Running the London Marathon while praying the rosary – an apology

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I said I was going to complete the London Marathon, rosary beads in hand. Things didn't work out quite as expected

Six weeks ago, the Catholic Herald published an article of mine, titled ‘Rosaries and marathons are a perfect combination – at least, I hope so’. In the past days, it has come to light that this contained a number of egregious falsehoods and calumnious misrepresentations. I hasten to add that the editors had no way of knowing this at the time, and published the article in good faith. All blame should be imputed to me, and to me alone. I wish to set the record straight.

Readers of the original piece may have got the impression that, last Sunday, I was going to run the London Marathon. As events have amply proven, this was not the case. I covered a mere three-quarters of the requisite 26.2 miles. Not all of this, moreover, was in a mode of locomotion that could honestly be described as “running”. I apologize unreservedly for misleading CH readers in this way.

Though not directly stated, due to a number of self-aggrandizing reminiscences about previous athletic grit, readers might have been misled into making a number of inferences. Most notable of these is that, in the event of injury, I would nevertheless limp doggedly to the finish line, rosary clenched defiantly in my bloodied hands.

This impression would have been mistaken. In fact, injury ultimately led me to skulk, shamefully and snowflakily, towards the non-judgmental ministrations of the (wonderful) St John’s Ambulance crew near Blackwall DLR station. Adding acedia to injury, I promptly laid down my rosary in favour of an ice-pack, two bags of jelly beans, and a silver foil blanket.

Perhaps worst of all, the blog described Andrew Tucker as “Pushing Forty” and as “my much old and decrepiter friend.” It has been brought to my attention that this could potentially have been taken to suggest that Mr Tucker is in some way less fit, or less capable of running a marathon, than I am.

Naturally, this interpretation would be completely foreign to my intention in writing those words. Even so, lest any doubt remain, let me state quite plainly that Mr Tucker – in addition to his many other virtues – is, demonstrably, a vastly fitter and more capable athlete than me: able not only to complete a marathon, but to do so in the admirably swift time of 4:11:57. Readers should also know that, far from “pushing” forty, he is instead leaning insouciantly up against it.

Furthermore, in this post-Leveson world of press accountability, I am aware that a simple retraction and apology may be deemed insufficient by Herald readers – used, as they rightly are, to treating all statements made by its writers as imbued with near-magisterial authority.

Rightly incensed by my fall from the CH’s usual high standards, certain readers may accordingly be eager for punishment. If so, please know that since Sunday afternoon, my life has held naught but ignominy.

The pantheon of British heroes reserves a special place for glorious failures: those who, faltering in what they set out to do, nevertheless struggle valiantly on. Shackletonian grit, spitting in the very face of disappointment, is justly celebrated. Not so, however, for we reprobates whose spirit proves just as weak and unwilling as our flesh (or indeed kneecaps).

Consider, for example, the humiliations of kind souls leaping out of their “Please offer to those less able to stand” seat on the Tube (gratefully accepted, I might add), or having to shamefacedly endure endless passers-by’s cheery “well dones” as I trudged back to Marylebone. (For the record, the first kind person who said this to me was treated to a full and honest disavowal, prompting them to launch into a kindly speech about how proud I should be, and how vastly further that was than they could ever dream of attempting. Rather than inflict that kind of obligation on other unwitting wellwishers – there are depths of “misdoing”, as the Ordinariate liturgy charmingly puts it, even I don’t plumb – I adopted a grateful but wanly non-confirmatory smile.) Upon my return home, my four-year-old daughter asked whether other people quit before the end, and helpfully advised that I might try cheating next time.

So, in short, I apologize: above all to my readers, and to Andrew “The Body” Tucker. Please forgive me, and please know that I’ve learned my lesson. My usual, unfailingly infallible reportage and commentary will resume next time.