I try to make conversation of things other than running. It's my contention that to read about it or hear about it is enough to send you off at a rapid rate of knots with a rope for a neck-tie. But I chatted with someone today who opined that many of our successful sports people find their success as a result of seeking atonement for injustices suffered in childhood.
Personally I think that's bollocks, although if one reads of the recent departed Smokin' Joe Frazier's childhood I'm willing to be challenged on that. I guess this is my opportunity to bid farewell to a man that would have stomped on the heavyweight division in any other era but was unfortunate enough (or fortunate if viewed from another angle) to share the ring with heavyweight luminaries such as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.
Message to Joe: You were always my preferred combatant in the Ali v Frazier rubber competition. Not because you were an Uncle Sam; simply because I felt a definite connection to your march forward throwing hooks style of fighting, and indeed knew no other way to fight. If your doggedness and aggression were enough to experience victory in your final battle we'd have a cure for cancer. Sleep well Joe.
Anyway, back to this idiotic idea of childhood suffering resulting in sporting excellence nonsense. If this were true Jez Bragg would be a grit-eating muther. And it would be my grit the Blacks poster boy would be eating.
I've heard many people argue that the school they attended as a child was a battleground like no other. I hear this and chuckle to myself. That's because they didn't attended the Beaufoy School for Boys in Lambeth where I was taught between the years 1979 and 1984 (please don't assume I was actually present for all of my required attendance). On my first day at Beaufoy I witnessed a PE teacher kick a knife out of a pupil's hand before dropping him to the ground. Back in those days it was considered appropriate to hit the offender on the arse with a running shoe and throw the weapon in the bin.
But the in-yer-face physicality of the PE teacher wasn't just confined to the gym. I remember my drama teacher, Mr Dawson using our first drama lesson to introduce us to 'anticipation.' This involved arranging the classroom chairs in a big circle with the students kneeling on, and facing backward over said chairs. We were instructed to kneel there with our eyes clamped shut while Mr Dawson made his way around the group with a cane.
When you heard the cane cutting through the air you truly understood anticipation. You learned about pain and relief too. Your involvement in either of those experiences depended upon whether you heard the squeal and crash of a fellow pupil or felt the sting across your own arse and tumbled forward to crush your fingers as the back of the chair hit the ground.
It was as a child that I realised corporal punishment in school doesn't work. We had teachers hitting pupils for fun; when the teachers chastened their charges for something worthwhile the boys of Beaufoy wore the cane marks on their hands like a badge of honour.
To be honest none of this really concerned me. I'd grown up playing 'fighting in the dark' with my brothers, the rules of which were simply that you close the bedroom curtains and from a standing start against an opposing wall, run windmilling into the middle of the room. The winner was the last man standing. I was pretty good at that (oldest brother!).
The thing that really cut me up, and one that I realise I'm opening myself up to again for, was inspired by my drama teacher's rapier wit. You see old Mr Dawson had the ability to make a scything anagram of your name and with mine he changed Waterman to 'Wetwoman.'
So I endured years of being taunted with this sobriquet until I'd hit enough of my fellow pupils to convince them otherwise.
Judging by the argument above I should have been the Light-Welterweight champion of the world. I'm not.
Neither am I a remarkable runner so I can only conclude that:
1. The theory driving this blog post is utter nonsense.
2. My formative years weren't as colourful as I'd thought.
3. I can't sing as well as Smokin' Joe.