As I'm sure you've all heard, last week the death of brilliant comedian Victoria Wood was announced.
Devestating news I'm sure you'll agree.
I won't pull any punches. The woman was utterly wonderful and I loved her and her work. She informed my formative years and cements the relationships of my immediate family. My mother and I often quote her sketches at each other and fall into hysterics. Journeys to university as a teenager with my folks were undertaken to a background of her shows on tape.
She managed to observe and capture the humour of everyday life in such a way that I'm sure it's led to our family tradition of remembering snippets of strangers conversations and repeating them later. Our favourite being:
"2 Christmas trees?" "Yes, we always get one for the dogs"
So this week, in her honour, I'm going to remind you of some of her highlights ( I'll miss most of them, they are innumerable) and how they apply to things I do as a runner.
When you watch these characters you don't see unnatractive folk in unflattering clothes. You see real, human, heartwarming people with hopes, dreams and back stories. It's the polar opposite of the polished, airbrushed 2D world of Hollywood and it has 10 times the heart.
There's a moment when you've learnt to run when you realise that you are a runner. Not one who represents the runners in magazines who run marathons in 3 hrs and are always impeccably dressed. But when people look at you they aren't going to see imperfection or an imposter. They are going to see a person, a real person, doing a thing. That thing happens to be running. And it's just one facet of your personality that fits into your multi layered life.
This is is the point when you stop worrying that you're going to be judged and realise that you can fit a whole lot of people watching into your runs. There's little more exciting than getting a glimpse into the lives of your neighbours and using your imagination to make up the rest.
The world is full of characters. See one and be one.
Set entirely in a staff canteen it focused on a handful of characters who worked there. We never got to see them in their normal lives with family, friends, pets, hobbies and out of smocks and overalls. Everything was gleaned from the conversations they had to pass the time as they worked.
But it she beautifully built up the character with realistic writing. Not tense and exquisite monologues but the ramblings, stories, chats and moaning of everyday folk who like each other, and more importantly, knew each other well enough to have developed a shorthand.
Running buddies are like this. Nothing passes a mile faster than talking about the latest BBC drama or the more pressing drama of your washing machine breakdown. My usual running buddy tells tales of the humour and hassles of a husband and twin sons. I, in return, moan and extoll about the fun of single life and life backstage. I'm sure to passers by we're no great wordsmiths. But we are interested in each other's lives and catching up is a fantastic distraction when your legs are heavy or your brain not feeling ready to run.
On the rare evenings off work I get to run with my Sweatshop run club pals. A more entertaining and supportive bunch of people would be hard to find. The joking, teasing and support amongst the old boys network, plus gleaning facts about new members passes the run in no time. Even when we do hill reps!
Jean: Some of us have personal problems
Jane: I know we do! But we don't bring them to work! I lost 8 tropical fish last week in a power cut!
In my opinion, her finest hour. A rousing song about a long term married couple. One evening, normally restrained Freda gets frisky and declares "LET'S DO IT" poor retiring Barry responds "I can't do it". The song is long, joyous and leaves you breathless with laughter. I think my favourite line is "Bend me over backwards on my hostess trolley" It tells you everything about desire, marriage and suburbia.
It also sums up how I feel when running a marathon. My brain ranges frantically from "LET'S DO IT" to "I can't do it" as the tempo of my breath increases. I simultaneously want it more than anything but fear that I won't be able to perform. Luckily for me (as I take from the songs conclusion) my inner Freda always wins out and I cross the finish line wild with passion for my sport.
So inner Barry: Stop moaning, stop pouting.
A spoof soap set in a fictional antiques shop with a cast of stock characters with big hair or bad wigs. Its brilliance lay in the outmoded dialogue, terrible camera angles, ludicrous plot lines and deliberate mistakes. A send up of Crossroads and other soaps of the time. The set wobbled, the props were stuck down and people stopped acting on camera. The true comedy lay in the timing of everything being ever so slightly off. Like a dreadful final rehearsal of an am dram play.
We may be loathe to admit it, but being a runner is rather like this.
Deliberately ludicrous but hugely enjoyable. So wrong but thus so right.
We wear neon lycra and pay quite a lot of money to run in circles very early in the morning at the weekend. In exchange we get a banana. And for extra cash you can buy a photo of you mid race, with camera angles and facial contortions to rival any scene in Acorn Antiques. When we explain what we're up to, it looks like madness. But even run haters can see we're enjoying ourselves, usually the sillier the event, the more fun there is to be had.
I'm not sure anyone could come up with an event too silly for me to want to do.
Run chasing an an ice cream van? I'm in!
Post box to post box challenge? You bet.
Solve a murder mystery as you run? I'd do that every week!
I just need someone with more enthusiasm, creativity and understanding of human nature to set them up for me.
So this brings me looping back to dear, darling, departed Victoria Wood.
She created things I never knew I needed, that made me laugh more than I knew I could.
I hope she understood what a wonderful person she was and how much she gave to world.
I hope our reaction made her as happy as she made us.
Rest in peace. No. Rest in giggles.
Run Cat Girl Run x x x