Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Veni, vidi, serpsi

Good people,

The citizens of Milan closed down the whole city centre last weekend, so Sean and I could begin our training for the London Marathon with a nice, long, leisurely run. With about 7000 other runners. It was as hopeless as could be expected, with my being unable to train for five weeks owing to a knee injury, and Sean's training being interrupted by an extended period of inattention. Alas, I know that many of you will be disappointed to hear that, contrary to rumour, I didn't come in fourth -- that was Raymond Kipkoech from kenya, who finished in about 2'11, making him a modest 101 minutes faster than me. But then, it was my personal worst, and probably quite close to his personal best.

The winner was Daniel Cheribo, in 2:08.38, shaving 19 seconds off the course record. Indeed the busload of Kenyans really put pain to any chances Sean and I had of a good showing, notwithstanding our rather brilliant decision to run it in kilometres instead of miles, which take so much longer.

But this wasn't about speed. it was about personal demons that needed exorcising after weeks of injury and apprehension. In particular it was about the demon standing on my shoulder screaming at me 'you'll never run again ... never forget the tibial nerve that stretches from that really sore spot between the ligaments behind your left knee right up to your lumbar vertebrae, joining it just where you have that herniated disk that laid you so low eleven months ago ... give up now', and variations thereupon. And later: 'don't worry about those two sexagenerians in the white flat caps, they're just faster than you, let them go on ahead'. Meanwhile my rather more retiring good angel was muttering 'just finish', as we ran around Milan, twice, and in and out on various axes, and north, south, east and west, on and on until we reached around the 30k mark and the bad demon began to lag a bit, and then at the 32k mark -- the point at which I knew I could finish it by pretending it was a noisy 10k with a nice 195 sprint added on -- he disappeared entirely, and my good angel took the pace. The finish line was at the duomo, where finally the crowd showed some spirit, and if I didn't deceive myself cheered the final burst of pace, as I completed the last 195 meters in 43.14 seconds (with a heart rate of 201). My bad daemon registered a d.n.f.

Milan looked splendid. The weather was cool and clear. Our hotel was very splendid, and the cooking by Sean's extended family was impeccable and plentiful. Many thanks to them. There's a picture of SM and JR in a post-race stupor, photographer Agostino "Testino" Arista. Note the to-die-for Italian running shirts, with the pink trim. We didn't have any personal support during those long, lonely kilometres. And believe me, some of them were very very long. I should single out number 41, when the knee was really screaming. And then I saw the spires of the hedgehog cathedral. So there is, to return to the subject of this paragraph, no running shot ... though perhaps if you scan the newspapers in your area ... no video either, as the Italian government decided to spare the cost of the ... ahem, the helicopters couldn't take off because of the fog, so the entire TV race coverage was of the guy at the front. And -- mark this -- we look forward to your support on a future occasion. There will now be future occasions.

We are back on the road.

runner no. 7206