In the torturously long middle bit of Shakespeare’s most bleak tragedy, King Lear, the eponymous hero wanders across a blasted heath having lost his kingdom, his daughters, his knights, his clothes and ultimately his mind, becoming the naked reduction of humanity. What is unaccommodated man? No more than a frame with a straying mind, blasted by the elements.
King Lear’s problem was that he wasn’t a runner.
[I love the printed name, don't you? It's like when I showed up at the Centre for Advanced Studies at the Central European University, and they had already put my name on the door, even though I was there for a few days ... UEA took about two years.]
I have lapsed, I know. I promised to revive the blog, and I failed. I promised to run, and discovered excuses, injuries, excessive alcohol, two stalkers, an extra 2% body fat. Still there are things you can’t take away from me: the taxman might steal my purse, the ex-wife might take away my good name, the years take away my youth, hair, the alleged resemblance to JohnnyDepp, my children my vitality, and the mortgage company stands poised to snatch the house should I stumble.
But, as you all know, at the start line, Santander, the taxman, your ex-, and the years, they all stand behind you. So it was on 18 April when took a commuter riverboat to St Margaret’s island, in the Danube in Budapest, and collected my number from race headquarters. It was bright and sunny and people of all nations lay on the grass and talked and laughed nervously. The start and finish gantries had been erected for a junior race that afternoon. The air was all salt and sweat and the heat off the river. Men and women from all over Europe checked through their race bags to see if they had their pins. And I thought to myself: I was born to do this, why don’t I do it anymore?
Next morning I jogged over the road bridge to that same place, lined up and ran. Slow, it’s true, but through the cool sunshine of a Budapest morning, up and down the river, around the parliament, over bridges, and back. What could be more beautiful? It’s true that I’ve grown weak in the head, and that when I saw the finish line I persuaded myself that befejez, if that’s what it was, wasn’t Hungarian for ‘finish’, and that I needed to hold back my final dash ... and then I was over the line. Weak headed. But that hardly matters. Then a massage at the nearby spa, then goulash and black beer, then the airport. I was born to do this, why don’t I do it anymore?
And now I’m back on the heath, and the New York Marathon is a remote country, over the sea. It’s whole weeks away.
I'm running the New York City marathon (1/11/15) to raise money for South Australia's Childhood Cancer Association. Please donate! https://give.