Runner Profile: Robert Kemp

Justin probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to nominate me. The mojo is not with me and the times are slipping slower and slower. This will not be a particularly inspirational piece but I will at least aim to avoid making it a tale of too much woe.

And yes, I am a bit of a miserable so and so at the best of times.

Just a Rob-ling

Sport and exercise have never really got on with me. I’m not blessed with natural physical strength, size, coordination or talent so every part of it has always been a struggle. My dad used to play football for the Wyverstone Wanderers when I was really little but clearly none of that rubbed off on me. I’m a classic geek and messing with tech and playing games just had more appeal than cardio. Still does.

I used to swim most Saturday mornings when I was young and as I look back at it now there were quite a few parallels to how I train now. Most importantly there were people I liked to see and a bit of a routine to it. Growing up, those people eventually drifted off and I stopped. Swimming feels quite alien to me now.

I found my feet more with badminton when at school. I was forced into many other things like rugby, hockey and cricket but the least embarrassing results came from a bit of “badders”. The school also had a few Eton Fives courts which was too weird not to try. Think squash with your hands in concrete courts with a step, angled bits of wall and a bit of buttress.

For the briefest moment I thought I had found my thing. It turned out that I had pretty good technique at triple jumping and without really trying ended up on the school athletics team exactly once. Technique would only get me so far though. The other kids grew taller and faster and I simply didn’t. It’s pretty disheartening when your competition can just fall over in the vague direction of the sand and still win.

This was around the same time I started to get the “whities”. Post exercise sugar crashes that make me look whiter than fresh linen in a Lenor ad and make me feel like a deflated balloon.

So for a time, that was that for keeping active. With a legacy of mediocrity and the random possibility of pulling a “whitie” I moved out for university and didn’t really do much sport or anything strenuous for many years. It would take the efforts of others to drag me off the couch.

My mum’s couch and a Gamecube in 2005.

Kicking and Screaming

I met JJ whilst working in Claydon back in the late 2000’s and he’s got a lot to answer for. Whilst we were working together it was him that got me cycling to work a couple of times a week. At first this was terrible idea. I felt like death having made it to the office and I didn’t have the most productive day afterwards but it was something.

By 2015 I was about to get married and I had a bit of wake up call thanks to IKEA. There’s always a corridor in an IKEA where they keep the mirrors. Casually walking past I notice myself in profile and the podge that had rudely attached itself to me. I didn’t want to give up pizza. I can’t do that. No amount of dairy intolerance can make me. Suddenly there is motivation.

I started running a couple of lunchtimes a week on a pretty short route. I didn’t like it, but it had become necessary. The goal then was simply to put the weight gain in its place and potentially be able to run a 5k with some concept of comfort. JJ, however, had already caught a bad case of running so felt it necessary to try and pass it on like chicken pox. It wasn’t long before I was at the back of an FRR training session, nearly passing out after shingle sprints.

JJ at Ipswich (Christchurch) Parkrun in 2017

Torture in Red

I think the Brantham 5 was the first real event I entered and whilst it’s not my favourite course it’s hard to forget the hosepipe man. Very welcome on a hot evening with a chunk of hill left to climb.

The Bury 5 introduced us to “The Coalman”. A nickname of the highest calibre thanks to one picture of an accidentally mimed labourer. Special shout to Ben Jacobs who wasn’t even in that race, but paced me round to a PB at the time anyway.

Quickest 5k is at Felixstowe parkrun, naturally, but my favourite parkrun is Harwich. It’s a bit of a trek but for some reason it’s a more appealing run than Felixstowe. I’ll go anywhere the breakfast club goes though.

Longest run is the Great Bentley Half Marathon. Framlingham is probably my least favourite run. No, wait, that time at Sizewell, their first rainy parkrun, that was pretty bad.

The first rainy Sizewell Parkrun and a relative height chart, 2020

The pandemic hasn’t done my running performance any favours but Justin’s Pandemic Pacers events did bring back the routine I needed. It also introduced a new branding-friendly ailment. The “whities” are mostly a thing of the past so “The Quease” saw the gap in my market and pounced. An inexplicable and sudden urge to wretch loudly can now accompany any run at any time. Even right at the start is a risk some days. Photographic evidence of The Quease headed the Pandemic Pacer’s group chat for some time. It’s not nearly as bad now as it was but it can show up when you least expect it.

The Quease, 2020

It’s tough to say I look forward to a run, but when Ekiden comes back that unique first stint and a questionably early beer are mine!

There’s also just something about the Bromley 10k. I’ll be back there in April.

Having drunk coffee from a trophy, 2019

Mojo or Nogo

I still don’t enjoy running, especially at the moment. I probably never will. I’ve made peace with this. But ultimately, I keep coming back for more like some kind of masochist. Just as with most of the sporting activities noted here, it’s the people and the routine that keep me doing this. All of the pizza I have since eaten, and will continue to eat, owes thanks to you for helping me fulfil its destiny.

Next month…

After Justin’s coin flip between myself and Matt Makin for this month’s profile writer, it’s only fair that Matt takes up the pen, or keyboard or whatever for next month. Sorry buddy.

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1 Response

  1. Jane Moon says:

    Robert thank you! An honest and inspiring read. You are so right it’s the people and the good memories every time!