To get myself in the mood for the 50 km walk, which is taking place on Saturday (still time to join the field if you feel so inclined), I’ve been reading ‘The Long Walk’ by Richard Bachman (the alter-ego of Stephen King).
The book is about a futuristic gameshow that consists of 100 young men walking south from the US - Canadian border. Armed soldiers in a vehicle that follows the field monitor the pace of each walker. If a walker’s pace falls below four miles an hour, he receives a warning. If it happens again, he receives another warning. If it happens again, he gets... another warning. But if it happens a fourth time, he gets shot.
They walk day and night without cease. There is no finish line. The winner is the last man standing.
Not surprisingly, the International Olympic Committee’s rules for ‘The Long Walk’ are slightly less stringent. Anyone falling below a pace of four miles an hour on Saturday will be laughed at and then nagged to hurry up rather than shot. Anyone wishing to quit because they have blisters, cramps, or a general lack of resolve can similarly expect no worse than a bit of light mocking, as opposed to having to stare down the business end of an AK-47.
As was the case with the 20 km walk, the adoption of strict race walking technique will be discouraged in favour of a brisk stroll in order to keep the waiting lists for hip replacement operations down where possible. The field will consist of the following athletes (for want of a more accurate description):
Me - The Ultimate Olympian - 25 to 1
Despite my usual fastidious preparation for this event, my odds have rocketed with the announcement that the field will be joined by none other than Keir Simpson. Keir couldn’t out-walk me even if there were guns involved, but he can (and will) drink me under the table from the moment he arrives on Thursday.
Keir - The Ultimate Liver - 20 to 1
He’s a tall man, but his legs are surprisingly short. He’ll fancy himself to do well, but his determination to prevent me from finishing in a respectable time may hamper his own progress too, so his odds remain like his spine... long.
Gareth - The Ultimate Horse - 12 to 1
Having displayed good form in some other events, Gareth ‘The Dark Horse’ Forber isn’t expected to live up to his nickname in this event. The bookies fancy him better over a shorter course and are concerned that his trainer may have landed him in over his head this time.
Jamie - The Ultimate Fidget - 10 to 1
A man who literally can’t sit still, Jamie’s restless nature could come in handy in an event that will require a lot of energy. His odds would be lower, but they try to take account of the fact that he could get bored and wander off in the wrong direction in search of real ale.
Deneal - The Ultimate Doctor - 5 to 1
This mathematical genius is sure to have figured out the path of least resistance from Lechlade to Oxford, and of the entire field, he is the least likely to have underestimated just how far 50 km is. The word on the street is that the Doc has been putting in the hours in training - his odds reflect this. He may even have been joint favourite at one point, with only a disparity of several inches in stride length between himself and the favourite to blame for his slip to second place in the running.
Caitlin - The Ultimatrix - 5 to 1
Fitter than the rest of the field combined, Caitlin would have been the favourite to wipe the floor with us all, but for the fact that she knows how fragile Tim's ego is and will undoubtedly let him cross the line first rather than have to deal with the tantrum that would ensue if he doesn't. As the only member of the fairer sex in the competition, she's the odds-on favourite for the women's race.
Tim - The Ultimate Triathlete - 3 to 1 favourite
Having taken the revolutionary approach to triathlon training of actually sticking to the schedule that he drew up for himself several weeks ago, Tim’s recent trip to his Korean training camp is bound to stand him in good stead for this one. He has the physique, he has the fitness, and he has the will-to-win of a true champion. Not so much a walk by the Thames for him as a walk in the park.
Non-runner: number 3, John Adams. We all wish John a speedy and full recovery from the debilitating illness that seems to render him glued to the sofa for a week every time he tries to do something more energetic than change the TV channel.
The field will remain open until the last possible minute, so if you want to come along, drop me an e-mail; we’re going to aim for a ten o’clock start from Lechlade this Saturday.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Posted by John McClure at 12:38 pm