Being married to a personal trainer some years younger than her middle-aged mid-life crisis, fast-paunch-developing retired Army Officer husband would put a certain pressure on anyone. For ever being accused of “never listening” (am I alone in this?) I got my comeuppance when I was caught by a left-flanking, late evening proposal, up to my guts in marking, lost pencil-cases, and hugely important chapel missing site service issues. “Darling, shall I sign us both up for the Shrewsbury Half Marathon in June?” I am not sure I actually answered with the words “yeah, whatever!” but whatever I did say, shortly after that moment, the entry fee was paid on line and I was committed. When the reality of what I had inadvertently agreed to set in, Fenella was already up to 8 miles in her training programme and it was clear that I had a lot of catching up to do!
Don’t be disillusioned! Of course as a housemaster I am an excellent listener, so clearly I knew what I was letting myself into from the start…..! This will not be my first half marathon: I was squarely beaten by Fenella in the Windsor one in 2005 and you can imagine the banter I received from my 500 or so under-command at Middle Wallop. Like childbirth, I suspect, I swore then that there would not be any more. So why have I signed up? My failing memory is probably one of the reasons, but also that I do need to retain my part of the pre-nuptial agreement which we agreed to in those heady days of pre-wedding euphoria.
“The Taylors have never had dogs, but of course, you can have a puppy, provided that you keep to the same weight on your 50th birthday as you have on your wedding day!”
“Of course, my fairy blossom, darling child bride, anything you say!” I retorted as I zipped out to collect Labrador puppy Tarka.
So another reason for entering is to maintain a certain status quo to which I am contractually bound. But more importantly, perhaps is the real and continued desire to maintain a minimal level of personal fitness as I get older and this regime is something which was inculcated in my psyche from my days in officer training at Sandhurst 30 years ago, competing in those days in endurance log races against a certain 2nd Lieutenant Mark Turner of Marne Company. This taught me early that during one’s working life, maintaining the right balance between work and play, the sedentary and the active, and keeping mental fitness as well as physical, has unquestionably helped me to work better, keep stress levels low and to fit into my original mess dress for Shrewsbury’s Strictly Come Dancing event last term. Sadly it has not prevented me from going bald AND grey. But there again, being a housemaster to some 60 teenage boys was never going to be the best recipe for preventing that. Already the acute focus of the training regime and having a deadline on the horizon which cannot be extended has provided me with the extra impetus and motivation needed. The daily extra endorphin release is also most welcome, providing a high almost comparable to surviving an engine-out emergency landing in a military helicopter and avoiding being the first on the scene of a nasty accident.
As a born and bred Shropshire lad brought up amongst “Onny and Teme and Clun” as well as being a Salopian by virtue of my education at Shrewsbury, I strangely felt compelled to compete in this most honourable event as a fitting way to celebrate my half century year. It is also a good opportunity to try to lose a few pounds at the same time as raising a few for charity. Having spent many months in various parts of Africa over the years witnessing at first hand some of the poverty and deprivation gave me no hesitation in deciding to donate any sponsorship gained to the School charity Medic Malawi.
Anyway, in the words of many a true Salopian, I am sorry that this essay is not longer, but I have numerous excuses. The main one being that if I don’t get out to my training session, Mrs N will have something to say. I will, of course, do my best, but in the back of my mind, I rather look forward to the opportunity of being beaten by my wife again!
Did I really write that?
Ducere est Servire