I promised you a story.
I promised a story which would cover the period of a year and lay bare some of the unexpected benefits of running. Here it is then, the story of how parkrun, social media and my twitchy addiction to pushing myself further and faster led to a real Spanish adventure.
I can remember a year ago seeing a friend of mine at parkrun wearing a bright orange T-shirt. I had met Mark through twitter and parkrun where we shared a love of high 5’s and, he was the first person I know who seriously asked my advice on running matters, and then miraculously had taken it. My advice actually proved of some value and I believe it helped him to get through the training and then the actual race. In a funny kind of way I felt I had some ownership of a successful Marathon excursion to Valencia, which was where the orange t-shirt had come from. It was not a surprise then that we got talking about it.
It was during this conversation that I discovered it was a fast and flat run almost designed for PB’s. As the conversation continued I heard about the paella party the night before, the pancake quality of the course and the beautiful sunlit finish across a pool of water. The run sounded like heaven, a marathon runners dream. It was then that Mark made an offer, I don’t know if it was a throw away statement or as serious as cancer or, somewhere in between. “I have a flat in Spain you should come and run it with me next year”.
Fast forward a few months and I am at Manchester Marathon. Unsurprisingly there is a good representation of #ukrunchat runners there, and I meet up with a few before the start. One in particular I had been talking to on twitter a fast young lady called Katie. We spoke briefly before we went and ran, of course due to the wonderful organisation of Manchester bag drop I missed the post marathon meetup and that was that. Still we continued tweeting each other and when she said she was looking for an autumn marathon I told her about Valencia. Needless to say with a bit of marketing help from Mark she was sold. That then was the core group of Valencia marathoners who were assembled and, with just a little more goading and arm twisting of each other we all signed up and the deed was done.
Then came the summer of fun, the occasional message across the twitterverse about when marathon training was starting again and arranging travel as soon as the flights to Valencia became available. Mark said he would sort it out, and as we were staying with him we were happy to let him take charge of the travel arrangements. Months rolled by and life carried on and the great Spanish adventure slipped to the back of our lives. Then the training began and, shit as they say started to get more real. Katie and I tweeted at each other and gradually became aware that neither of us had heard from Mark for a while. During the course of the year I had started to frequent a different parkrun more and more often and had just assumed this was the reason I had not seen him for a while. We looked back and noticed neither of us had given Mark any money for flights and we had no idea what was going on apart from the fact that we were both entered into Valencia marathon and it was drawing ever closer.
Panic ensued and I called upon all my contacts at parkrun and dm’d and did all kinds of convoluted and twisted rituals in order to get in touch. Just as we were going to cry out in despair and book flights and a hotel a message was received. Mark returned to us with a tale of a summer of woe. While I was gallivanting around the South Coast running 10k’s and getting faster and faster Mark was sat in doctors offices being told that his knees had given up and gone on strike with arthritis. He was not in the best of places and he confessed to having avoided twitter because the last thing he wanted to hear about was people running around doing what he was no longer in a position to do. In the meantime………..
Some other friends from my running club hearing of Marks disappearance had decided to make the trip more jolly by signing up to Valencia. One entered the marathon, and another entered the 10k (on account of a dodgy knee ). As Katie and I planned for a Markless marathon two Joggers friends got more and more involved. They hunted around, booked flights and a hotel, and suddenly the Valencia Marathon had gone off in a different direction. My weekend training was spent with PT, who was running the marathon and we covered many miles together plotting a Sunday night of celebration after we had finished.
From Mark I learned that the flights had been booked and everything had been arranged from his side. Katie and I in return advised Mark on his training. Part of the issues he had was to make every run a long one, and try to be as fast as he could be with them all. We explained that if he was going to do some quick running he needed to run a shorter distance, anything else would aggravate his knee. His longer slower runs could of course be much slower than his marathon pace. Again this would help him to avoid injury. The most important thing of all though, the thing that would make the most difference to any training was this….. Stick to the fucking plan.
Training continued time passed and I had a dilemma, my friends from Joggers were staying at a hotel in Valencia and I was staying with Mark and Katie. Mark had booked return flights to come back on the Sunday night, while the other little gang were flying back on Monday morning. I bit the bullet and made the decision to split my time. I would fly out with Mark, and fly back with the jogging duo after a celebration with them the night after the Marathon.
So the morning of departure came and Katie picked me up on her way past mine to take me to the airport. The whole thing was a bit surreal. I had not seen Mark for about 7 months and Katie had never met him. We had no tickets and nowhere to stay when we got to Spain without Mark. We found ourselves sitting in the bar at Gatwick airport waiting for a chap who existed for one of us at least, only as a name on the interwebs. Discussing what a bizarre and precarious position we were in and….. Mark was late.
Will we ever reach Valencia, will our bodies be found cut up in the boot of a car somewhere in Crawley? Find out in the next exciting instalment of Sigue El Jorrido Plan……..