Looking out upon healthier people than me contributing something to others
So, you know there are those times when you’re up for a pint, it’s past the witching hour, and there are
tumbleweeds blowing through your favourite local that you find yourself situated in?
Having had this happen, sometimes – just sometimes, mind – I find myself thinking further than the next beer. For example, at times I wonder something along the lines of ‘where the fuck is everyone?’
Naturally there are some answers that one can immediately empathise with, such as ‘it’s the last week before payday – it’ll be fair heavin’ next week’.
Answers along this line keep us (read ‘me’) happily cocooned in our own self-reinforcing bubbles of logic, and in these early, heady days of navigating the new social media-driven world, who doesn’t live in a self-reinforcing echo chamber of their own opinion to some extent?
Still, there are also times when there is this wee niggling doubt ear-worming its way past my fine-honed self-defences. For, while these answers suffice for the most part, the brain in me, such as it is, is inclined to whisper strange, exotic thoughts at times.
Things along the lines of ‘What if they are actually more interested in doing something else?’; ‘What if they choose not to be sucking down the amber delights that life has to offer?’; or even more preposterous – ‘What if they instead are deciding to do something healthy and beneficial with their Sunday mornings, rather than patterned self-injurious habits filling their Saturday nights?’ (while this last thought is true, it is incumbent upon me to temper and balance that idea. To state clearly here that while drinking can indeed be bad for your health, live music is awesome for it. That’s not me – that’s just science).
Following that thought, and the inherent, insatiable scientific curiosity that is genuinely not much a feature of standard thought processes at The Nettle, I decided to actually try to answer a smattering of these ear-worm niggling questions.
So on Sunday the 23rd of September, glory be, the beautiful, gift-giving enigmatic beast that is Inverness once again come through for me – for it showed me that strangest of things, by way of a glimpse of the life lived on the other side.
A glimpse of those who are fit. Those who are healthy. Those who chose – who actually, willingly weigh up the choices in front of them and choose with a clear mind and a clear conscience – to forego a Saturday night out, for the wonders of fresh air and running on a Sunday morning. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes, as they say.
Don’t get me wrong. I have heard tales of such beings before. I have even seen them in their natural habitat, although admittedly mostly in their second burst of running for the day, the after work one.
It is a rare treat to get up in the morning, and every time I do I love that time of day, and I swear that I am going to do it more often. Not only are these fuckers doing it, they’re out and about and running at that time as well. So regularly in fact (more facts, more leaning on science) that they feel confident enough to transform this ‘healthy for oneself’ stuff into a ‘let’s help a good cause’ event, like this one for MacMillan’s.
And the stats around this thing are, if I am to believe the voice in the loudspeaker at the event, genuinely impressive. This thing that I heard about late the day before, these people populating this other world, they were all over this shit. Some of them were doing a 5km run, some 10km and some – on their Sunday off– were popping out a marathon for the sake of it, for the fun of it, and for charity.
It was their biggest local event/ run yet over the years. They had just over 2,200 runners. They raised just shy of £600,000 (I double-checked – this is the right amount of zeros). People were running, finishing, and pulling up happy and smiling. Not all of them, obviously. Some were going for personal bests (“PBs” if you want to impress the in-crowd) and all that sorta stuff, of course, and had run themselves ragged, and looked and smelled the worse for it, despite the gleaming beaming smile of achievement on their faces. But all that being said, they were coming together for a cause, and for an event that had a lot more going on than I would have ever dreamt of.
Walking into the place gave a sense of the scale of the whole thing. Actually, in this and a few other respects, it reminded me a lot of the Highlands Games. It was in and around the finish line, which was in Bught Park, so the same location. While not quite the same scale, it had the same feel, generated by the same familiar sights and faces and pieces of the puzzle. By this I mean the overlap of the same food vans, and the rides and sideshow alley games stalls for the kids and that sort of paraphernalia.
Not to disparage it – it’s what people both want and need at events of such scale. Keep the kiddies amused. Keep the bellies fed. Keep the entertainment up.
For this there was a band in the tent, good at what they were doing – genuinely talented crew, but playing nice and safe Scottish trad ‘leaning’ versions/ covers of popular songs. Good, safe, talented, and importantly, designed to not startle the punters. Maybe they were transgressing into this space like me. It felt like they had more to give, but knew it was neither the time or the place.
They were playing in the marquee where the runners went to for their ‘free’ feed (again, not to be cynical about it – it was for a good cause, but apparently it was a fair chunk of money to enter the race, so while welcome I’m sure, the idea of the soup and an oatcake being ‘free’ is open to debate).
There were shops inside this marquee as well – these ones seemed strategically aimed at the context at hand, and the line of runners buying shoes and sweatbands and all sorts of things that were sharply sitting front and centre in their short-term memory mind of the morning as things that they would have loved to have just had on the run they just did.
There I was, among the bright eyed and bushy-tailed, seeing what those people who weren’t at the pub the night before were actually prioritising. So, as someone entering into this much larger than I had appreciated world of the Sunday morning early risers and runners, what was the whole thing actually like?…
As an observer, mind. The idea of being a runner I think sits rather aesthetically ‘dashing’ in its repose on the mantelpiece alongside the aforementioned idea of being more regularly the type of person that gets up early to enjoy that time of the morning. One of those good theories, that would also do me good, but… (add your own excuse, or disparaging comment of me, here).
The first thing that came to mind was definitely the scale of the thing. That there were so many people in on this whole thing that had passed me by up until learning of it the night before… – this is not a new sensation.
But they were definitely out in force, either running, or supporting. Punters just out to be there, yelling encouragement from the side lines. They may have been friends and partners and loved ones, and I’m sure a large swathe of them were.
Saying that, there also must have been people out there purely for the craic of it, and to be nice people supporting other nice people doing something with their time and efforts for a good cause. There is a reflexive compulsion in the nastier recesses of my brain that has the reaction to the legitimate use of the word ‘nice’ that many times in a sentence, in the same way that Vivienne reacted to The Good Life. However, by way of internal conflict, I also grew up liking the Good Life as well as The Young Ones, and found myself liking this base level support by the crowd as well.
There were smiles on people’s faces. Many might have been watching for their friends or loved ones, but that didn’t stop them from encouraging any random runner that they desired to for any range of reason.
I got caught up in this and all. My favourite part of that was watching them at the finish line. Seeing people get that final burst of speed after pushing themselves through such a stupidly gruelling exercise. Gathering the last of their energy in order to give it their all for a dash over the finish line. It was seriously enjoyable to see the potential of us human animal things gathered and utilised in such a ‘leave it all out there on the field’ kind of way (calm down, Inner Vivienne, this is legitimately worthy of note).
For the purposes of pressure release valve for my wee ‘Inner Vivienne’, not all of the event was visions of peace, joy and light. If I’m gonna have a cynical grumble about it, I thought that the shops inside were strategically sensible, but strategically maximised to squeeze coin out of people when they weren’t assessing the whole purchase in the cool objective, reflective light of day, more at a time when they were at the ‘with better kit, I would have got a minute under the mark, instead of missing it by a minute’ impulse purchase kind of mood.
I also thought that it was a serious, God-awful stupidity that the freebie soup for 2,200 runners – provided by Baxters as big time-sponsor and big time soup maker – was achieved by opening said amount of individual cans of soup. How the fuck they couldn’t have scooped some off of the factory production line into big-arsed pots, or at least catering-sized cans for such a known, registered, anticipated amount of runners they were providing it for… I tried but couldn’t see a way in which this wasn’t stupidity and waste on a genuinely mass scale. The only thing of the day that genuinely was a ‘what the actual fuck is this dumbfuckery’ moment. A good sentiment, and good generous moment, ballsed-up by managerial small-mindedness and stupidity.
Ah, gosh does that feel a little better. For in truth I liked my vacation exploration over onto the side, that of the Sunday Morning People.
There were families giving the kids a day out with fun in the sun. There were people who’d run, and finished, and achieved, and felt much better than they smelled. They were bursting with sunshine, satisfaction and a good hit of endorphins. Hard to be too Grinch-like among all that. Chuck in a dose of community feel, people having done something together, and that thing being a lot for money raised for a good cause, and it’s hard to be ‘anti’ the event I was experiencing there in Bught Park at that rather silly time on a Sunday.
Personally I think that this scientific exploration into the world of the people from another time-zone was an experiment that was well worth it. I’m not overly likely to be running next year, but the event is growing and expanding in its size, scale, support and success just fine without me out there on the track getting in everyone’s way. That being said, it wasn’t just a run, it was an event, with all the bells and whistles, bands, bairns, and mac n’ cheese food vans one could want. And if people couldn’t allow themselves the cheeky ill-discipline of a few globbed scoops of mac n’ cheese after running 10km, they never will. Even this seemed a good fit in its own way.
It was a happy surprise for me to get to see this event, to see the money they raised for a cause, and to finally see what the alternative options may be in terms of what to do on a Sunday morning in a parallel universe.
I won, Macmillan’s won, and importantly, science was the ultimate winner for the day. Actually, I think that it was one of these people on the podium, but it was too nice a day to quibble about such things. If you’re interested in such event, give it a crack next year. I’ll support you from the side lines!
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