In Ireland, like the rest of the western world, you are likely to meet your Maker from one of the menu of modern aliments that has as much to do with lifestyle as anything else.
You will probably succumb to heart disease, the Big Sea (not drowning, the other one), type 2 diabetes or some other disease that requires you to have your arse wiped by a stranger in your latter years.
We do, however, have another disease in Ireland that, to date, there has been no known cure for. It is a sudden and debilitating condition that, once diagnosed leads to a swift and tragic end.
It is called a turn for the worst.
As a child, everyone my parents knew seemed to die from a turn for the worst. The story normally went something like this:
So-and-so was happily getting on with life when suddenly they took a turn. A turn normally hit you like an express train and, like a medical Hogwarts Express, it appeared from nowhere. Now, a turn is completely survivable and many people, after their turn, are admitted to hospital for tests. Tests is another word for student doctors practising on you. Most people survive the students and are discharged from hospital with inconclusive tests (that means the students didn’t kill the you).
The next worrying phase in this terminal disease is whats known as the turn for the worst.
Normally this happens when you’ve been let off home from the hospital and are drinking tea or getting up out of a chair or something inconsequential. After your turn for the worst you have somewhere between hours and days left to get your affairs in order.
The next three things that happen to So-and-so is that they’re shifted to hospital, they get the priest in and they slip away.
No one recovers from a turn for the worst. Deadly, it is.
The only thing worse than a turn for the worst in Ireland is ‘being riddled with it‘. You have no hope.
What has this got to do with running? Nothing I’m afraid.
In fact the running is going very well. The distances are still low – all sub-10 miles – but there is that tempo running urgency coming back. (for the non-runners, tempo running is what we call ‘going a bit fast’). After a mile of a warm up I’m into the run like you stole it zone (although at the speed I’m going I’d be in the cells after only a few miles). I’m back to knocking out somewhere between 5 – 6 days running a week. This is encouraging as it seems to mark the end of the recovery from the River Ayr Way and allows me to start planning realistically for the next few months. Now I just have to peel the bed off my back and I can start going out for some longer runs.
No, my turn for the worst is entirely mental.
If you take my shouting about fluffy dogs last May as a sign (they always say ‘the signs were there but they ignored them’ at the funeral in Ireland) then my shouting about the bloody heating last week was a turn.
This week I had a turn for the worst.
I went to a public meeting. With local residents. And Local Councillors.
And I did my ‘shouty man thing’.
And they clapped for me when I sat down.
And my shouting made it onto pages 1, 2 and 5 of the local evening newspaper – the Cork Evening Echo- the next day.
It’s all about the plans for the City Council to re-zone some amenity land and to sell it to the GAA. You don’t need to know much about the whole thing and I only read about it on the night but it has enough bullshit in it (centre of excellence, eco-parks, passive supervision) for you to know that it will be a car crash of some description.
I enjoy the blood sport of local activism and I know the processes and how to object to these things. So, I fear my turn for the worst will be fatal and I am slipping away into my middle years.
The next time you see me I’ll be shouting at the check out girl in Tesco about the poor selection of prunes and adult diapers.
There is one possible cure for the turn for the worst but I doubt it would work in my case. You’d have to say a few novenas for me.