Davos is only a few days away, so I’m mentally composing my packing list. The #1 item? Crampons. We don’t want another incident like last year, when I fell over on the ice on my way to the FT party and broke my arm. No wonder I’ve also decided to stay off the slopes.
In any case, exercising next to famous politicians and captains of industry never appeals; I don’t really want to be shown up as everyone skis past me at an alarming rate. I learnt to ski 33 years ago, but longevity of participation is no measure of ability, and the one thing that would really help, fitness, still needs work. If I ever needed proof of this, it came when I took part in the Bupa Great Winter Run in Edinburgh earlier this month.
I watched as many hundreds of people ran past me at an alarming rate. Even my Running Girlfriend, who had accompanied me to Scotland and who kindly stayed with me to make sure I at least made it up the first, vertiginous kilometre, sped off. I didn’t finish last, but there were still an awful lot of people who were much, much faster than me.
One of them was a reader, whom I have never met, but who had emailed me in September telling me that I had inspired her to register for the same run. Describing herself as “extremely slow”, she said she empathised with my challenges.
A medical doctor with a string of academic and public appointments, she too is married with Cost Centres and has little time to train. “I am attempting to run in the mornings before a full working day and an evening with children and husband to fit in, so reading your piece made me smile,” she wrote. She also told me she had registered her husband for the race without his knowledge: “Now I must go and break the news to my husband – luckily, he is quite used to being roped into exciting ventures.”
Well, I didn’t register Mr M, with or without his knowledge. A five-kilometre run is definitely not on his list of exciting ventures. He sweetly stayed at home and managed the children and dogs, while I staggered up and down Arthur’s Seat. My Cleverest Girlfriend, a resident of Edinburgh and a columnist in the Weekend FT’s Money section, came to meet me 500m before the end and ran with me in her wellies, clutching her oversize handbag. Which gives you some indication of my pace. I finished 1,800th in the race overall and 73rd in my age/gender bracket. Well, it’s a start. As RG said as she helped me over the finishing line, it is something to beat.
I never met the reader, or her husband, despite staying in the same hotel. Perhaps it was just as well. She came 333rd overall, third in her age range (45-49, the one below mine) and at 24 minutes and 25 seconds she crossed the finish line more than half an hour earlier than me.
She had even supposedly beaten her husband, also a medical practitioner in the same field, by quite some margin. I remember thinking at the time that this must have caused a degree of consternation in their house. Indeed it had – because she had inadvertently mixed up their race tags in her luggage and given him hers to wear by mistake, so the computer had allocated her his time.
Later, just to make me feel totally outclassed, RG bought Vogue for us to read on the plane back to London and my reader featured prominently, interviewed for a feature. So no need to go to Davos to feel totally inferior.
Two days after the race I made it back to the gym and got on the running machine, only to find myself next to Peter Mandelson. Thankfully, he got off after I had been on my machine for two minutes and 15 seconds. That’s quite enough time exercising next to famous politicians – and two minutes 15 seconds more than I intend to do in Davos.