Tuesday 15 October 2019

The smug face of an exercise-mad lad in lycra proves life is very unfair

There I was, leaning against a railing, as breathless as Alan Shatter at a breathalyser check point. I had just run a mile for the Kerry Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre to highlight their being a named charity in the famed Ring of Kerry cycle in July.

This lad who was at school with us went galloping past. As he went by, he bawled: "Come on lazy arse, are you going to do the rest of it?" It was the Tralee marathon.

I couldn't drive 25 miles, what with the state of the back, and the front isn't much better.

The smug bollix. Where was he when I was getting bate for the Listowel Emmet and where was he when I was hunting down world cross-country champion John Treacy on muddy fields that made the Somme battlegrounds seem like croquet lawns?

I'll tell you where he was. He was at home watching 'Little House on the Prairie' after eating a big feed of jelly and ice cream, brought in by his adoring mother, and he ate it up like the spoilt little bollix he was.

I know. I know. Language. Well that makes him a double bollix, doesn't it?

I'm going to have to take a break from him for a while.

I have high blood pressure and lately I bought this home blood pressure testing machine from that hard-working woman, Frau Lidl.

You put a strap around your arm and press a button. The strap tightens like you're being arrested. The woman who usually lives inside the Sat Nav has discovered the secret of bi-location. She tells me, in that annoying android accent, the reading is 197, which is very high. The lady says: "According to WHO standards, you suffer from severe hypertension." The blood is sluicing through the heart like a mountain stream after the summer thaw.

And all because of him, with his headband, his matching wristbands, his headphones, his €200 runners, his snow-white curate's socks, his €500 watch that shows him where he's going, what speed he's going there at, and the next time his bowels will move and where the movement will take place and at what pace and whether it's pee or poo, and the weather in Alicante, the prices for the 2.30 at Lingfield, 'Fair City' and the 'Marian Finucane Show' in 3D.

I'll have to move on. He's not doing me any good. But I'm worse to take any notice. Another para about that man and I'll spontaneously combust all over the cream duvet, which will not please herself in the slightest. Yes, I write in bed. So?

I take a look out the front door for a breath of air and guess what? He's riding a bike now. He waves. I wave back. Half his family are customers of the pub. I'm a hypocrite. I'd love to shout out: "I hope the lycra pants graft on to your arse and you have to go for an operation to get it of." Cycling has taken over the country. I used to think the Greens' policies were half-cracked. Stuff like putting nappies on cows to stop methane gas eroding the hole in the stratosphere. That sort of thing.

But the cycling tax-back scheme was a great idea. If you buy a bike, well, then, basically, the Government pays you to ride.

The An Post Ras sped into Listowel last Tuesday. Hundreds of riders sprinted down Market Street with local lad John McCarthy right up there, but excellent stage announcer Ted Crowley told us there was no sign of Eugene Moriarty. Eugene is a good pal. He was fourth in a world championship, and at 39 this could be the last time he rides into his beloved home town.

Eugene trained for months in Amsterdam, where he lives and works. His brother Conor was the stage organiser. His dad Tadhg was the organiser the last time we hosted the Ras and, years back, his grandad Gene filled the same role. Eugene fell outside Limerick, 50 miles from the finish, and was injured but made it past the line. His back was badly messed up but yesterday he managed to get to the finish in Dublin.

Eugene is a hero, but what about the mammy's boy? Now the smug git probably calls a 50-mile ride on a Sunday morning 'a spin'.

Upstairs I go. To finish this piece. I pop a Konverge for the blood pressure. On a bike now, and he was driven to school every morning while the rest of us carried a bag as heavy as a postman's load on Christmas Eve. The boy's mammy nearly parked her car in class 3B in case her little boy got wet, and she probably breastfed him during the break between English Paper 1 and English Paper 2 in the Leaving, back in the days when you had to do two papers in the one day.

And why wasn't he out playing football or rugby for the glory of the parish or making John Treacy's life a misery? Because his mammy wouldn't let him, that's why. In case he got hurt. She used to mash his egg up in a cup. And now when I'm crocked, he's still running. Life is very unfair.

I was at the Irish Independent sports awards last January and I met John Treacy for the first time in over 30 years. "You always wore your white nobbly wool winter vest when you ran John, didn't you?"

"No, I didn't," replied the country's greatest ever distance runner. "I never wore a white vest in my life. It was always maroon."

But who was the lad I was chasing in the white vest and how far ahead of us was John Treacy?

Irish Independent

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