Is waiting to hear from the FLM tougher than running it?

Well, it’s the end of September, and I’m just one of 120,000 people who have applied for a ballot place in next year’s Flora London Marathon. Obviously, having been accepted by the ballot previously, I’m in all probability going to be rejected again, just like last year and the year before that. Just like roughly 90,000 other people.

It’s a damning admission for a grown man to make, but if I don’t get in this year, I’m almost certain to sink, once again, into the slough of despondency known in our house anyway as ‘Rejection Dejection.’

This condition traditionally renders me monosyllabic with disappointment for several weeks, and ensures that even when running along the beach, my desolate body language is eloquent enough to send even the local seagulls into a pit of despair. So you can imagine how much fun I am to live with in early October every year.

This condition isn’t to be confused with ‘Pre-Race Injury Angst’ by the way, which involves just as much sighing and moping, but which is generally performed with the aid of crutches, plaster or similar medical props, as supplied by my local A & E department.

(Just as an aside, does anyone else find their local hospital fairly unsympathetic about sporting injuries? I’ve heard the ‘self-inflicted injury’ line from doctors there a few times. You’d think they’d have a little respect for those of us who avoid obesity and cigarettes in favour of a healthy lifestyle, but I’ve yet to see any sign of it.)

I don’t wish to seem like too much of an old grouch, but I’m also getting pretty hacked off at getting an email entitled FLM Email Update on a weekly basis, which always fails to be either confirmation or rejection.

I’m also being besieged by emails from charities offering me the chance to apply for their Golden Bond places if and when I’m rejected by the ballot. Do they know something I don’t? They do, don’t they?

And more importantly, how paranoid do you have to be to suspect Britain’s most respected charities of plotting behind your back?

So please, FLM, in the name of humanity, stop sending me the email wind-ups, which are currently even less welcome than the endless offers of Vigara (sic) and ‘male enhancement products’ from the world’s leading spammers. (Who the hell are these people anyway, and how do they know so much about my personal problems?)

Instead, please just send me the traditional magazine, bearing the world’s two most beautiful words (if you’re a middle-aged marathon-obsessive, obviously).

But please don’t send them as an email. My spam filter is pretty much guaranteed to reject anything with the words ‘You’re In!’ anywhere in the subject line…


Is being a runner getting too technical?

Ah yes, I remember the simple pleasures of going for a run when I was a youngster. I’d pull a pair of totally uncushioned Gola trainers on over my school socks, sling on a heavy cotton tracksuit, and head off through the pinewoods to the beach and back again. And then I’d have my tea and forget all about it till the next day. I never stretched, never loaded with carbs, didn’t care about PBs or fartlek, and couldn’t have taken my music along with me without the aid of a fairly hefty rucksack. Happy days…

But now here I am in my mid-40s, still able to to knock out 30 miles a week, but requiring ludicrous amounts of mental preparation, familial logistics, dietary assistance, musical accompaniment, physiotherapy and technical measurement to still derive maybe half the pleasure I used to get from running in my younger days.

Between my Asics Gel Cumulus running shoes, Thorlos socks, technical shorts and wicking top, I’m wearing easily £150 worth in clothes alone. Throw in my Garmin 205, No Fear shades, Camelbak and iPod, and you’re talking about a slightly gone-to-seed runner who needs nearly £500 worth of kit on his person before he can venture out for a long run on a sunny day. Oooh, and did I mention my Buff? Or the fact that I still look like a fairly eccentric tramp when I’m fully kitted up?

Thing is, it doesn’t end there. While I enjoy an unmonitored run about once a month, the rest of the time I’m using the Garmin to stop me worrying about dropping off the pace and desperately trying to find excuses when my performance drops for more than a night or two. Have I contracted the ebola virus from breathing in next to a fellow patron of Merseyrail? Has global warming kicked in with a vengeance? Are Sainsburys skimping on the ingredients for my favourite fresh pasta, thereby reducing the potency of my crucial carb intake?

For pity’s sake, I’m even loading my iPod with strategically-timed songs to get me through predictable rough patches of my long runs. The question is though, at my age, with my knees, and my pathological need to run a decent time in London, could I really get by if I returned to the ‘jumpers for goalposts’ simplicity of my youth? The answer is plainly ‘no’, but equally plainly, I need to do something…

And then, at a family party last weekend, the answer was handed to me by a fellow guest, who arrived still wearing his Oakley shades with built-in MP3 player. While I thought at first that he looked just a wee bit ‘special needs’ wearing them, after just a short blast of blissed out, blacked out Morcheeba, I was totally sold. OK, so it’s only a smallish step towards sanity, but by consolidating my need for uv-resistance and my craving for 80s rock into just one gadget, I really feel I’ll be doing my bit to de-clutter my running.

Now all I have to do is skip a couple of sessions with my physio so I can afford the retail therapy instead…