Marlow 5

Not only do I have the election to distract me from writing at the moment but this morning I also ran the ‘Marlow 5’ — a race of 5 miles (or 8km in the more runner-familiar distance) around the streets of the extremely affluent town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire — part of the route goes up the High Street past Paul Costelloe’s boutique.

Marlow is a town with quite a literary heritage (see Paul Wreyford’s book ‘Literary Buckinghamshire’). Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’ there apparently and her husband also write much of his poetry here. It’s also associated with Jerome K. Jerome’s ‘Three Men in A Boat’. I’m familiar with the place where T.S. Eliot lived, near the Two Brewers pub by the river, when he was commuting to his banking job in central London around the end of the First World War on the so-called Marlow Donkey (which is the railway branch line but also a pub). The Shelleys also lived on the same road.

I didn’t exactly prepare myself like an elite athlete for the race. Yesterday I went on a ‘brewery tour’ of Loddon Brewery (between Reading and Henley) where the very pleasant proprietor, Chris Hearn, allowed us about two and a half hours to sample as much of his excellent beer as we wanted while also having a really informative discussion about the licensed trade — great research, of course, for ‘The Angel’. (Loddon supply a lot of Wetherspoon pubs in London and the South East and their beer is well worth seeking out — particularly ‘Ferryman’s Gold’, ‘Hoppit’ and ‘Bamboozle’.

With this preparation the day before, I was quite pleasantly surprised with my time — 44 minutes 47 seconds (all electronically timed with a chip embedded into the race number — click here to see it) — which is about 10% faster than I normally run. I came 932nd  out of about 1,650. This puts my achievement in context: pretty rubbish compared with the ‘proper’ runners from clubs (like my friend Simon who was disappointed with his 33 minutes) but not quite as bad as the fun runners.

Occasionally I see running as a bit of a metaphor for writing a novel. I don’t really enjoy it while I’m doing it but it’s one of those things that gives you a sense of achievement when you complete something you set out to do. I’ve sent in an application to do the Prestwood 10k next weekend and then will do a much harder race towards the end of July — the High Wycombe half-marathon — no brewery visits the day before that one I think.