Thursday, 15 December 2011

One Dimensional Hero.

How refreshing it was to read the story of that guy cheating in the Keilder marathon. In the last few miles of the race he hopped on a bus and got out just before the finish line to claim third place. I almost wish he’d stopped to turn some of the signs the wrong way round as well or sprinkled itching powder down the vest of one of his rivals.
The whole story reminded me of  ‘The Tough of the Track’, a weekly strip that ran in the Victor comic. Its central character, was a middle distance and cross country runner called Alf Tupper. A tough as nails welder by trade, his victories usually owed more to tenacity and a refusal to quit than any kind of cutting edge training regime or enlightened nutritional programme.
As a low tech, one dimensional hero Tupper seemed ideally suited to the gritty black and white post war Britain he inhabited and with his staple diet of fish and chips, his chirpy demeanour and work hard, play hard ethic he seemed enviably content with his lot in life.
His adventures were never dull though, his willingness to use his fists when occasion demanded made up for a lack of guns and explosions while his highly developed sense of right and wrong, combined with his intense dislike of bullies and cheats, gave the stories an almost Dickensian feel.
The centre piece however, was always his gutsy races, often while carrying an injury or exhausted after a long shift.
Alf Tupper made his last appearance in 1992 and it’s a testament to his tenacity and stamina that he lasted as long as he did because its hard to see a place for him in Britain today. Somehow I just can’t picture him chasing looters out of HMV during the London riots, capturing images of fare dodgers on his mobile phone or downloading tracks from Spotify to listen to on his training runs.
That said the guy who was caught cheating in the Kielder marathon was not caught on a security camera or by sophisticated race technology. Instead he was bubbled by the bus driver, some of the passengers and the off duty policeman who was awarded fourth place. Alf Tupper would most certainly have approved.
And if Tintin, with his questionable past allegiances, can be brought back to life on the big screen maybe Alf Tupper will get his turn too. Certainly, given the choice between watching him beat the toffs to win the Greystone marathon or sitting through two hours of  Harry Potter casting spells and playing Quidditch, well, I’m going with ‘The Tough of the Track’ every time.

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