Tomorrow morning, Pauline and I will take part in our seventh event at Killerton, the local stately home. Parkrun is a national movement that holds 5 kilometre runs all over the country, mainly in National Trust property, at 9am each Saturday morning. They are not competitive, and plenty of parents take part with their children, but times are all recorded and sent by email the same day. Pauline started training with me 8 months ago, and now beats me by 3 or 4 minutes.
Parkrun inform me each time that I have been placed first in my five-year age group, and congratulate me fulsomely. I assume I am the only person round here in this cohort daft enough still to be running.
I started running 30 years ago, when my bowling arm began to atrophy. Mostly, as a rural dweller, training has been a lonely business, but also a welcome chance to empty my mind after a morning's writing. It is surprising how few days in a year it is raining too hard to permit a run (two or three at the most, until this summer, when the numbers multiplied several fold). Taking part in the occasional collective event is a pleasure, and we always meet friends.
The proudest moment of my career should have come when, at the age of 52, I was placed third man over 40 in a 5k side-race to the Oslo Marathon. I would have received a fine commemorative plate on a podium in front of several thousand spectators in the historic Bislett Stadium (where Steve Cram and Sebastian Coe set their world records), if only I had understood the calls in Norwegian for 'Bill Jordan, England', to take his place. Having no idea what was going on, or clue I had been placed at all, I just wondered why one podium place was not occupied; but the authorities very kindly opened up the stadium and gave me the plate before I caught the plane the following morning, and it stands resplendent on our windowsill.