Last Monday, I had a moment of terrible clarity, which will have significant and long lasting consequences for me for the next eight months. On the Monday in question, I had a day off. On hearing on the news that there was to be a 41 gun salute to kick off the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, I resolved to get to Hyde Park by 12 noon to hear the celebrations begin. Now, by a horrid mischance, I missed my tube train by one poxy minute and was thus obliged to wait nine minutes for the next one. I consulted my travel app. The earliest I could possibly get there was 12:09. Reasoning these things are always a bit cautious, and that letting rip with cannon 41 times must take quite a long time, I went there anyway. I reached Marble Arch tube stop at precisely 12:09 and the air was silent. Not a bang, not a splutter was to be heard above the quiet roar of traffic. I berated myself quietly. I’m not a big monarchist – I don’t object to the Royals, but I don’t impinge on their lives overmuch, and Royal weddings and jubilees aside, they don’t impinge on mine.
But there I was at 12:09, having missed the official beginning of the Jubilee celebrations. I reflected on this. The Queen has had a hard life. Growing up, she could have had no notion of the life she would be presented with. But then Edward VIII abdicated, even before he was crowned, her father died far younger than he deserved to, and there she was, Queen for 60 years. No one would say she’s boshed it up, she’s persisted with tremendous dignity during annums both horibilis and jollyus. And I missed the beginning of her poxy 41 gun salute. I photographed Marble Arch and its statues disconsolately. My phone went, and I glanced down at it. Apparently I hadn’t got the half marathon place I’d balloted for either.
I pottered around, snapping randomly and feeling sorry for myself. And then a thought landed. In retrospect, I think it was three things:
- That morning John Bishop had interviewed on the telly (he is raising money for Sport Relief by travelling from Paris to London by rowing the channel, running 30 miles a day for three days and cycling 180 miles). He hasn’t trained enough and can’t eat enough biscuits to help him get through the experience. He can’t abide exercise. This was a sporting hero that I could admire.
- I had read somewhere that the half marathon is the best distance for losing weight.
- I had been feeling for a while that I should be doing something more for the community than being a long suffering public servant.
I stood and looked at the statues of Hyde Park. The thought had landed. The email saying I hadn’t got a ballot place said that I might be able to run for charity. My father had died at 41, two years older than I am now, of a massive heart attack. I was six when he died. I looked down the list of charities. The British Heart Foundation was on the list. Hmmm. I could apply right then and there online. I did. The website asked me penetrating questions about why I wanted to do it (I told them a heartfelt story of woe of the sort X factor singers usually tell). It asked me how much I wanted to raise. I went for the lowest possible amount – £500. It made my stomach twist. I could not just stump this up out of my own pocket if I just decided I couldn’t be bothered. But in the shadow of Marble Arch I got to thinking.
I have 1300 followers on twitter. If 10% of them gave me a pound, that would be more than 20% of the way. If some gave as much as £2, that would be about half way there. If I could get my Facebook friends and a handful of work colleagues to give a £1, just a £1, again it wouldn’t be embarrassing to ask, but it would take me a long way there. And I have actual friends, and family. They might go wild and donate a fiver, but the same logic applied – if they all gave just a pound, that would still get me closer, and I’d have to stump up less if I didn’t hit £500. I could write a blog, and perhaps that would force me to train, and people might encourage me on my way.
And then, as if by magic, I saw a policeman astride a motorbike, whistling as though to quell a crowd. He stopped the traffic, and lo, the cavalry and accompanying canon started trooping by Marble Arch. I gladly unleashed my lens on them. A bit like a guinness advert, clip followed clop, followed clip followed clop, until all the clips and clops of a hundred horsey feet echoed around the hard marble, concrete and asphalt of the stilled London street. The clopping built up until the very ground echoed with the horsey foot thunder, and London itself stilled to listen.
This seemed like a sign to me, both that one should never despair at missing a state occasion by nine minutes, and that the fates were generally in favour of the idea of my crossing 13 1/2 miles by foot.
I completed the electronic form, and sent it off. I had expected a long wait before some minion in the British Heart Foundation was impressed by my marketing plans, and the heartrending tale of youthful loss. Within nano-seconds of sending off my form the computer said yes, subject to me stumping up £30 registration fee. And there frosty and freezing, I stood in shock. I was actually going to have to place one foot in front of the other for 13 miles. I paled. I texted my beloved with the news. I was still in shock. I told Facebook – Facebook heartily approved, and offered to stump up some quids. It took me a day or two to set up the blog and the justgiving page. I don’t intend to dwell overmuch on my training here, although inevitably it will come up from time to time. If you would like to follow my training exploits, follow my new blog, www.wobblebottomtowonderwoman.wordpress.com, or if you feel moved to donate, you can via www.justgiving.com/helenPnix. Go on. Just a pound 🙂