Friday, 6 November 2015

Whatever Happened to Running Fast?

When was the last time? I bet you can't remember. You get to a certain age and you don't want to do it anymore, it's never as good as when you were younger. In fact at your age does anyone do it anyway. Didn't you love to run fast? I fucking loved it. I pelted it everywhere. From the age of six to sixteen...yes sixteen, I legged it all over the place. The early 80s in Essex were certainly different to nowadays. An eight year old could easily go to the local shop and buy groceries, without the fear of being nabbed by the local weirdo. Saying that in my area there was one strange guy. He was an old guy called Pinkie, well that wasn't his real name. He lived in a pink bungalow, which backed onto our local school playing fields.  The myth around the school was that he used to shag his dog in the back garden, however I spent hours on those playing fields waiting and not once did he.

When I was sent on these errands by my mum, I used to love the challenge, you see I had a digital watch with a stopwatch function. This I felt was cutting edge in 1983, I was part of a technological break through. I timed everything. From how long it took me to get dressed in the morning, which does take longer if you're looking at a watch all the time, and these trips to the shops. I'd put on my trainers, do my cagoule up tight, put the list in my back pocket, start the stopwatch and I was off. Pelting it through the streets with one goal in my mind, I must beat last week's time. The watch would not stop until I was in the shop, invariably I'd run directly into old Mrs Knight from number 76 or be told to stop running by the security guard who in my mind was at least 87. With my bags loaded, I'd start my stopwatch again and off I'd go. The return journey was always slower, and 99% of the time curtailed by a stitch. Now when you're 8years old...a stitch freaks the shit out of you. In fact do stitches still exist in adulthood? You watch football nowadays and the players run round for ninety minutes, and the commentators never say "Aguero looks to be suffering from a stitch" but then again I suppose they're not running around with a crusty loaf and a jar of Nutella in a Co-Op carrier bag.

As I moved into secondary school I was still legging it into school. Imagine that legging it to a school. I must have looked a right fanny. The stopwatch was no longer, not the last time that over-use of the wrist area would affect my life. However I wasn't as stringent with my timings as I moved into my teens, I was quite happy to record timings by minutes. It would take on average eight minutes to run to school, did any friends join me in this...don't be ridiculous. They thought I was to coin an 80s phrase a Joey Deacon. But I loved running fast. The buzz I got was electrifying.

Now my Dad was a man of very few words when I was growing up, but I remember him saying to me "Don't show any encouragement in athletics at school". I thought that's odd, my Dad was a good sportsman growing up. He'll tell you a tired anecdote about Peter Taylor (ex Spurs, Palace and England) if you're lucky to spend time with him. So it's summer term and it's the 100 metre trials at school, with my Dad's advice in my head conflicting my thoughts...the PE teacher Mr Lee said "on your marks...GO". On a side note, as soon as I left school, I played in the same local cricket team as Mr Lee and he went to me "you can call me Howard". I felt like a boss. So back to the race...everything my Dad said to me I took to heart and abided too. So I didn't run as fast as I could. You know what?  I still bloody won...all those years of running fast everywhere had paid off, but as I was to find out at a cost.

After school had finished the athletics team had training, now our athletics training was called "sick squad". There is no-way it goes on now, it would be fucking out-lawed. We did everything 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, relays.  You were not allowed to stop until you felt, or was sick.  It was barbaric. I was doing a lot of sport at that time, and I ended up getting Osgood-Schlatter disease (google it!), all down to what I believe was mental athletics training.  So if you're reading this...fuck you Howard!

Into the early 90s now, and myself and my good friend Richard played a game called Kick Off 2 on the Atari ST.  What a game that was.  Anyways, we'd play it round each others houses until get this 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. We really were the wild ones. Now it's 11pm at night you've left your mates house, what can I do? You got it I ran home.  Not just jogged, but bloody pelted it. Every other weekend, busting my guts out. But as I found out the rules had changed.  No-one had told me. You couldn't sprint on the streets as a 15 year old at 11pm night. Well that's what the police officer told me, when he pulled over and asked me what I was up to. "I'm just going home, I can normally do it in 4 minutes." The policeman didn't seem overly interested in the timings "Where have you been though son?" By this time, I was breathing pretty heavy, I suppose that's what you get when you try hanging around the cool girls, and they blow smoke on you. "I...I...I was playing Kick Off 2 round my mates house".  The police officer looked perplexed "But that doesn't explain why you were running fast."  Well I said "that's what I like doing". He said "Don't." Well you know what, I have not run fast in public Mr Policeman if you're reading this...fuck you too!

What is stopping someone running really fast in the street?  Why should there be a cut off?  As I walked to the shops today, it crossed my mind, should I sprint into town today. A 40yr old man running in the streets, should not be seen as anything peculiar, maybe he is just trying to break a personal record.

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