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Laurence Inman’s Blog



Laurence Inman knows what it takes to run a marathon. He’s actually completed one – in a respectable four hours too. So he’s got some idea of what it must have taken for Blind Dave Heeley to run seven in a week, while travelling around the world.

In the very last episode of Extras Ricky Gervais, as Andy Milman, stares blankly from the set of Celebrity Big Brother and delivers a brilliant monologue on the emptiness of fame and the lost opportunities he had to be good at something, but just didn’t bother.

Most people, I would guess, responded to that with wistful recognition. We all want to be at least proficient at what we do. I used to think I was a fairly good teacher, but there was always the lurking fear that someone who walked in off the street could have done the job just as well.

I know a couple of senior academics who feel the same. I don’t suppose surgeons get those particular willies in the middle of the night, but you never know. I bet a lot of judges do. City councillors, certainly.

I accepted a long time ago that I’m no more than a dabbler in everything I attempt. A paddler in the safe shallows on a calm, sunny day. But it’s fine, because I can fully appreciate how great the real masters are.

I was watching the Man Utd v Arsenal game on Sunday and marvelled at the speed and accuracy of the play. I was able to do this because I know how difficult it is to play the game at even the most basic level, and how shocking it is when you see a video of a game you’ve played in.

So slow! So bumbling! So utterly without pattern or plan!

It’s even worse if you’re a dabbler-actor. A few seconds of Schofield or De Niro on screen are enough to put me in my place.

Ever tried to run a marathon?

I’ve done eight. I didn’t exactly ‘run’ them. It was more trudging and stumbling. My last two were London in 1991 and 1992. My best time is 3 hours 45 minutes.

I remember being out with a colleague in the lunch-hour one day, doing our daily four miles. We decided to do the last half-mile eyeballs-out and ears-back and time it with a proper stop-watch.

At the end, I couldn’t have gone another step. This was shortly after the 1989 Birmingham Marathon, which we both finished in about four hours. We calculated that if we had run the whole race at the speed we did that last half-mile, we still wouldn’t have come anywhere near beating the Russian who won it.

In the early eighties I was quite fit and arranged to run two, on successive Sundays. I did the first fairly well, but as the second approached (in Wolverhampton, where the really mad runners live,) I began to realise that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was just too fatigued. It still felt as if I’d been shot in both knees.

Dave Heeley has, with his running-partner Mac, run seven marathons in seven days and flown through different time-zones to get to them. Not all of them were in races, so he didn’t have the usual crowd-support around the course. The weather wasn’t always great. Jet-lag must have been terrible.

And of course, he’s blind.

Seven in seven days!

He is not a paddler in the shallows. He has plunged headlong into the icy deep-end, into the ocean of the unknown, without a life-belt, and got to the other side.

The man is a colossus.

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