I often wonder as I trudge around my latest race, what it must be like for a frontrunner. Those of us who never have been frontrunners (in running or even in life and some would suggest they are the same thing, but that’s a digression for another day) and never will be (apologies to Haile Gebrselassie if you’re reading this, this clearly does not apply to you), spend our Sunday mornings toiling in and amongst the crowd; sometimes a crowd of many thousands, sometimes a crowd of few hundreds, but a crowd nonetheless.
There’s wisdom in crowds they say (well Derren Brown says, and I believe everything he says ever since he turned up at the foot of my bed at 3 in the morning with a Channel 4 film crew). Last week at a race reminiscent of the old joke about primates in need of a blow torch (that’s torch you, stop giggling at the back and pay attention), two members of Beverley AC tucked in, just behind me in 575th and 576th respectively, and proceeded to prattle on about mile splits, kilometre paces, race results and the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie built upon the false consciousness of the proletariat and their commodity fetishism (or it might have been about last night’s Top Gear, it was hard to be sure once my eyelids started to droop). I’d like to say that their intellect, their sagacity, their wisdom filled me with a love of my fellow man, but I’d be lying. It just annoyed me. And I kept thinking, if you can talk so much in this race, you can’t really be trying. And to prove it, I will try and that’ll show you. It will show you to be the racing equivalents of Sunday drivers and then you’ll look silly. Oh yes! So I put the pedal to the metal and left them for dust. Well, sort of. In my head it definitely looked like that. A more objective observer might have noted a marginal quickening of shuffle achieved through much puffing and wheezing that, over the course of 2-3 miles left them, ooh, at least fifty feet behind. But I could hear them no more and that my friends was enough for me.
And as I surged on (maybe laboured would be a more apt verb at this point) I found peace enough to ponder to myself that if I’d been up front I wouldn’t have suffered this. I told myself that out there at the front instead of the taste-free dazzle of fluorescent pink and yellow polyester, the stench of the unwashed and somewhat slightly grazed, the tinnitus of the MP3 and the torrential thunder of Saucony-shod Judoon, I’d have clear grey tarmac in my sight, fresh air in my nostrils, a song in my heart and the gentle chirruping of mistle thrushes in my ears. Because that is what it’s like at the front, isn’t it Haile? It’s just like that, isn’t it?
In the meantime, my friends, keep on running, keep on hiding…