Old School


My Dad has been doing some tidying up lately. In particular he has been sifting through layers of ‘stored’ material in his workshop, dating back decades. It’s an archaeological dig of sorts. As quite a lot of my stuff (and my brother’s) is in there, he pops in routinely with odds and sods. This morning, it was an old Latin textbook from 1st year in secondary school: Latin for Today, by Gray, Jenkins and Dale.

Ah yes, who could forget “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres”. Well, I probably did, for starters. Of more interest to me were the scribblings in the margins and inside the covers, such as:

Latin is a language
As dead as dead can be
It killed the ancient Romans
But it’s stimulating me

And I note my copy was formerly owned by one Katherine Oakes, who was, I recall, a prefect, and several years my senior. This was her paean to a language that I have grown to love, though was rather more ambivalent towards at the time. I have written ‘strangling’ underneath ‘stimulating’. I’m sure my teacher never saw our text books…

The other item my Dad dropped in later in the day was a rather wonderful A4-sized magazine/programme for the London Marathon of 1981. We have a copy (somehow) as my uncle Rob chose to to run this as his first marathon. The cover has the wonderful cyan cast of printed matter left out in the sun.

When I am not a firefighter, my other job is as a freelance graphic designer, so I was fascinated with the stock, layout, production, design, fonts, ads… everything really. There is a section in the middle (on what looks like sugar paper) showing all the runners. As it’s listed numerically according to your number, it’s rather useless if you don’t have that key piece of info. Fortuntely, my mother (being English and organised, like her own Mum) has written her brother’s number in the margins, and sure enough, there he is:

5254 BURN, ROBERT, 36

The ads are interesting too; there are few recognisable companies, and the big brands aren’t the ones spending the big money. Record Pasta take the inside cover in full colour. Never heard of them! Citizen watches are on page 5. Surf City do natural fitness foods, it seems… lots of ads from lots of companies that seem to have sunk without trace.

There is a really nice article in there, and it was this one I was reading when S took the picture above. I’m still in my running gear having just done a recovery session with Mark. The piece does a great job of exploding the myths of the marathon’s history, not least the one about Pheidippides (if that was indeed his name) dropping dead after about 25 miles. No such thing. The hemerodromoi were professional runners whose job it was to deliver messages in ancient Greece. Pony Express. But without the ponies.

Another little gem that the article threw up was about the first ‘illegal’ female marathon runner. It does seem bizarre these days to consider that, in the year I was born (1967), officials tried, literally, to throw Katherine Switzer out of the Boston Marathon. Turns out it was a Greek lady called Melpomene in 1896 in the Athens Marathon (the beginning of the modern Olympics) who snuck in at the start and knocked out a very decent four and a half hours. Women were finally granted their own marathon in the Olympics of 1984 in Los Angeles (thanks gents…) the legendary Grete Waitz (who also held the World Record) won a silver, behind Joan Benoit.

Anyway, that’s enough of that for now. The training continues, and so far we’ve done well. There have been, and will be, a few hiccoughs. Holidays happen, and other events pull you away from training. I am helping out with water rescue on the Liffey Descent this Saturday, so not sure when I’ll fit in my run, and then Mark is away on Sunday, so I will have 25k to do all on my tod. Not to worry. I’ll pop the radio into the pouch and listen to RTE Radio 1. There’s always something on!

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