Picture the scene. This time last year I had been laid low by a terrible back injury. I’d developed sciatica through an odd combination of baking and running (read all about it here: https://1000thingsinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/thing-972-participate-in-a-baking-competition/). That night, I had gone to a physiotherapist who had told me I would not be able to run for six weeks – blasting any chance of being able to run my charity half marathon in October. Reader, I was in pain and downhearted. So I delicately tiptoed with Spouse to the Mastercard Bar at the Science Museum Late night and drank two large glasses of muscle relaxant. Knowing that I am a virtual stranger to alcohol, even in its most medicinal of forms, Spouse did his best to cram as many canapés down my neck as possible, but the damage was done. My muscles, sinews and synapses were all heavily relaxed.
What is a Late? The Lates are when the big museums lay on quite deliberately adult entertainment (not in the ooh la la saucy sense of the word, just in the ‘yes we’re going to make this interactive and fun but we’re not going to treat you like you’re ten’ sense of the word). They are free for everyone, but they are sponsored by Mastercard, and if you can get yourself on the MasterCard mailing list, and you are very fast indeed, you can blag yourself some free hooch, canapés and entertainment, which turns the whole thing into a free party.
With a newfound spring in my step I went to the book reading of the Science Museum’s in-house writer, Mick Jackson.
It was perfect for me: you were allowed, nay encouraged, to lie on the floor, with beanbags for those who wanted them.
He was reading from a short book he’d written about running. He was telling it how it was, pilgrim. He told a tale which was so familiar to me I could have written it myself. He told how he had started as we all do, alternating one minute walk with one minute running. He told how infinitely long a minute is when you try to run it for the first time. He told how he ran in Sussex with his mate, and how they tease each other vilely to keep their spirits up. He told of the injuries, and the physios and the expense of treatment, and then he told how somehow or other, even with the additional responsibility of children, he still jogs on, because somehow or other and despite all the evidence to the contrary, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
He paused at the end, before asking if anyone had any questions. Now, I never do this, but in my newfound relaxed state, I raised my hand. “How do you keep motivated through injury?” I asked. He very kindly asked what had happened, and I told him, and he said something intelligent, kind, thoughtful and helpful, which I cannot quite remember in detail. I think he sympathised, agreed it was very difficult but most things mend in time and I’d be back on the road eventually. I tried not to well up as he spoke, and nodded determinedly. I was cheered for two reasons: mainly, because what he said was true, I would be back on the road eventually, it only required determination (and that I have in spades). The second was unexpected: the story he had written was infinitely better and more polished than anything I had written of course, but I could hear the distant echoes of myself in it. The rhythm and cadence of his words and the humour running throughout was familiar to me. And he was a proper writer. That was actually his job. So maybe, one day, one day I could be a proper writer too. I found all of this terribly cheering. Inspiring even.
We chatted casually afterwards, and he signed our copies of his free book. And then I went downstairs to join in a silent disco. It turned out that while my back couldn’t go back and forth, it could go side to side alright.
And so it was that in the shadow of man’s greatest achievement, I shimmied the night away. My feet were so sore afterwards, I took my shoes off, and I walked barefoot and wincing towards the tube, hand in hand with the beloved spouse. My spirits had been restored to full working order again. Eight weeks later my back was restored to full working order too. Stately as a galleon I ran my half marathon in just under 2 1/2 hours.
I even overtook some people. In April this year, I ran my first marathon, by way of showing my body I will not take any nonsense from it. Between the two events, I’ve raised about £1400 for the British Heart Foundation. I plan to run two more marathons next year. I don’t like running, but it turns out that I can eat as much cake as I like when I’m training for a marathon, and that has certain advantages. Next time, we’ll put all those unpleasant exertions behind us, and have a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake.
For full details of the Science Museum Lates, including how to sign up to the MasterCard Mailing list, check out this link: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/events/events_for_adults/Lates.aspx