You squeeze the plastic cup between your thumb and your forefinger. I am, you realise, for the first time in around 17 minutes, in total control of what’s happening here. You create a whirlpool, and uncertain, chaotic ripples follow, like a sea breeze whispering: “I reckon it was 16.59 and I’m sure there’s an appeal process for this
Your crimson-stained lips peak at the corners as you raise another tide out of nothingness, seeing your reflection in what you assume must be upwards of £6 pounds worth of wine simply described as red. You look back on yourself, your cheeks getting carried away by the waves. Your cheeks didn’t used to be this wide, the bags under your eyes this big. It’s not hugely usual to need K Tape the week before a marathon build starts. The wine, by nature of being wine and not a hard seltzer, stares back, talking to you. Yes, Andrew, you are in your late 20s, it says.
And this reflection is, in a roundabout way, also a realisation of when you used to be fun and do consistently fun things, rather than fun things for around about 800 metres, followed by 4.2ks - you used to work in miles when you were fun too you remember, as you didn’t have a Coros watch - of utter despair. You danced to Kylie in a field after your head had firmly left the building last time Glastonbury was on. You did a 20k run this time. The reflection is kind of like if Dorian Gray was painted wearing polyester half tights.
Jason asks what your favourite distance is on the cool down, having PB’ed moments earlier. You both, eventually, agree that none of them are ideal. Maybe BigHalf, but mainly as that’s being comped by your work, so technically you are sort of getting an appearance fee.
Dan is ahead during this cool down, something you are painfully used to. He gets you at 3k and is off into the distance, the blue and white disappearing into the Battersea sunset, like a Smurf on acid chasing a butterfly, putting 35 seconds on you in less than 2K. A 16.35pb follows.
And then you’re by yourself. The Fulham lad with the headband isn’t budging. How can I be second in a two-horse headband-as-a-personality foot race, you think.
You’re in that awkward fourth K now and it’s not going well. This must be divine retribution for the late nights and hearts broken, for that person in Cambridge who said you ‘blindsided them’ before making no communication with you for four years until following you on Strava a fortnight ago in a move critics are calling a flex. Maybe she was right. Maybe I do need to manage expectations more. I vaguely remember giving 16.30 chat literally a second before starting. You were only 24 when you broke up, but there’s no way feeling this bad can be anything but punishment from a greater force, or a law student from Cork.
You’re skipping and buffering like a cassette of a song you’ve played too much that breaks your heart every time but you still play as you’re overly sentimental and not quite over it. I can’t believe I’m paying 6 pound for this again.
And what’s worse, you know what’s coming. Fuelled by nothing but pre workout and Wimbledon champagne is Anya Culling. Her 300 cadence ticking like the heart under the floorboards, next%s that have torn up the bars of Wandsworth to the streets of Roma, clasping at your heels. And you know wherever she is that Sam won’t be far behind, as their relationship is about as symbiotic as the moon and the tide these days in fits and just about everything else and they have this frustrating thing called talent.
You’re around the bend now. How many bends does this fucking park have. The 137 bus is to the right. You could forget this all. Your housemates have gone to see that Elvis film you’ve been dying to see. You love Elvis. Lilo and Stitch is the best Disney film, you could watch that, even. 400m. BUT JOSH. The man who proves the north can produce balanced people. He’ll be on sub-18 and you don’t want to miss this.
200m. You pass Dan’s fan club again. If there’s a hell and a heaven, Battersea Park is purgatory, where you’re forced to run past the same trees and lamps, unchanging like the backgrounds on old cartoons.
100m. Nick and Rhys are standing still. Standing. Finished. Like Adidas mannequins; both with times that start with 15.15. Animals only move that quick so they can eat. Seems unnecessary now we have supermarkets, and even the Linda McCartney sausages you buy from Asda take longer to cook. You, meanwhile, are doing the opposite of standing. Looking like a gurning Casper the Ghost as you approach the line. Go on lad, Charlie shouts, as the clock ticks towards 17.
Then, oh, he sighs. Oh indeed. 17 dead. But that time is with my lawyers. And then Culling (17.09pb), Sam (17.45pb), Joshy (17.58pb, basically making me
pass out by spinning a cane across the finish line in the most casual of finishes), Jason (18:48pb) and Kris (18:43pb)
It’s over. People are smiling. Further validation for my theory that the best part of running is “not running.” And so the most important part followed, and SW London’s premier content machines clicked into action; and SunGod were hopefully tagged for at least the third time this week on Instagram, before presumably muting the words ‘best’ and ‘athletics’ and ‘sams_running_smiles‘
Reels, Nick informs me, are the most important part of Instagram these days, as he filters a gleaming slow-motion video. And I, friends, am still reeling.
Written by Andrew Georgeson