November 7th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Three Fêtes and a Football Match Pt 8 (Training and the sad lack of Heart, Lung and Leg Transplants)

It's June, 1995 again. Somehow I got drunk at a French fete and accidentally signed up to become a professional footballer. Now I have three weeks to get fit...

The next morning, the alarm went off at 6:30. Time to get up. And what had seemed like a good idea the night before, rapidly became less so as the thought of an early morning run penetrated the warm covers of the bed. Perhaps tomorrow. Or in an hour or so.

It was only the greater fear - that of making a complete fool of myself at the village fete - that propelled me downstairs. If I didn't start today it would be worse tomorrow. And if the thought of running in the early morning was bad, it was nothing compared to that of running in the strength-sapping, heat of the day.

A few minutes later I was decked out in shorts and tennis shoes and blinking into the early morning sun. A loosening jog to the top of the hill, I thought.

It started out well. The first forty yards were downhill, I lengthened my stride and the years fell away. Only to snap back with a vengeance as soon as I turned out of our drive and hit the uphill section of road. A few yards later, I heard something thudding in my chest. I think my heart had just woken up and wanted out.

A few yards more and my pace was just on the forward side of reverse, Lungs had joined forces with Heart, and Stomach was wondering what had happened to breakfast. Only Legs were holding out, but a few heavy-legged strides more and even they started passing notes to Head - notes with 'How about stopping now?' and 'We could always try again later' written in large shaky letters.

Which seemed like a good idea. After all, you don't want to overdo things on the first day … and three weeks can be a longer time than you think … and wasn’t that a muscle twinge I felt just then?

A unanimous Body turned and walked home. I'd barely jogged a hundred yards.

Walking back, I was reminded of a similar experience ten years earlier when I was in training for the works annual Sport's Day. That had seemed like a good idea at the time too - a pleasant day out and the chance to see if I still had the old speed.

But I hadn't run or played any sport for about a year and neither had my colleagues. So, four of us decided to try out a running track we'd noticed on the way to work. Nothing strenuous, we thought, a few laps of the track and a sprint or two - just to settle us in.

We decided to start with a gentle 400 metres. I slotted in at the back, brimming with confidence, knowing I had the speed to kick for home whenever I wanted. I'd run the 100, 200 and 400 metres for my school and, in my head, I was still as fit as I'd been when I was fifteen. After all, people like me didn't need to train - we were naturally fit.

I dropped out on the first bend. By the back straight there were only two left. A minute later bodies were lying at various intervals along the track, chests heaving and lungs complaining. No one had managed to finish.

And now I was ten years older.

(next instalment: Hummocks, Woolly Mammoths and the Referee's Dad)
International Kittens of Mystery

Death's Door Revisited

I am ill.

I'm very rarely ill but when I am it's memorable. The most memorable was this one. But I've also had a wisdom tooth infection which locked my jaw shut - I could only be fed through a straw and worked for a season as a ventriloquist. Well, not exactly the latter but for three days I talked like one.

At the moment I have flu like symptoms and an abscess spreading across the roof of my mouth from a tooth. Like all 'real' men' I am treating the discomfort with the stoicism of a five year-old.