14 July 2021


It's July now and in Birmingham, the summer has the sense it could suddenly end, particularly after it has rained, when I step out of the house to run and feel like I might need to wear a fleece sooner than I would expect. The stress of climate change is of course on the news all the time, but at least this summer, in this one part of the world, we've managed to sleep through it. I run whatever I'm supposed to run and come home thinking, well whatever, I did what the programme asked for. What else can you do.

I ran the Milton Keynes marathon this last month, on my 39th birthday, not something I had really wanted, but the result of months of Covid delays. I felt fat and tired the day before and standing at the start line with a group of men in their mid-40s, all clearly ready for it, I thought, we're all just trying to avoid the inevitable, aren't we. When I went to through the inflatable start gate, I knew immediately it would not be a good run, and indeed, it mostly wasn't. The course snaked through Milton Keynes on the biking and walking paths, up and down through the subways, and my new running watch buzzed and beeped every kilometre, slowing and slowing through to the end. When it was over, it felt almost like it hadn't happened — I went back to the hotel to shower and drove home and sat on the sofa like I had dreamt the whole thing, because it would have been the sort of dream I would have, running in this place where I had brought Yoko and Naomi what is it 13 years ago now. Running past parks where I had pushed the pram and held little hands, all while trying to grow up through my twenties. 

When the results were posted, I saw my name with a British flag next to it, and thought about the group of men I had finished with, the fifty or so of us in the 3:20-3:25 range, certainly a type. Everyone talking about the elusive three-hour marathon and what had gone wrong today because no one running between 3:20 and 3:25 is happy with that time. For me though, the time was what the time was, and I determined that the problem was my weight, it is my weight. I have not had the drive to do anything but eat constantly like I did at the beginning of lockdown last year. From seven until I go to sleep, I just fight it, walking back and forth to the kitchen and then chastising the kids for doing the thing I'm doing: what are you having cereal for, it's nine o'clock, go to bed. If only there were some way to break away from this, from whatever coding error occurred in my childhood that taught me to react to any disturbance in my life by just eating. 

Despite feeling fat and slow, June came with some clarity. I shaved my beard. I had an epiphany about love. I realised how much of my life I've been waiting for someone to give me what I want instead of asking for it, I realised how tired it is to say, I want you to want me, instead of saying, I want you. Where did those thirteen years go — what had I forgotten to enjoy when I had it, what had I known to enjoy, but couldn't because I wasn't capable, I didn't have the words to access that happiness. At mile seven or eight, I turned the corner, tired and slowing and there was the Open University, the Stuart Hall building where I had studied for four years. I was on the path I had walked again when I was frustrated with my writing. Funny how it is all the same, isn't it.