When I was I was a junior doctor I worked for a Thoracic Surgeon in the midlands who measured significantly in girth as he did in height. We didn’t particularly get on but every once in a while, in amongst the constant berating he would sit me on his metaphorical knee to ruffle my (non-existent) hair and school me in the beauty of the human body and bestow his years of experience upon my bumbling ineptitude. On one such occasion, as we stood elbow deep in someone’s chest in the middle of a particularly difficult operation, he sighed and gestured at a particularly blood soaked segment of lung. Looking toward where he pointed, his gloved hand cupped a piece of the respiratory organ, saturated entirely. I scanned the area quickly to identify what I presumed would be a bleeding vessel and finding none, looked at him blankly.
“Are you an army man?” he questioned. I replied in the negative. “A surgeon has two biggest enemies on the battlefield and the table; Major Haemorrhage and General Ooze. Everyone is always looking for the Major but he is always the most obvious. It is the General that evades and causes problems.” I thought about this I reckoned it to be true. We are always on the lookout for the bigger problem, but men fall over stones – not mountains.
His words rang true as I ran in the 2nd Ealing Half Marathon. Having began strongly I coursed well for the first 10km or so, I developed a cramp in my abdomen that would not subside. Assuming a slowing of pace would settle things, I was very disheartened as it persisted and in fact seemed to be getting worse as I progressed. As evidenced by my kilometre splits, my pace dropped off consistently until I was barely registering a crawl. As I came through into Llamas park I fell terrible. Great sighs escaped my chest and the spectators who had good naturedly lined the final meanderings of the course appeared to be mocking me at my most desperate hour. Some minutes before the 1’50” pacer passed me and my heart dropped. I had gone from looking to beat a 1’40” time to relegating myself to worse finish than before. I crossed the line at 1’51” with the weight of the world on my chest.
Looking back, and managing to gain my composure I sought to explain my form and realised that it could have been a result of one of several things. The cramp of course, was just an incidental thing and was nothing I could have prepared for. We all have poor running days and this happened to occur on race day for me and I accept that now. Also, starting out as strong as I did was undoubtedly a poor tactical move. The original plan had been to hold a 4.59min/km pace for the first 7-8 miles or so and push myself from there. As it happened, I ran considerably faster than this and although I felt good at the time, clearly it was something my body had not prepared itself for. To surmise, this was inevitably my downfall and later as the cramp set in, I had nothing to counter it with.
That said the race debuted some remarkable finishes from several of my friends. Team ChainLUBE, partly disbanded for a makeshift Team NippleCHAFF and represented the West London crowd. Daffydd Garrick clocked a eye watering time of 1’33”, easily marking himself out as a truly remarkable endurance competitor. Parker Johnson equally set an excellent time of 1’56 finishing in style in his Ethiopian football shirt. Special mention however goes to Merrell Patrick who without any training or preparation, wandered home with a time of 2’01”. Clearly a running talent of the future in Team NippleCHAFF. My father and brother also ran for their second and first times respectively both surpassing expectation; both completing under 3 hours and my brother running with a particularly troublesome case of plantar fasciitis.
The day was concluded by Agnes and Chastity Genevieve, who not only lined the streets of West London with their most welcome and kind cheering but organised a (particularly tardy) lovely meal with all the old heads in the local pub. At one point the waitress sat down to cry at the table, which it has to be said, did not at all reflect the afternoon at all. I even enjoyed a reimbursement of money for my late halloumi burger, which I being something of a halloumi connoisseur can highly recommend.
All in all, I think it is fair to say a superb day was had by all and certainly by me. Thank you to all my friends and family who were out in full song and gave me the will to push on regardless. I’ve learnt a thing or two about running and myself and I think perhaps the old boy was on to something all those years ago and I should give him more credit, than I otherwise did. That said, he did take me to a kebab house for a meal outside of work one night. I’m a vegetarian.