The First Sub-3 Hour Marathon!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Sports  |  House: Booksie Classic

Mike's first Marathon had come and gone. Fast forward to January 1986. He was going for a possible sub-3 hour time. But in the crowd was a girl who loved him. The love that could never be...............

MIKE CARRINGTON....New Story!...The First Sub-3 Hour Marathon!

Hello readers. Yes, it's the anonymous storyteller back with you again. Last December you read the story of Mike's first marathon. The pain and the pleasure when he finished and claimed his $500 prize from his departing friend. Now comes another tale from Mike's sporting chronicles. The story of his last but one marathon. This is an interesting departure from his last story. This time he was ready for the race. I can vouch for this as I trained with him for a while and I travelled with him to the race. I was supposed to be running, but had injured my knee in training. I was out of it all for 6 months at least. As the runners assembled on the track at the Hong Kong Sports Centre (then the Jubilee Sports Centre) in Shatin on that January day in 1986,  my girlfriend and I took our seats up in the stand to watch the start. And finish. We didn't know until after the race just what had been happening behind the scenes. Over to you, Mike............don't forget to pay me!.....

My training for this race had been different. For the one (and only) time, I had used a computer as an assist for my training. The computer wasn't mine. It was at one of the schools that I was teaching at during that period of time. The computer guy gave me a crash course in using the computer and printer. The computer actually told me that I would finish the race in 2 hours 50 minutes. Naturally I didn't believe a word of it. I religiously stuck to my training schedule which meant between 50 and 80 miles per week! Every week for 3 months. I took the last 3 days off before the race. I weighed 138lbs. I was as ready as it was possible to be. I was, after all, a guitar teacher, not a professional athlete!

Race day!  As the race started at 8.00am, I had to get there before 7.00am for registration, warming up and the obligatory trash talk session before the start. I didn't bother to contribute to this nonsense as I felt it wouldn't help me to run any quicker. However, up in the stands, a few people were talking about something totally different. Bets were being laid. Yes, joking aside, money was being wagered.

There were around 900 to 1000 runners in the race. Amongst them were three PE teachers from international schools (all known to me), the fastest teenage marathoner in Hong Kong and myself. We were the subjects of the bets being laid by a senior boy from an international school. Several of my guitar students were in the crowd, and they all laid bets. I was considered the rank outsider at 20-1 as the PE staff were younger and all multi-sports specialists.  Only one of my girl students had the courage (or insanity) to put her days pocket money ($100) on me. I will call her Lisa. She was wild, attractive, rebellious and would never cut her fingernails for guitar lessons. Or any other reason. She had the talons of an eagle. She collected boyfriends like some people collect stamps or coins. Strangely, they never lasted more than a few weeks.

The race started promptly at 8.00am. Straight after the gun had fired, there was the sound of a tremendous explosion. (Later on that night we heard the sad news that one person had been killed in a gas explosion in Shatin not far from the stadium.) As we settled into our running rhythm, I stayed well at the back of the field for the first few miles. I was planning to stay with Ashar Aggarwal (India's top lady marathoner) and hope that this would pull me through to a fast time, possibly under 3 hours. After around 12 miles, I settled down to run with two British Army officers who seemed to have a similar pace to me. In the far distance I saw Ashar, so I knew I had found the right pace. If I could keep it up. The two army officers then started to chat. Their nonsensical gibberings helped to lessen the monotony of the miles. They had to be heard to be believed. "Well, Charles, how's it going with you?" "Not too bad, Henry, I have felt worse." "I say, what about that little girl (Ashar) in front of us? She looks like a bit of alright!" "Yes, she does look rather dolly. Think I'll ask her out when we finish!" "Tell you what, Henry, whoever finishes first can have the first ask!" "Fair enough, Charles, bet it's me!" Silence reigned for a few minutes as they saved their breath for a mile or so. I said nothing. Then it began again. "What are you going to do when you leave the Army, Henry?"  "Nothing for a while, Charles, might take a year or so off living on dad's money. How about you?"  "Well, I thought about law, but I don't know, Henry, I might have to get a degree for that!" More silence. After about 20 miles or so, they had their final chat. "I don't know about you, old boy, but I'm absolutely harry shaggers (tired!). I may have to slow down for a while." "Nothing to it, Charles, only another few miles. I feel like  I could keep going forever!" I still said nothing. I mean, how could I follow that! Suddenly Charles keeled over at the side of the road. He was gone. Would Henry now talk to me? Then a moment later, Henry was gone, bent over double. Thankfully I never saw them again. I ran on alone for the remaining miles.

As I came running into the stadium and up to the finish, I began to feel sick. I glanced at my time as Ipassed beneath the big clock at the finish line. It read 2 hours 50 minutes. My God, the computer had got it right! I continued to jog around for a few minutes. Thought about telling Ashar Aggarwal about her two idiot admirers, but decided not to bother. When I had warmed down, it was time for a shower. I collected my water, bananas and Mars bar, (why did they always give us Mars bars?) and wandered downstairs in search of the showers of which there were many in those days. I was just about to open the door to the shower room when I was literally jumped on by someone I instantly recognized. It was Lisa, my zany guitar student, and she wrapped herself around me. As I was weary, smelly, dirty and still slightly dehydrated, I didn't appreciate this crazed assault from an exotically perfumed young lady with the accompanying talons digging into my back. She was wildly excited. "Mike (she always called me that)," she screamed in my ear, " well done!" She still held on to me. "Lisa, please release me!" I shouted loudly. Just then two runners who I knew quite well came down for their showers. "Hey, Mike, if you don't want her, pass her over here!" they laughed merrily. Lisa looked coldly at them. "Not if you were the last two on Earth," she hissed at them venomously. She really could be almost demonic at times.  The runners looked at me. "Have a good one tonight, Mike!"

When this female terror finally let me go, she explained her excitement. "We had bets on the race. I was the only one to back you. At 20-1! I now have $2000 in my jeans thanks to you. Where shall we go tonight!?" She was asking me out! I was so beat from the race that I just muttered wearily "I can't date one of my students, Lisa. You know that! I know that! Can't be done. Anyway, I’ve had it.. Go out with your friends, they must have more energy than me." She looked at me quietly. I can still remember that look. "I have to ask you, Lisa, why bet on me? The other guys were younger, fitter. Why bet on your guitar teacher!?" She looked at me just once again before she left. I had never seen her look so subdued and sad. "If you don't know, Mike, then I guess you never will." She walked slowly away. My refusal to go with her later had really knocked her sideways. I went and had my shower and got cleaned up. I realized that I was thinking about Lisa. It took the shine off the marathon time. I thought about the mad betting syndicate up in the stands. What a bunch of crazies they were.  Had they been caught, they would have been in real trouble. But they never were.

When I went back into the school, I discovered that Lisa was no longer in my guitar class. She had taken herself out. I had lost the crazy, singing, picking, long-nailed firebrand who had been with me for over 5 years.. She was now 18 and made her own mind up. The class was so quiet without her. We all missed her. Another girl in the class confirmed what I had already guessed. "Mr C, Lisa has had a thing about you since the first guitar session. I thought you knew. We all thought you knew. Guess you didn't." They were wrong, of course. I knew. I had always known. It was difficult to ignore her. She even wrote a song called "My Guitar" which she gave to me before she finally left.

She did eventually come to see me before she left Hong Kong 2 months later. We finally had the date she wanted. In the daytime! In McDonalds! We talked about her forthcoming departure to Australia. She seemed so quiet, almost a different person. The fiery crazy girl of the guitar class had changed. It wasn't the old Lisa anymore. She gave me the song and a picture of her taken on a beach. (I kept them with me until my wallet went missing a few years later.) When we said goodbye, she clung on to me and cried like a baby.  I never saw her or heard from her again. I guess sometimes all of us visit the misty faraway Land Of The What Might Have Been. I try not to go there anymore.


N.B. I had one more marathon to go. In 1987 I ran my last one in a time of 2 hours 47 minutes. As I crossed the line, I imagined I saw a familiar face in the stands. She wasn't there, of course. She never would be again. I went down to the showers and stood by the door for a long time before going in. Nobody jumped on me this time. Nobody screamed in my ear. Nobody asked me out. Thanks for the memories, Lisa.  I missed you more than you'll ever know. Too late now. . Maybe you'll read this......




Submitted: March 07, 2012

© Copyright 2021 Mike C AKA Mike B. All rights reserved.

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