Once upon a time, I worked in a circus knife-throwing act – as the target. This was in the ’80s when I used to tell people I was in the entertainment industry, even though that’s a bit like saying you work in the oil business when you’re a sardine-packer.
My ‘job’ involved standing still while a Hungarian named Jozef lobbed massive daggers at my head. This sounds dangerous enough, but in those days there was also a lot more of me for Jozef the mad axeman to hit. I was four stones heavier than I am now and had a hairstyle so large it qualified for a Turner Prize.
I mention this now because in my life I have done some extremely dangerous things – sitting in a cage with an irritated tiger, swimming the Channel in the dark, wing-walking on a biplane… And once I told my wife I thought she’d put on weight, for which I received a blow so savage that no skin will ever grow on that spot again.
Also add to this that I am, like you, a triathlete and thus someone whose life is full of daring, performing risk-fraught stunts like descending mountains on 23mm tyres while eating energy gels that make me want to be sick into a bin. How then have I managed to injure myself just by jogging round a sodding track?!
Yes, I’m injured. Like most triathletes, I’m constantly teetering on the edge of injury (and self-befoulment), but it’s finally caught up with me, thanks to a calf pull, damaged Achilles and an unspecified pain in my left arse cheek.
It came on halfway through a training run and the stabbing pain was so dreadful, I thought Jozef had finally got me with one of his knives. I tried to run it off, but it soon reached agony levels only usually associated with sitting on your own testicles. So I stepped off the track, although mainly because people I normally beat were about to overtake me and I didn’t want to give them any kind of psychological boost.
Most injuries I’ve had over the years seem banal to anyone but the most desperate perverts. This one, though, is proving harder to get rid of than a wetsuit fart. Several weeks on, it’s still giving me gyp. I have, of course, continued to race, knocking out a half-Ironman and a 10k, but as well as the pain, being injured has had some unforeseen consequences.
Firstly, it’s damaged the effectiveness of my excuses. All triathletes spend the period before and after races claiming they’re carrying an injury/mystery illness that wasn’t mentioned previously but that’s just flared up.
I spent all my time at the Ely Monster Middle Distance race telling anyone who would listen (nobody) that I was injured, only for them to say “Yes, me too” and start banging on about some pain in their hair or fingernails. I wanted to scream “No, I’m REALLY injured this time”, but alas could not lest I be exposed as a bullshitter for all the other times I’ve claimed to be crocked.
Secondly, the injury has led to me hobbling around at work and doing weird stuff like rolling my bare foot on a golf ball or rubbing my hamstrings with something that resembles a knobbly sex toy. My work colleagues are used to me being fatigued (always say ‘fatigued’ rather than ‘tired’ – it sounds more professional), but watching me with my hands down my trousers, applying various creams to what they suspect is my scrotum, is too much for them to bear.
Thirdly, it’s damaged my confidence. My training has been reduced to just swimming; I’m thus feeling fat, slow and worried that next year everyone will beat me. My injury also confirms I’m not a superhero, after all. You never see Jason Statham getting hurt in his mediocre but vaguely entertaining action films, do you?
A quick getaway in Ely
Finally, the injury has led me into trouble. After finishing the aforementioned excellent Ely Monster Middle Distance race, I limped back to my campervan on the far side of the camping field, miles away from the portable toilets that I subsequently realised I urgently needed.
I scanned the horizon and, seeing no-one, squatted behind my van, bog roll in hand, and did what had to be done. It was at this precise moment that a train suddenly rattled past, pulling into Ely station, right next to the camping field.
Disembarking passengers were thus treated to the sight of my naked bony bum, before seeing me leap into the driving seat and screech away before anyone had time to organise the local vigilantes. This injury means I’m in no shape to out-run a lynch mob, after all.