Long distance running…

As many of you may know, the London Marathon takes place today.  Indeed it is on as I type.  Inevitably this takes me back to the day I ran this famous race back in 1982.  At the time, the 18,000 competitors was a world record for the number of runners.  Today there are 38,000 enjoying the streets and sites of London.  So ‘good luck’ to all of them.

But first, some background…  I started running when I was about 22 years old.  I played rugby for a team called Askeans in Kent and some of the guys (in an attempt to prove they were much fitter than the rest) used to go for a 2 mile run before the training started.   As most of them were quite big hulking forwards, and I was a lightweight back, I found I could beat them quite easily.

A few years later, in 1977, I moved to live in York, (England).  There I worked with a bunch of guys who ran for the ‘Rowntrees’ running club.  We were fortunate that there were changing rooms and showers on site, so we used to gather at lunchtime and go out for a run.   We had 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, and even 11 mile routes.  (The introduction of flextime allowed us to get out of the office at 12 noon and to ‘clock back in’ before 2pm, so 11 miles was just about do-able).  A typical week would see us run the “Boring 5” on a Monday, an 8 or 9 miler on a Wednesday and the Clifton Ings 6 on a Friday.

To say these lunchtime runs were competitive would be an understatement.  My mate Pete was always there at the front, elbowing you out of the way and cutting across your path, if you tried to take the lead.  The phrases “eyeballs out” and “a stonking run” were regularly used to describe these sessions afterwards.  Training at ‘marathon pace’ didn’t exist in my day !  We entered races of course.  Usually 10ks, but the Snake Lane 10 (miler) and the York half marathon were legendary events.

So it was that some of the guys entered the first London marathon in 1981.  Enthused by their tales afterwards, we all entered again in 1982.  In those days, you got in on a ‘first come, first served’, basis.  So the timing of your (n.b. postal) entry was critical.  Luckily we knew someone, who knew someone (of course ;-)), who worked in the Post Office and our entries were stamped with a time of 00:01 on the day entries opened.  Of course, we all got in. (I understand 90,000 people applied that year, so in theory we had a 1 in 5 chance !)

I don’t recall much of the race itself, other than I started on the red start (as a first timer) while my mates Pete, Liam and Tony started on the blue.  The two routes joined around the 3 mile mark and, incredibly, I spotted Tony and we ran the rest of the race side by side.  About half a mile from the finish, Tony pulled up with cramp.  I didn’t want to wait a) because I wanted to run the full 26.2 miles without stopping and b) in case I never got going again.  Seeing me carry on, Tony gave his leg a rub, picked himself up and ran after me !  So we finished together in a time of around 3 hours 16 minutes.  It would be another 12 years before I ran my next marathon.

If there is a moral (or even a reason) for this story (other than background for what might follow in a future post), is that running can not only keep you fit, but it can also give you lifelong friendships.  This time next week, I’ll be setting off with the very same Pete and Liam (and Colin) to do a 4 day walk around the English Lake District.  This is a regular ‘event’ that we’ve organised over the years, but more of that later…

I didn’t want to publish this post without a photo, (and I don’t have one of the London marathon I’m afraid), so here’s one of some cupcakes that Jude made earlier for a child’s birthday party.  Lucky children !  🙂

20 thoughts on “Long distance running…

    • Yes, it was ground-breaking at the time and we (old ‘uns) still refer to the “running boom” of the early 80’s! Good luck in the Manchester 10k. That’s certainly a lot of runners. Hopefully they’ll not get in your way and help to pull you round. 🙂

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  1. Inspired by my brother in law (running the Aargau Marathon next Sunday), Eddie Izzard (watched his 27 Marathons in 27 Days), my running friends and you, I decided last Sunday to give it a go and push my limits. I ended up doing a 30k run. I was absolutely exhausted afterwards but felt as though I was flying on cloud number nine. 🙂

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  2. What a great recap! I remember going to down to London in the 80’s to watch my England Dad run – the event had grown significantly by the mid-late 80’s so it took him a coupe of tries to get in, and then I think he ran it 4 or 5 years in a row. When he finally broke 3 hours in 1990 (I think), he was done and that was his last marathon. He still runs though, and still pretty fast even as he is about to run 70, I’m pretty sure I would need to bring all I have to be able to keep up…we were chatting on the phone yesterday and are going to put our names in the ballot for next year. With me being overseas it’s a long shot to get in but can’t get picked if you don’t put your name in the hat!

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    • Many thanks for your comments and good luck with your entries for London. I think overseas visitors may have a better chance, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you both. If all else fails you could try a Swiss marathon. Most of them you enter online (via Datasport) so it’s first come first served – and you know you are in as soon as you press the Enter button. I plan to post a blog on my favourite race(s), but the Jungfrau (which is more of an uphill trail race) has by far the best views. (Though I’ve not run Zermatt yet). Otherwise, the Lausanne marathon is good, as it runs (out and back) along the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and the Olympic museum is a great place to visit.

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      • Those are some great suggestions…would love to run other events in Europe sometime – being raised in England, I’ve visited many countries but that was all before my running days 🙂 Berlin and Paris marathons would be awesome as well. If you ever need any recommendations on the US side feel free to reach out anytime!

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        • Thanks. I’ve not run either of those 2 marathons you’ve mentioned, but they are classics. One day maybe… Other than Boston, I’ve heard that the Big Sur is THE race to run in the States, but I’m not sure I’ll ever do that one with so many other local ones on my tick list ! Prague is a beautiful City too (though the course wasn’t very inspiring) and Budapest (which I’ve not done either). There’s too many to choose from !

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        • yep, definitely too many choices! i vote for Chicago in the US…at least based on what I’ve done so far.

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  3. Pingback: Long distance running (part 2)… The JOGLE, 1983 | Alittlebitoutoffocus

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