One of the great pleasures of being on the speaking circuit as a runner is that you are never short of an opportunity to be put in your place. Last weekend I took the train to Dumfries and was given a lift directly west with Owen Sheers and John Crace, to do an event with Andrew Murray at the Wigtown Festival. I had the advantage over him as on Saturday morning, as I tried to watch the France vs All Blacks match while feeding him crushed kiwi the boy had changed the TV channel and instead we watched Andrew take part in the camel race on the BBC. The connection between camels and the fact that he had run from John O’Groats to the Sahara Desert was tenuous, but it is not often that I have been able to introduce myself to someone by saying ‘I saw you on a camel this morning’.
The talk we did together drew on shared experiences of taking on hefty distances, but had the interesting dimension of Andrew’s insight since he is a doctor by training. He talked of turning up to the Marathon des Sables in board shorts and a beach hat, and starting the 2659 miles to the desert with a stomach bug picked up from Indonesia where he had not understood that he was supposed eat the frogs’ legs. Although he started in snow, he managed to get home in time for his own wedding, having proposed just before he departed.
By the evening I was need of a drink and hoped to retire to the country pub where I was staying. I had visions of feet up by the fire, a few sharpeners and then bed before an early morning run. Not only had the pub been taken over by a stag party, the stag played for the local rugby club. Not a pretty sight. Still, the president of the club was standing at the far end of the bar and by midnight we had pretty much agreed on a World Rugby XV that had room for Mike Teague and Josh Kronfeld with Richie McCaw on the bench. More importantly I had a route for the morning run that followed the road to Kirkcowan, with the advice to ‘just keep going’.
He wasn’t wrong and were it not for the train home I would have followed the road out to the coast and waited for the weather to come in from the Atlantic, which was supposed to be quite tasty. As it was I got back to the hotel to see Argentina slice Scotland open in the last-minute and set up a nice little game from Saturday morning. As for the train journey, five hours became six, which gave me the time I needed to finished Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy. Mrs H had gone to see the premier with Gary Oldman and co. and returned raving about it. Now it’s onto the new Houllebecq – The Map and The Territory – and the news that the boy has a new tooth.