you are not a climber.  President of the Alpine Club, outstanding Himalayan Climber of his generation.  Successful writer. And he was just a few seconds faster than me!

And now I am sitting at home with aching legs, completely at ease with my Punter Status.  If I never run faster than I ran today, who gives a damn?  My body and mind enjoyed the exercise.

Perhaps I will be 98% mentally healthy from now on.


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