For those that have assumed Ernest Runaway is nothing more than a Russian cynicism-bot, the following may be shocking. His latest piece for Legend reveals a penchant for nostalgia and tips his bitter/sweet balance in favour of the latter. We’re confident his bitterness will prevail, but for one week only, humour him and his recognisably human thoughts…
I will shortly be boarding a flight over a narrow stretch of water in order to celebrate my Grandmother’s 90th birthday.
She will not know who I am or what I am to her but I guess, after such a long life, she can be forgiven for forgetting a few things.
One thing I will be able to talk to her about, and at length, will be running. If you were to ask her, she would assure you she still runs every day. Now while she is in pretty decent nick for a nonagenarian, I can tell you that she certainly does not. But she did.
Though she would never have called it running. No, to her and her friends who ran with her, they were joggers. Never more, never less. They knew what they were and they embraced it. She still talks about them, her jogging pals.
My grandparents courted through their local cycling club. My grandfather would cycle across Dublin to meet my grandmother, they would then ride back across town to meet the club and then off for 30, 40, 50 mile rides out of the city and into the countryside. Once out in the fresh air, they would stop for lunch, usually sausages cooked on an old petrol Primus stove. One so big and cumbersome it came in its own suitcase. Then back on the bikes, sausages eaten, Primus in tow, back in to the city. By the time my grandfather wheeled his bike back round into the yard, he had racked up perhaps 60 or 70 miles.
Now this is the 1930’s we’re talking about, made of carbon and titanium their bikes were not. These were single speed tractors hewn from pig iron. And once you got out of the city, many roads were little more than tracks that made Paris-Roubaix look like velvet.
And all this after a six-day working week. Sunday was a day of rest, a day of repose. But instead of working on their self-care or going to DFS, they got on their bikes and rode.
“In 1988, at age 60 she entered the Dublin Marathon. And she drank a bottle of Guinness once she crossed the finish line. They, after all, were the main sponsor. What she didn’t do was check her heart rate, take a selfie or update her Strava”
Then the war came along and my grandfather offered his services to the RAF and was whisked off to North Africa and the Mediterranean and the bikes were forgotten.
Once peace was restored and their married life began and after a sojourn in a Manchester slum, my grandparents returned to Ireland. While my grandfather left athletic pursuits behind, favouring golf instead, my grandmother sought an outlet and at the age of 54, took up running. Sorry, jogging.
And this is in 1982, in Ireland. Running had begun to become popular in the US and UK but in conservative Ireland, it wasn’t the mass participation sport it was to become. Even less so for women. Even less so for women who worked, who were still very much in the minority.
But jog she did. She joined a club and ran. She ran with them several nights a week plus any other time she could sneak off.
She even had a nickname, thanks to her rather unfortunate choice of tracksuit; the Elder Lemon. [Ed; unless you’re a scholar of 70s advertising, you may wish to watch this YouTube video for context.]
“At no point did she feel the need to wear compression sleeves or a visor”
And, in 1988, at age 60 she entered the Dublin Marathon. And she drank a bottle of Guinness once she crossed the finish line. They, after all, were the main sponsor. What she didn’t do was check her heart rate, take a selfie or update her Strava.
This was in a time where people just got on and did things. There were no selfies, hashtags were not a thing. At no point did she feel the need to wear compression sleeves or a visor. And never did she refer to herself as anything other than a jogger.
My point is, it seems almost impossible for folk to do this sort of thing now without backing it up with pictures of their watches, selfies at the finish, the start and most of the way through. Without a blog and vlog and podcast.
Without 1000 word think pieces crowbarred into predominantly mountain sport focussed websites.
There has to be proof. A validation. A cry for recognition and admiration. The finisher’s medal and inevitable motivational quotes.
In short, the bullshit.
Or "shite and nonsense," as my grandmother would say.
And its not just running, I see it everywhere. Climbers with nothing to their name but 100k followers, jokers who’d tattoo their faces with a sponsor’s logo just to say they are sponsored. Cyclists posing with dodgy estate cars, looking wistfully at sunsets.
For every true grit hero, there are 10 wannabes with a catchy handle and a filter. These are not the messiahs. These are not the heroes you seek.
Look instead to the daily warrior. Those that put the effort in and fight every day. Who’d get out in a pair of denim cut offs and a charity shop cagoule if they had to. They are the ones who know what the craic is. They are the ones that get it.
And my grandma?
She gave up racing when someone else in her age group started turning up and beating her. I guess even joggers can take losing to heart. But when I see her, I will ask how the running’s going and she’ll laugh and tell me she’s not a runner, just a jogger.
But most of us are just joggers and that is just fine. Embrace it and love it, love what you do.
Ernest Runaway boasts a mountain CV to make even your grandmother weep. He has raced and climbed all over the world with several FKTs, FAs, FFAs and many FFSs to his name. In the interests of safety his identity has been protected. Some of the names, places, events, facts, opinions and words have been changed and/or fabricated, because we can.