Me, Pete and Ray posing after running teh Monaghan Mini Marathon

Pedestrian At Best

“My internal monologue

Is saturated analogue

Its scratched and drifting

I’ve become attached to the idea

It’s all a shifting dream bittersweet philosophy

I’ve got no idea how I even got here”

 Pedestrian At Best ( Courtney Barnett )

The first time I realised that I lacked a ‘killer instinct’ was when I took part in the Ulster Schools Cross Country finals in Lisburn in 1984. I had only started running in order to meet girls. In fact , I’d only started running so that my friend Ronan could meet girls. He was a boarder in our school, St.Macartan’s College, and had somehow twigged that if he joined the school running team he’d be allowed out of school on Tuesday’s and Thursday evenings to attend Phoenix Athletic training. Naturally he couldn’t go on his own, and from his description , the girls sounded lovely and incredibly friendly, so I went with him. I met my Soulmate there. But that’s a continuing story, for the moment we’re talking about running….and not winning.

Ronan and I would attend Phoenix training, try desperately to chat to the girls during warm up, lose them as soon as we started running, sit at the top of the Pound Hill chatting, until they came back, and then try desperately to talk to them again before going home. When I say that we tried desperately to talk to them, I of course mean that we would punch each other in the arm and goof about…we didn’t actually say anything directly to them.

As no one else was really interested , we both ended up on the school cross country team and ended up in the finals in Lisburn. There were lots of girls there too, even the girls from Monaghan, and my Soulmate, but I was focusing on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. In our race I was towards the back…very towards the back…and in the final few hundred metres, at the loud encouragement of my mother’s friend , Mrs.O’Gorman, who was there because her daughters were actual runners, I overtook the person in second last place. He promptly overtook me again, and despite further encouragement from Mrs.O’Gorman, I failed to catch him, it seemed to mean more to him.

But, as I mentioned , I did meet my Soulmate, so who really won ?

And not only did I meet my Soulmate, but I met her twin sister , who has become my best friend.

Ger married a likely lad from England and settled in Wales. They have three children who map ours almost exactly, two eldest boys , Jake and Barra, two middle girls, Robyn and Eimear, and two youngest, Elliott and Caolan. Up until very recently we have spent almost all holidays, HallowE’een, Christmas, Easter and Summer together, either over in Wales, or here in the True Centre Of The Universe.

We have played many games together in order to keep me and the kids entertained. Whenever visits coincided with the Olympics we had our own version of the decathalon, with leader boards and running scores throughout the day. Events included welly throwing, Nerf target shooting, push ups, Chubby Bunny, and …

“What’s ‘Chubby Bunny ?”

Seriously ,, you’ve never heard of the ancient Celtic sport of Chubby Bunny ?

Chubby Bunny entails placing a marshmallow in one’s mouth and saying out loud and discernibly ‘Chubby Bunny’. The participant then adds a second marshmallow and again says ‘Chubby Bunny’ and the game continues until we can no longer make out clearly the phrase ‘Chubby Bunny’. The Liddy/Bond Olympic record is currently held by Mr.Dave Liddy, with a magnificent score of 12.

The games always culminated in the Nudie Run, where all the participants, and all participated, were only allowed to wear footwear and undercrackers. The participants then had to run the length of our garden , grab a leaf from the beach hedge at the bottom and return to the safety of our kitchen. We left this event to the end  so that we had the comforting embrace of darkness and didn’t want to confirm everything that our neighbours thought of us.

On one occasion I recall it being pitch dark, and all 10 of us were running down the garden when our neighbour Granny Rosaleen returned home and the sweep of her car headlights as she turned into her house swept our garden.

“Hit the deck !” Dave roared, and we all dived to the ground as if we’d been shot.

We waited, panting in the wet grass, until Rosaleen entered her house, and then we scampered back up and collected our beech leaves and returned to our kitchen, doubled over laughing.

We always tried to make sure that each of the kids won at least one event each.

When we played Monopoly the only rule was that my Soulmate was not allowed to be the bank, or sit near the bank. This rule has evolved now to include Robyn and Eimear. The other rule is that my Soulmate, Robyn, and Eimear are not allowed to sit beside each other.

We used to borrow the warehouse of the 4th largest workwear store in Monaghan on a Saturday night and camp out. We’d get a projector and show movies like The Goonies, The Princess Bride, Star Wars in one of the offices, the kids munching on popcorn, and  us drinking red wine , until midnight when we would have the Midnight Nerf War in the dark warehouse. We’d divide into teams, one defending, one attacking. If you were hit by a Nerf bullet you had to lie down on the spot and you could only get back in the game if you were tagged by a team member. Your team  won when you’d Nerf’d all of the other team. On one occasion, and only one occasion, the game lasted until 3.00 am as Ger and my Soulmate could not be found in order to be Nerf’d. The rest of us eventually gave up and then they revealed themselves, three pallet racks up in the air, no ladder, in a large empty cardboard box. That game evolved it’s only rule, Ger and Nell were not allowed to be on the same team.

I would tell them stories about a football team that they starred in, MonkeyHead United, which played in the InterGalactic League. They always won. Santa got them all MonkeyHead United jerseys one year, with their names on the back. This then meant that Dave and I, ‘Daddy Hotspur’ had to play against them daily. Again we endeavoured to make sure that they each scored, or saved a goal and won by a single goal in the last minute. Dave and I would pretend to be annoyed and then console ourselves with large bottles of Tyskie.

Years later I got a set of jerseys for a friend’s family in Gloucester. His son was football mad and had designed a crest for his own team, Crystle Town. They visited us that summer and as the kids were away I drafted in my brothers and Dad to make up a team against them. My brothers and I were on the same page, trying not to score, and not to save. Our Dad threw himself two footed into every tackle, and would remonstrate with us “How the hell did you miss that ???”, so my brothers and I had to engineer a narrow loss, and keep our Dad away from the ball at all costs. This was working well until Dad, in goal, fouled the visiting 9 year old in the box, and when I say fouled, I mean fouled, the poor kid flew threw the air. A penalty was awarded and the brave 9 year old lined up, bravely holding back tears of pain, against my Dad, old enough to know much better.

You , or I , in that situation would let the kid score his penalty.

Not my Dad. He dived to the bottom corner of the goal and pulled off an amazing save. He was ecstatic. I could see the chin start to wobble on the 9 year old. “You dived early, take the penalty again.” I said, Dad glared at me, then he spotted the kid and cursed silently and took his place again on the goalline. This time he dived equally spectacularly , in the opposite direction, and the ball limped over the line. The kid was ecstatic. I said that the game was over and that they’d won. Dad was very convincing in his displeasure. My brothers and I went up to him and said that we were grateful that he let the kid score.

“Let him score ??? He sent me the wrong way ! There was nothing wrong with the fisrt penalty. We should have won that game….”

Different strokes for different folks.

Oddly , I have developed a great love for running. I love the running itself, but mostly it’s the people I run with. I never keep any medals. My friend Carol Dublin runs a charity, ‘I Run For’ where she matches runners with kids who are ill. You send photos of your run , tell them about where you ran, who you met. And I send my medals, a Monaghan jersey, Cadbury’s chocolate and Tayto crisps to my buddy.

When I’m out running , or my version of it, some people, well meaning people, Ray mostly, will say, “Come on we can catch Pete.”, or “Come on, you don’t want Eileen to catch you.” Or something similar to encourage me to speed up. But I’m going as fast as I can, or as I want. Truth be told, I don’t want to beat Pete, and most likely couldn’t, but I love the banter at the end where he will always come up to us with a big smile and ask “Did yis get lost boys ?”.

And as for Eileen catching me ?

She caught me a long , long time ago….dis I ever tell you about the time Ronan and I went to Phoenix Athletic training to get off second study…..

Yours Sincerely ,

Paul Bond, WINNER !

Author: paul

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