Recently I was lying on a table while a physio friend of mine inflicted the kind of pain on my buttocks you’d normally have to pay serious cash for in Soho. As I lay there squawking like a castrated parrot every time he elbowed me in the hamstrings, he engaged me in small talk about how my season was going, presumably because he was tired of looking at someone who had the same startled expression as a pensioner who’s just heard a noise downstairs.
I was happy about this conversational diversion because the previous evening, despite having a torn glute, I’d managed to dredge a new PB for my local 10-mile time-trial up from somewhere (22:35mins, in case you’re wondering). The presence of my tormentor meant I had a new audience for the story, having already carped on about it to everyone else I know.
Upon hearing of my achievement he replied: “It’s amazing you’re still setting PBs at your age.” As backhanded compliments go this was worse than being called a Nuneaton beauty queen. But before I had time to join in the witty banter by laughingly smacking him with a right uppercut, he delivered the killer blow: “It just goes to show that getting old need not be a barrier to performance.” That one really stung.
Age-related injuries are all the rage at the moment and my friend Neill Morgan has recently been under the surgeon’s knife to get two new Achilles tendons fitted, which is a bit like putting carbon wheels on a wheelie bin. Meanwhile, my injury has forced me to realise that, unless I can invent a flux capacitor, my best sporting days may soon be behind me.
This is a difficult notion to comprehend because there are still so many athletic goals I want to achieve, such as covering 100m in under 10secs, which I’ve only managed once before when I fell off the end of Brighton pier on a stag do.
Even before my injury I was feeling my age due to watching the para-swimming at the Commonwealth Games and realising I was slower over 400m than a man with no arms. But now that my ‘you’re getting on a bit’ injury is making my running so slow that I’m being outpaced by plate tectonics, I’ve started wondering whether I should scrap the Ironmans and start targeting races that reflect my decrepitude.
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It was for this reason that I decided to enter the Brompton World Championships, a genteel race for owners of the famous folding bikes who are happy to ride around at the speed of coastal fog and where fashion is prized over form. The race takes place over four laps of Goodwood motor racing circuit (15km) with 600 riders observing a strict dress code of jacket, shirt, tie and the expression of an indignant gecko. I opted for a full tweed suit with waistcoat and a pipe clenched determinedly between my teeth, which may have been a mistake because it was a boiling hot day and even before the start my back was sweatier than Eric Pickles in a cake shop.