Ambulating myself

Hill sprints: honestly, there were hill sprints

As I crack my knuckles and prepare to write this I hear that ‘the patient is ambulating himself and is in good spirits.’

The patient is Donald J Trump and the speaker is one of a multitudinous team of robotic medics that buzz around him at all times. Two days ago he travelled by large helicopter to book himself into a hospital 15 miles away. Yes, 15 miles. It is to be hoped that it dawns on the many thousands of Trump followers in danger of losing their health insurance, that this one 74 year old obese guy is possibly receiving more top dollar medical care than is entirely fair. They don’t think like that, though. More dangerously, they really believe that the Donald thinks like them.

Since I wrote that paragraph Mr Trump has climbed into an armoured car to showboat for his faithful fans still waiting outside to catch a glimpse. How joyful that he is well enough to do this. How the world celebrates that his oxygen (and hot air) levels are good.

Back in the real world. the world feels more unreal that ever. Yesterday was the 40th London Marathon (since 2009 known as the Virgin Money London Marathon). The money bit is very important, because the organisers had to find a way for people to raise their usual hundreds of thousands of pounds for their favourite charity while running 26.2 miles, but in a physically distanced way.

While the elites ran 19 laps of St James’s Park (fabulous sprint finish by Ethiopian Shura Kitata in the men’s race) the other 40-odd thousand fun runners and club runners ran their own 26.2 mile route, then posted their results to the VMLM website to earn their medal. I watched a bit of marathon coverage after I’d run in the wind and rain with my usual Sunday running mates. We saw a few people with numbers pinned to their vests, running their lonely challenge in the Greenwich area, where the real-life marathon has started every year since the 1980s. On the telly, Gabby Logan bigged up the brave souls running their lonely distance in costume, smugly on holiday beaches, tragically in their rain lashed neighbourhoods, heroically in their 80s (Ken Jones, an Ever Present, who has done every London Marathon since 1981 ran it with his daughter, to be on the safe side).

Everyone looked to be in good spirits, but it was a sad old day, in truth.

Since lockdown began and fixtures hit the deck, I’ve tried the whole virtual racing thing. I even paid a race company to run a 15 miler in the location of my choice, all on my tod. I didn’t bother posting my time, though. I am not on Strava, whose peculiar brand of showboating I have never really understood.

Strava devotees tell me that the online competition keeps them sharp and competitive, but I am growing weary with the bonhomie of it all. I was quite pleased last week, however, when my Garmin watch awarded me a 50K Challenge award after I’d combined a very long run with a trip to Wisley Gardens in Surrey to meet my sisters, but didn’t feel the need to share these glad tidings with anyone.

Recently I downloaded a mapping app called Komoot to see if it would guide me on a bike journey more efficiently that Google Maps. It proved more of an irritation than an inspiration, and when I finally stopped it, mid ride, exasperated that it was taking me on a scenic ride around Brixton en route to the Surrey Hills it awarded me a virtual high five and a ‘What a Tour! Why not share it?’ comment, which made me feel like throwing my phone into the nearest wheelie bin.

The whole virtual racing idea is just race organisers, unable to make a living out of creating events that involve lots of excitable amateur athletes crowding together and shedding blood, sweat and tears in their bid for a PB, trying to make the best of a bad situation. I don’t blame them for that. Neither do I blame runners and riders who like to claim their glory on various social media platforms.

As the days get shorter, wetter and greyer, and the shadow of Covid 19 casts a darker shadow over the human race, the need to get out there in real life, in the rain and mud and wind seems all the more important. I’ve invested in a tiny lightweight tent with which to go exploring through deserted countryside. I am not sure how much of this therapeutic meandering i will share on various digital platforms. Although I like doing this, for the record. Unlike the orange man in the armoured car, whose noisy, crowd-drawing ambulations and expostulations must always be subject to public admiration, I’ll try to leave no trace on the world in its season of grief.

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