Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Training for the marathon - Simon

So, every Sunday morning (at least, and probably other mornings besides) between now and April 26, you will find me somewhere between Whitstable and Herne Bay, pacing the traffic-free Saxon Shore Way with what I hope will be ever increasing confidence and decreasing blisters.

This weekend I set off with my small daughter, wrapped up, asleep and oblivious in a buggy at 9am and headed east. In contrast to what was a balmy day on Saturday, I can only describe Sunday’s weather as “bracing” and as a result the seafront was devoid of life, save some rather unhappy-looking people doing “jogging”. I had to turn a blind eye to the stall in the harbour selling tempting pastries and baklava and forge on for Herne Bay with only Classic FM for company (it was either that or The Archers...my portable radio is not exactly hi-tech).

Whitstable to Herne Bay and back is ten miles. The problem is that I’ve been spoilt by living beside the sea. Every morning I count my blessings as I look out over the ocean and think how lucky I am to live here and every night as I come home I do the same (unless there is a Spring high tide in which case I am checking my sand bags and insurance policy).

After four miles of bracing sea air, wheeling gulls, salt spray and a car-free tarmac path, most people would think themselves equally blessed, but I’m afraid I get a little bored. The sophorific Sunday morning playlist on Classic FM, which is obviously designed not to startle anyone who has had a few too many glasses of Chablis the night before doesn’t help.

So I eagerly await comedian David Walliams stint on “Desert Island Discs”, as I wheel round the pier end at Herne Bay and head for home, sure that there will be some lively, life-affirming choices amongst them – but after 40 minutes of listening to that I am ready to throw myself in the North Sea (anyone who listened to it will know what I mean).

By now I am two hours in, 6 miles to the good – no aches and pains, daughter still asleep and I haven’t even stopped once. My latest obsession is collecting driftwood for the fire, and even though someone has clearly got to all the large bits that were around last weekend I collect pieces as I go, such that the pram begins to resemble a giant moving hedgehog. I only become concerned when overtaking cyclists entangle their wheels in the pieces of timber, and catapult through the air like those unfortunate charioteers in Ben Hur.

And so at 12.00, I creak back into Whitstable, past Satan in the form of the pastry stall, with half a ton of driftwood and a sleeping baby. And thanks to David Walliams, I can’t get the Smiths out of my head - “Please, Please, Please let me get what I want.”

Which right now is a cup of tea and a large bath filled with Radox.

Simon Pope

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