There are two of us committed thus far: David Graham (me) aka Dick (d.o.b 04.05.62)  and my speeshul fwiend Andrew Storey (1963) aka Stoz. We are pushing fifty, chronologically. Developmentally, there may be delays and deficits. We are hoping that my nephew John Story(14.08.86) aka John will be joining us, although he is notoriously shy of commitment.

I spent a large portion of my 48 plus years NOT looking after myself  whereas Andrew has always been a bit of a fitness nutter. I was compelled to make a few adjustments in my lifestyle after a diagnosis of angina in 2006; fags and drink have thus been consigned to the dustbin of history. I had my last fag in Freeman’s Hospital car park on the morning of 15.01.07, a few hours prior to my angioplasty. This uncomfortable ordeal saw me swastika-shaped athwart the hospital slab as experts endeavoured to place two steel stents delicately at a key bifurcation point between two arteries. Medical advice was freely offered in the form of two ultimata: stop smoking and lose weight. Once I’d nailed the smoking cessation – and to any of you out there struggling for a reason to quit, I can recommend ischaemic heart disease – I decided to tackle the weight issue by becoming a Wainwright bore, completing the 214th  (Great Mell Fell) in September 2008.

Vic and me atop Great Mell Fell, Wainwright 214

The ocular proof, as Othello has it, of the completion of the Wainwrights. A very rare shot of Vic atop a fell (current Wainwright count: 14) and we luncheoned afterwards in the pub (I used to remember the names of pubs…) in Dockray.

Anyhoo, a man needs a challenge, as well as a maid. August 2009 saw me clocking the advert for the Great Cumbrian Run on the hoarding at the Sands, which always reminds me of Sunshine Desserts, Reggie. A passion was born…or perhaps just another symptom of a midlife crisis. Some two months later, I ran my first half-marathon after about eight weeks’ training, posting a respectable 1:41:17 – on debut, as Australian cricket commentators say. The power of vermooten was indeed strong with me that day:

Meanwhile, I was sitting at home, smoking my pipe and contemplating the meaning of Jizlod and the Zugs!

Yickoo Sometimes strikes a characteristic pose.

In the running years…to cut a long story short, my friend, I am now a nasher of some ability (PBs: 10k @ 41.44, Half-Marathon 1.32.14) and – is it safe? – a Marathon Man to boot. Middle aged man that I am (and sometime MAMIL – Middle Aged Man in Lycra), and like my mother in the Prince song, I’m never satisfied: 5 months on, I am still annoyed about not getting a sub-4 hour marathon at Kielder (Marathon PB: 4.04.06) because of my lack of strategy and experience. This is what I wrote soon after on a Runner’s World forum:

“What I found extremely fitting was the strategic placing of an actual wall as a symbolic signifier of the metaphorical wall I had just hit. Was it the organisers’ little joke to have the wall at this point, when some runners would hit the wall? This was the only truly flat part of the course, too.  I’m clearly reading far too much into this.

I have only been running for 14 months and this was my first marathon. It was tough, but my schoolboy errors made it tougher. Despite the wealth of advice that strongly suggests NOT to start too quickly, adrenalin, arrogance and inexperience got the better of me. I had a plan (9 minute miles for the first half), but thought I could sustain 8 minute miles until about mile 22. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Let’s look at the stats. Halfway point: 1:43:23. Finishing time: 4.04:06. I spent the last 8 miles or so hobbling, rather than running and it was Frankenstein’s monster that crossed the finishing line. I then spent a good 10 minutes dismissing the congratulations of friends and family, as I was so annoyed that I hadn’t come in under 4 hours.

Ah well. I have only minor quibbles (as a Cumbrian, I have to take issue with the billing of ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful’ – what price The Great Langdale Marathon, or The Brathay Windermere? I’m sure the Scots and  the Welsh might have something to say too) but the pros far outweighed the cons. I will be back next year, after a bit more hill work and perhaps two flat city marathons under my belt, and will blithely coast along the path by the damn dam wall, laughing contemptuously at my youthful (at 48?) folly of the previous year.”

I have entered Kielder 2011, but it will be after H6-6. As I am currently out of action, all running seems a long way off at the moment. I will take rest, and advice. Whether I act on the advice is another matter.