Moran park today was awash. Dripping with the nouveau woke resplendent in their Lycra’s of many colors pounding my familiar paths and roadways in the search for fitness and presumably spiritual improvement, even maybe in the throes of oxygen starvation enlightenment. By modern necessity appropriate measures have been put in space to protect participants integrity, a whole panoply of signs, banners, flags and markers abound, the finishing line for this mass exercise even boasting a large electronic time clock, no doubt counting ominously towards some future catastrophe, and a quite acceptable crowd of onlookers clapping appreciatively as the runners, walkers, crawlers, breach the invisible plane representing success.
As often proves the case my mind flits backwards to events from a distant, distant past when your humble walrus, slimmer, keen eyed and clear lunged was volunteered, as school boys were in my day to represent and fly the colors for my school.
The starting point was adjacent to the front gates of our playing fields that were otherwise guarded on all sides by rather unappealing gorse bushes and the odd length of rusty barbed wire strung between trees. The finish was quite literally the exact same imaginary line drawn gladiatorially like in the Colosseum sand.
The distance to be covered was from memory approximately five miles, the course wandering quite arbitrarily through a variety of fields, hedge rows, stream beds, mud pits, to eventually complete a rather pointless seeming circle back at point A. Athletic dress at the time for such occasions was particularly non scientific or user friendly, mine consisted of a pair of heavy leather rugby boots, studded of course, a thick woolen long sleeved football style shirt and some serge shorts. I doubt my attire was much different than any of the other competitors.
Commencement was at the sound of a starter pistol fired in the general direction of the sky, without the slightest consideration for the rather nervous condition of the runner’s stomachs. We all started, foolishly, at a sprint, keeping that pace consistent till we could be sure we all were safely out is sight of the school staff and their belligerent screams and gestures.
Being a rather well-built chap, nearly six foot and close to two hundred pounds, a mighty oak amongst mostly fourteen-year-old saplings, I was soon obliged to slow my pace from charge to canter, then to trot, finally to a hobbled meander. Being a late substitute for my team I had been able to avoid all the usual boring preparations, including any preamble of the route. Unsurprisingly my comparatively enormous frame was soon dropped by the leaders, then the main bunch, and finally the stranglers,. Alone and somewhat exhausted I was soon hopelessly lost.
The circumstances surrounding the eventual remedy to this unfortunate situation are both strangely simplistic and impressively fortunate, a tale I shall weave at some future and specifically suitable occasion.