Blog: The Weekend Warrior on… Getting older
220’s Martyn Brunt considers how gaining years means searching for more gentlemanly athletic pursuits – in his case the Brompton World Championships
Recently I was lying on a table while a physio friend of mine inflicted the kind of pain on my buttocks you’d normally have to pay serious cash for in Soho. As I lay there squawking like a castrated parrot every time he elbowed me in the hamstrings, he engaged me in small talk about how my season was going, presumably because he was tired of looking at someone who had the same startled expression as a pensioner who’s just heard a noise downstairs.
I was happy about this conversational diversion because the previous evening, despite having a torn glute, I’d managed to dredge a new PB for my local 10-mile time-trial up from somewhere (22:35mins, in case you’re wondering). The presence of my tormentor meant I had a new audience for the story, having already carped on about it to everyone else I know.
Upon hearing of my achievement he replied: “It’s amazing you’re still setting PBs at your age.” As backhanded compliments go this was worse than being called a Nuneaton beauty queen. But before I had time to join in the witty banter by laughingly smacking him with a right uppercut, he delivered the killer blow: “It just goes to show that getting old need not be a barrier to performance.” That one really stung.
Age-related injuries are all the rage at the moment and my friend Neill Morgan has recently been under the surgeon’s knife to get two new Achilles tendons fitted, which is a bit like putting carbon wheels on a wheelie bin. Meanwhile, my injury has forced me to realise that, unless I can invent a flux capacitor, my best sporting days may soon be behind me.
This is a difficult notion to comprehend because there are still so many athletic goals I want to achieve, such as covering 100m in under 10secs, which I’ve only managed once before when I fell off the end of Brighton pier on a stag do.
Even before my injury I was feeling my age due to watching the para-swimming at the Commonwealth Games and realising I was slower over 400m than a man with no arms. But now that my ‘you’re getting on a bit’ injury is making my running so slow that I’m being outpaced by plate tectonics, I’ve started wondering whether I should scrap the Ironmans and start targeting races that reflect my decrepitude.
It was for this reason that I decided to enter the Brompton World Championships, a genteel race for owners of the famous folding bikes who are happy to ride around at the speed of coastal fog and where fashion is prized over form. The race takes place over four laps of Goodwood motor racing circuit (15km) with 600 riders observing a strict dress code of jacket, shirt, tie and the expression of an indignant gecko. I opted for a full tweed suit with waistcoat and a pipe clenched determinedly between my teeth, which may have been a mistake because it was a boiling hot day and even before the start my back was sweatier than Eric Pickles in a cake shop.
I’ve owned a Brompton for about five years after deciding to try and live petrol free. Initially this was a nightmare because it took me ages to push the car to work, so instead I opted for a small-wheeled folding bike guaranteed to make school kids wet themselves laughing at me. This was the first time I’d tried racing anyone on it (unless you count every time I commute through London) and I was surprised how seriously many people were taking the event – there were Lycra shorts, cleats and even the odd aero helmet on show.
The race began Le Mans style with a sprint to the bikes, which were then hurriedly unfolded before we surged on to the track. Despite my intention to simply pedal round like a gentleman my inner-triathlete took over about 0.5secs into the race and I instantly started stamping on the pedals as hard as anyone in brogues can. Despite being distinctly under-geared I finished the race in a creditable 27mins, bagging a top-10 finish in the senior citizens (over 40s) category with the added satisfaction of out-sprinting some French arseflute who’d been drafting me for three laps. Clearly continentals are no match for a man powered by fine British tailoring.
I can honestly say that I haven’t enjoyed a race as much as this one for years, and even though I nearly died of tweed-induced heatstroke I will definitely be on the lookout for more gentlemanly races in the future. Until then, though, it’s back to the physio, who wants to use an ultrasound machine to zap my buttocks with electricity. Although after seeing how much this treatment costs I’ve decided to get the treatment free by mooning at a busload of pensioners and waiting for the police to come and taser me.