My friend has organised a lunch for us. I am delighted, because she has chosen a gastro-pub approximately 6 minutes walk from my house. I decide to cycle. It is even quicker. I arrive first, order a diet coke and pop to the loo. The others arrive a few minutes later. We mock my friend who asks for salad instead of chips with her sandwich. We point out to my other friend that her current tan will make her look wizened in 10 years time. (I may be using ‘we’ rather liberally here). Everything is trundling along nicely.
‘You still keen to run the 5K?’ one of my friends calls down the table. ‘You know, I’m not sure I could finish it,’ she replies. I’m on my second diet coke, and loudly interrupt, ‘ANYONE could finish a 5K. ANYONE.’ My friends disagree. I decide to help them. ‘Look, you’re not obese. 5K is what, 3 miles? Let’s say you run a 10 minute mile. That’s 30 minutes. You’ll certainly finish.’ There is uproar. ‘It would definitely take me longer than 10 minutes to run a mile.’ I am inexplicably furious. ‘Look,’ I begin to shout at my friends, ‘A normal human runs an 8 minute mile. I’ve given you guys 2 extra minutes! You’re basically walking!’ My friend reminds me that we are inside, so perhaps I should use my inside voice. I ignore her. ’10 minutes?! That’s absurdly slow already. I think over 3 miles I could run a 6 minute mile.’ My friends do not seem impressed. ‘No, wait. A 5 minute mile. I could probably run a sub-5 minute mile if I trained.’ No-one’s listening.
‘4 minutes!’ I call out desperately. ‘I’d be home in 12 minutes! I could run 5K now and our starters wouldn’t even be here yet!’ I seem to have lost my audience.
‘Fine! I’m going to qualify for the Olympics just to show you.’ My friends look at me, baffled. ‘I think you’re too old to be an Olympian’, one of them points out. ‘Not at ALL,’ I respond furiously. ‘Not for middle distance running. I’ll see you all in Rio.’ There are general murmurings about how fun a group trip to Rio would be. ‘It is not going to be FUN,’ I shout furiously. ‘I am going to be running a marathon with 4 minute splits. It’s going to be DREADFUL.’ Someone changes the subject, but I overhear two of my friends vowing to run 11 minute miles, just to show me.
A group of us are eating breakfast the next day, as Paula Radcliffe gets her Olympic qualifying time at the Berlin marathon. ‘That’ll be you in 2016,’ my friend says. I stop stealing chips and look up. ‘So, conceivably, you’ll be finishing with a 1 hr 46 min marathon time. That’s probably as long as we’ll take to run our 5K.’