The moment I realised ‘yeah I’m a bit of a selfish b*****d’

8th December 1999. That was the day I asked a young Mackem woman out at the steps of the Priestman Building in Sunderland following a politics lecture at university. The day is a vivid memory as straight after I drove down to Old Trafford with a fellow red to see Utd batter Valencia 3-0 that evening. It was announced that Roy Keane had just signed a new contract at kick off and he scored a cracker. Great day. Anyway the Mackem said yes, two days later we went to watch the latest James Bond film and the rest is history.

Nineteen years in and I’ve gotten used to the way that she looks at me. In particular the look I get when I come up with a madcap idea just because I’d happened upon ‘a good deal’ on a travel website. The ‘oh, really darling’ look where her eyes widen ever so slightly and a smile that isn’t a smile appears.

Since I started running it’s become more acute. Planning holidays with a parkrun destination in mind or in between Saturdays is commonplace. Going away, or thinking about it, to do a marathon or half marathon is just part of my life. If fortunate enough to be in a partnership with someone that shares a passion then it’s all good. My much better half however is a rower not a runner and her double scull plus oars plus other sculler is a hard pack given Ryanair’s new cabin baggage policy and you can’t exactly stick them on the roof of a Fiat 500.

So last week I approached her with the lastest of my ‘would you mind ifs’.

“You know my 250th parkrun is on Christmas Day?”

“Is it?”

“Yes. Well seeing as though it’s a very special milestone and Christmas Day parkruns there are supposed to be amazing would you mind if I went to Bushy Park for it? I promise I’ll be back by 1pm.”

For those that don’t know Bushy Park, in South London, is the spiritual home of parkrun. Founded there in 2004 by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, from the original 13 runners at the first Bushy Park Time Trial it has spawned into the phenomenon that it is today. The so-called ‘Bushy pilgrimage’ is the parkrun equivalent to summating The Reek (Croagh Patrick) for Irish Catholics or the Hajj for Muslims.

My much better half’s exterior didn’t display the usual humouring. Her eyes narrowed. The smile that’s not a smile was missing. Her face silently screamed ‘are you for real?’

“Bushy! In London! On Christmas Day!”

I won’t go much further into the dialogue, well monologue, but I think I hit her Popeye ‘that’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more’ point. Let’s just say that I am going down south for my 250, but it’s 9 miles down the road to South Manchester rather than the 220 miles to South London and I will be back considerably earlier than 1pm.

Quickly it dawned on me that I was being selfish, very selfish. The plan seemed perfectly plausible in my mind beforehand but she made me look at myself from the outside. I was actually putting it out there that I wanted to miss the usual family trappings with my wife and daughter of Christmas Day morning to go to London, on my tod with nothing but podcasts and BBC6 Music for company, for a parkrun. I’d be setting off at 4am for heavens sake! Added to this my sister and niece will be visiting from Greece. Sheesh! Back for 1pm? Not a chance. Perhaps if I battered it back up the M6 like Sebastian Vettel, and in his car. What was I thinking? Had I lost my mind? What an eejit I was to even consider it never mind ask. A friend of mine from Hull would use a more colourful adjective to describe me.

The problem is I’m an addict. There you go, I’ve said it. I’m addicted to attending parkruns. They’re copper-fastened into my diary. The thought of missing one gives me palpitations. I was speaking to a fellow run leader recently and he told me he was going away for five weeks at Christmas, to a non parkrun country. Oh Jesus! I couldn’t deal with that at all. I was pleased when we went to Australia, where there are loads, so that I could easily do one every Saturday and get my fix. By the way that wasn’t the reason we went just in case you were wondering. I’ve missed seven this year due to bad weather, travel or injury and I remember every one. It irks me. But as with all addictions the admission of the problem is the first step.

Fountains Abbey (top left), Portrush (top right), Clitheroe Castle (bottom right), Nant y Pandy (bottom left).

In the grand scheme of things it’s not a very bad addiction to have. Attending my home parkrun at Heaton Park amounts to nothing more than an hour out of the day all told. However I’ve been touring a lot in 2018 (26 different venues excluding Heaton) and trips although great can extend anything up to twenty four hours if we hit an Irish parkrun. I’m not going to give up touring completely but I’ll scale it back somewhat in 2019. Perhaps just once a month so I’ll be able to spend more time at home working on the PB and my actual home, with the family, as well. I prioritised badly there didn’t I?

7 thoughts on “The moment I realised ‘yeah I’m a bit of a selfish b*****d’

  1. Hi Michael, just found your blog and love it. After walking most of the year and planning more next year (across the Balkans) I had decided not to do any more marathons…….that 4 villages half in January (it seems a lifetime ago) was my only serious run this year. Oh and the Rome parkrun 😉I need to get going again. But reading your account of Dublin Marathon made we want to do it again!!
    Liked your Christmas-Day-in-advance post. I am wondering have you done the Bushy parkrun before? I ask because it is now my local parkrun, having moved from Wicklow to London recently. I walk to it in about 30 mins. If you want to do it sometime you’d be welcome to stay here – I live in a Kiltegan house in East Molesey. We have plenty of rooms if you want to bring some Allertons along!! We’d need to make an arrangement in advance because I find embarrassingly I am away for a lot of weekends next year – South Africa in January, Kenya in March-April. Oh and the Balkans in May!! Tim

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    1. Hi Tim. Thank you for your very nice comments. The Balkans! Wow.
      Bushy? Would you believe that I’m doing it on NYD at 0900. Three of us are driving down to it and then doing the Upton House parkrun at 1030. Don’t worry I’ve permission from my much better half.

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      1. Oh excellent! I was trying to get up to my 50th last Christmas, before I set out walking (ultimately snow and a puncture prevented that) and got five in over Christmas week last year. Sadly I won’t be in London on NYD. Have you done the other Bushy run, in Dublin? It is nice also. Bushy here is extraordinary with always over 1000 now. And it is a rare single circuit. But always extremely efficient at the chutes. Balkans will be Brindisi – Durres in Albania (ship) then on and through Macedonia, and then Greece as far as Thessaloniki. For a first effort…. Enjoy!

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      2. Sounds some trip that. My sister lives in Mesolonghi in Greece. It’s famous for the siege against the Ottomans and for where Lord Byron died. It’s a bit south for your trip though.
        No I haven’t done the Irish Bushy Park but plan to.
        I stayed with my cousin in Blessington when I went over for the marathon. How far were you from there?

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      3. Kiltegan is about another half an hour’s drive down the same road. There are a LOT of runners in the Blessington area, the Lakeshore Striders et al. Hardy women and men! A lot of ultra running in the mountains there and over towards Glendalough.

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