Monday, 29 October 2012

Happy Birthday To You

Today it’s my mum’s birthday, she’s …….. well she’s old. In truth I just don’t know. Unlike my Dad’s actual birth date, which I’ve always known, my mum has always been a bit cagey about hers. So cagey that for years I thought her birthday was on 31 Oct and not 29th. Luckily she was never bothered about receiving her birthday card a couple of days late, although living 200 miles away at the time I can’t be absolutely sure. So later on today I’ll be seeing my mum and dad for dinner and presents and we can chat about all the things they’ve forgotten we chatted about yesterday.

When it comes to my birthday I’m not actually bothered about much of a fuss being made. Naturally this winds Carole up as she’s big into making birthdays special. However I will go along with whatever she plans, even if I sometimes wish I was at a race or out training. I’m the same with presents, there’s not that much that I want and generally if I want it I’ll get it when I need it. However I’m always happy to receive running gear, as long as it fits, or a bottle of good malt whisky. How difficult is that, and they give me a lot of pleasure so please no more jumpers that don’t fit or business wear socks and definitely no ties.

I have had some good presents and days out over the years but I don’t remember them all. What I do remember are those special runs I try do, usually something especially hard. I’m not quite in the league of the members of Hunters Bog Trotters, who seem to go out for a run in miles, equivalent to their age, on their birthdays. That just wouldn’t suit my flimsy, can barely run for an hour, body, and is the main reason I didn’t join them whilst in Edinburgh, particularly as I imagine they probably tried to do the same with drinking pints after the event and I’m only lightweight drinker. In fact there was an interesting tip that Sean Cordell pointed out, that had been told to him by Mike Deegan, one of Salford’s greats, I think it went something along the lines of ‘you’ll only start to improve if you can run more miles than you can drink pints’. Some of those Bog Trotters must be running some big miles because there is some talent, and I’ve seen that talent drinking as well as running.

Enough about the Boggies, back to me. One birthday I thought was really special was January 16 2010. It wasn’t because I’d turned 45 and entered a new masters age category, I’d organised a run group for that day and we were going to do a parlauff run for 34 minutes. As it turned out only 3 people turned up, me Carole and Ben. Ben was a guy I’d met at Fitness First, he’s a para, big and stong, 17 years my junior and he could run some. He was the first person to join me when I was doing the ‘Run with Rog’ sessions and stuck with me, as much as he could, until he was posted to Afghanistan. On this particular day Carole went one way and me and Ben went the other, we pushed each other to our limits as the first one to reach Carole would set her off on her rep, and we weren’t hanging around on our recoveries either. That was the thing about Ben, he bought out the competitiveness in me to just the right level as we were so evenly matched, it was hard work but it was also a lot of fun. Most importantly it started me believing that I could still run competitively at that age. Soon after I ran 5 mile and 10k times that would have me ranked highly in the M45 age group for the whole of the year, and I came 2nd in the British Masters Cross Country Champs. Sadly I haven’t trained with Ben for a long time, whilst in Afghanistan he was hit by 3 bullets, on new year’s eve. He’s recovered but currently working in Australia. Mind you I think he’s back soon so time to start planning something special for my 48th.  

Keeping on the military theme, this Saturday Lee Riley will be attempting his world record for running 5k with 40lb on his back. The current record is held by an American Marine, a time of 20:06. Apparently this guy has run 5k, without a pack, in a time similar to my best, so that should give you some idea of what carrying the pack means in handicap terms. As my final preparation with Lee, last week we did a 3.6k time-trial, which we achieved comfortably 24 seconds inside the schedule for breaking the record. So we’re both very confident Lee will do it, adding another world record to his list.

The weekend just gone we decided to go away to Nottingham. Whilst there we saw that The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was on at the Playhouse Theatre. Now I know the word runner is in the title but that’s not why I like it, I’d read the book and seen the film many years ago, it’s a classic, and had recently read about this production whereby they use a treadmill set into the stage. So I was interested to see it and Carole was game too. I though the production was really good and the actors, who include the guy who played Finn Sharkey in Waterloo Road, were very good too. Particularly the main character who manages to keep up a dialogue, without becoming breathless, whilst running on the treadmill and doing press ups. If it comes to a theatre near you, I’d recommend it. Sunday was supposed to be a long walk but Carole’s work beckoned and as we couldn’t get a signal in the countryside we ended up coming home early. It was one of those days and she was on the phone until bedtime, but the good news was, I didn’t have to watch Strictly Come Dancing or the X Factor result shows.

Also at the weekend Ray and Sharon ran the Winsford 10k, both setting faster times than last year, onwards and upwards.    

Written by Roger Alsop

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