Thursday, 18 August 2011

Writing about running

It's quite a tough thing to do, and to make it entertaining, I think. Unless you have a passion for it, of course. I recently read Marshall Ulrich's excellent Running on Empty, a great read. What makes it a great read? I suspect it is something to do with honesty, and being brave enough to lay yourself bare, warts and all. It is something to do, also, with character. Some people have it, some really don't; let's just say I'll never be buying Michael Phelps' autobiography, great athlete that he is. The man has the character - and by that I mean the personality - of a gnome. And they're inanimate.

I started writing Punks on the Run recently, I started with a prologue and a sample chapter, which I sent to a book publishy bloke I'd been exchanging emails with. He said he thinks it's an excellent idea, but not enough guts to make a book out of; I disagreed, and asked him to read a sample chapter to change his mind. He agreed to do it. Not heard back from him yet, but he's a busy chap, just changing jobs, recently moved house, all sorts. I can be patient.

Would you like to read the prologue? Here you go.


I’m lying on my back in Green Park, London, on an achingly sunny April 17th, 2011, thinking about how much of my body hurts. All of it, it seems, except my ankles. The ice cream I am eating is delicious, but I’m not at all sure I have earned it. And my wife Zöe, a recently-qualified Level One Reiki Ninja, insists that all the energy I am absorbing as she moves her healing hands over my body, is going straight to my ankles.

“But that’s the only part of me that doesn’t hurt!”

“That’s where it’s going. I’m just reporting back, I don’t control it.”

Fair enough, I think. Back to my delicious, probably-not-earned ice cream, and thinking back to the marathon I have just finished. London, the big kahuna, one of the world’s most famous races, and I’ve just done it. In a shockingly poor time, admittedly, but I have finished at least. So why aren’t I happy about it?

I try to explain to my stepdaughter Lorna why I’m not pleased with myself after the race. “I am pleased in a way – we just raised over £2500 for the hospice, after all. But I’m not pleased with how the race itself went. There are so many things that need to go right for months in order to do a marathon – and I mean months. You need six months without any real illness or injury, and how often does that happen?”

She gives me a classic 15-year-old’s how-the-hell-would-I-know look. “Not very often, that’s how often. Just look at what happened two weeks ago, when I got a chest infection – a week earlier and I would probably have been fine, a week later I would not have been able to do the race at all… A lot of things need to come together for this one day to be everything you hope it will be.”

I decide I need to feel better about what I’ve just done, so I phone my nextdoor neighbour, Mark. I know he’d been watching the race with some friends, and he’d been incredibly supportive during the fundraising along with his fellow band members; Do Not Resuscitate, Ludlow’s own punk superstars, held a benefit gig to help me raise money for the charity I was ‘doing’ London for – Severn Hospice, our local hospice.

Mark answers pretty promptly and gives me a “Wahaaaaaaaaay!” I’m confident he’s pissed and it sounds like they’re having a party in the background. “Did you finish?”


“Wahaaaaaaaay! He finished!” Cheers from the background. “How was it?”

“Fucking awful.”

“Well, at least you finished, that’s the main thing.”

No, it’s not. It’s part of it, sure. But it’s not the main thing. What is?

“Me, Jon and Fred are going to do it next year, can you help us prepare for it?”

“Are you sure about that? It’s really quite difficult.”

“Yeah, we’ll be fine. Can you help?”

Help three 40-something punk rocker smokers train to complete 26.2 miles that I could barely manage myself? Of course, why the hell not.

“Count me in.”

Based on that, would you read on?

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