This is a post that only Irish Catholics (usually lapsed) will understand.
The running has been in abeyance over the past week as family duties took over.
I am trying, like a rogue state, to ignore the reality of my overlord’s (wife) demands and I hoped, last week, that if I mounted a big show of ‘being a dad’ I might get to run another ultra marathon.
In order to curry favour and get in the good books as you might say I offered to take on the Bob Graham Round of being a dad.
Last Thursday I set off from home at the same time as Thomas gets up for a run and loaded the car with not one, not two but three children and my mother (she of the church of offering her opinion whether you asked for it or not). We were heading to London to see the latest addition to the Cronin Clan – my sister’s daughter Maeve.
I collected two points for driving on a clear empty road in dry bright conditions at a touch over the speed limit on the approach to Wexford but this was, as the knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail would say, a mere flesh wound.
I arrived back home at nine o’clock last night. Six days later – a shell of a man.
What went on in between was sleeping on floors, minding my kids and mother (either one is fine, but together……), drinking weak, weak english beer (3.5% is officially non-alcoholic), driving in and out of London several times, multiple mad panics to find toilets for my team of spontaneous pissers, Buckingham Palace, Hamleys, Soho, The Natural History Museum (dinosaurs), the V&A, Finsbury Park, the tube, King’s Cross, Platform 9 & 3/4, the fun fair, multiple ‘eating out with children’ events, making sure the Easter Bunny found us in London, geocaching, the Westfield Shopping Centre (the seventh circle of hell) and the trip back.
When I look at it there, in one neat paragraph, it doesn’t seem so bad but it was done with little sleep and all the charm I could muster.
But, all of this was for nought and I’d happily do it again.
The real endurance event took place on Sunday morning. It wasn’t the breakfast of chocolate at 6:00, it wasn’t the dressing in the ‘good clothes’. No, it was much worse.
It was a Sunday mass in England.
Mass in Ireland is a 15 minutes affair. Less time than you’d need to run 5k (if you were really good). The English version of the Catholic mass takes roughly 90 minutes (one and a half hours in old money). This, to an Irish Catholic, is what hell must be like.
This was 100 minutes of sitting/kneeling/standing next to a roasting radiator trying to control my 4-year-old with colouring books and rice cakes. As I mouthed the words to hymn 824 like John Redwood mouthing the Welsh National Anthem I saw no end in sight. The extra 10 minutes were so we could denounce satan and all his evil ways and throw in a bit more guitar strumming.
I hadn’t felt this way in nearly two weeks since my last ultra-marathon only this time I felt completely under prepared.
I hope, if I’m allowed to do another ultra, that the mental training of last Sunday will stand to me.