Shoot me the sherbert, Herbert*

So, we’re back in foreign climes again, or as my friend Richard would say, the land of ecouté et repeté.

And, given that this part of my marathon training plan calls for a horribly tough training week, what better time to lace up, and head out the door, much to the surprise of the French residents hereabouts, who tend to regard anyone not wearing overalls and driving a tractor with deep suspicion. And yesterday, out the door I went, with a certain amount of trepidation, to try for a rather hilly 20-miler.

All good up to about mile 15, where I aimed to take on (as we runners call it) a drink and a gel to see me through the last quarter of the run.

I had been slightly influenced in this by a presentation on sports nutrition that I went to a couple of weeks ago. Now this had been sponsored by the lovely people from Lucozade, and reminded me, probably quite unfairly, of the posters that I used to see at school advertising drug use. Well, not advertising drug use in the traditional sense (although if you jotted down some of the numbers in the boys toilets then you’d probably be alright for a lively weekend. However, you needed to be reasonably alert – I knew a boy who swapped his moped one Friday for what turned out to be an Oxo cube.) I mean advertising that drugs use was pretty much A Bad Thing, and that people who dealt in such wares always gave the first few hits free.

And so it turned out with the Lucozade man, as he described how important it was to get nutrition into you during a marathon, and that the London Marathon would be supplying all runners with Lucozade gels and drinks on the course. Anyway, all interesting stuff, and in true Nick O’Teen (remember him?) style, he invited us at the end of the talk to help ourselves to as many free samples as we could justify to ourselves. Which, looking at some of my fellow runners, was quite a generous justification. Standing outside the scrum, I asked a friend if she could pass me a couple of gels, which she duly did, and off I went, happy that I could try the gels out (For Nothing!) before I set off on a race proper.

So, at mile 15, I had stashed a bottle of water and a gel, and picked them up almost without breaking stride. I should mention at this point that the weather at that point featured what I believe weathermen call ‘squally’ winds. I think this just means the wind blows fairly random directions, and I evidenced this earlier in the run when I spat out of the right side of my mouth, only for the spit to complete a 270 degree rotation of my head and land in my left eye. Anyway, let that be a lesson for all sportsmen to keep their saliva in their mouth at all times. Back to mile 15, and I expectantly bit the side of the wrapper off the gel, and squeezed the contents into my mouth. There followed an odd sensation, which was a bit like eating stardust sweets mixed with the inside of a sherbert dip. Not unpleasant, but not quite how I expected a gel to feel. About half way through I realised that I wasn’t eating a gel at all, but a single serving Lucozade powder. At which point, two things happened. Firstly, running along at a reasonable pace, I was briskly followed by all manner of insects, who were for some reason attracted to a runner caked in sweat with a unshiftable layer of raspberry sherbert all over his face. And secondly, I remembered about osmosis. Osmosis, you may recall from school, is where water diffuses across a semi-permeable membrane, such as you might find, oh I don’t know, maybe in your stomach wall. And if you put a concentration of powder that absorbs water into a stomach when you’re nicely dehydrated, you can almost feel the particles of water dragging their way across the stomach. I really don’t know if this is an exact physiological description of what happened, but it certainly felt like it at the time.

The rest of the run wasn’t quite so much fun as the first bit. The flies disappeared after a while, and I dragged myself back to the house.

‘How was your run?’ enquired Mrs E.

‘Finished.’ I said.

*If you get this reference, then good on you. I miss Norwich in the 1980’s.


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