The hardest run, and the reason I ran it

“Is this anyones first trail run?”

A few hands, my own included, went up.

“And is this anyone’s first marathon ever?”

About three or four hands went up.

The announcer laughed and grinned to himself for a moment. “Right, well…good luck to you…”

This didn’t fill me with confidence.

In truth, I was very nervous about this marathon anyway (the Sussex Coastal Trail marathon, organised by Endurancelife, around the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head areas of Sussex). Having tagged it in my head as a ‘sort of cross-country run’ when I signed up, I didn’t really think any more about it, pleased it was relatively close to London and thinking it would make “a nice change”.

Reviewing the map two days beforehand to work out if there were any good points from which Zoe could watch was the first time I paid attention to the information on ‘ascent’ or in layman’s terms ‘how hilly it is’. If you’re ever doing a trail or cross-country race, I recommend you look at this a few weeks before. It might mean you do some, oh I don’t know, hill training or something beforehand? And might not turn up looking like a Dad competing in his first school sports day.

So it quickly became apparent that this might be a very different race from what I’d had before. A fact quickly confirmed by the first time I HAD TO RUN UP A CLIFF. See for yourself…

The absurdly long time I took was partly down to staying with Martin as he was really feeling the pain in his hip and ankle, so was going very slowly in order to finish. I wouldn’t have gone hugely faster by myself though, and indeed might not finished at all had it not been for the support and encouragement of Martin and Tim, gentlemen and scholars both, from the halfway point, which was a welcome reminder of the camaraderie you can find in what is often considered a solitary pursuit.

That basically tells the story, though here is a photo of the salt I’d managed to collect using only my face and subsequently sold as artisan seasoning to a local deli.

To spur me on, two days earlier, I had had a reminder of one of the reasons I was doing this craziness when I attended the first night of the latest round of the Scene & Heard plays “Snakes & Ladders – The Playful Plays”.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes these evenings so rewarding. Yes, the plays are very funny, often because of the absurdity of the non-human characters (including a caterpillar cake, Shakira’s gold beaded skirt and Tottenham Court Road) having very everyday wants and needs (wanting a new job, wanting a girlfriend) and being portrayed with marvellous straight-faced conviction by the actors. But this isn’t ‘Kids say the funniest things’, the internal logic of each play is respected by the Scene & Heard directors and actors, who do not alter a word, and make the comedy stem from how the characters are usually the architects of their own problems.

In each play, a third person is introduced to act as a catalyst to change the situation, and the way the writers used this opportunity was incredibly varied – some of them having the character provide a previously needed item or opportunity, or to provide an opportunity for a character to demonstrate a trait or quality that had previously been hidden.

The verve and variety of the plays make this one of the best nights of theatre London has to offer. Surreal without being self-conscious, funny and often deeply felt, with echoes of the children’s own lives not too far below the surface. The next set of plays will be in July – sign up to their mailing list here to make sure you don’t miss them.

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