by Robert Williams
"I've got a surprise for you all!" said Clive in the morning meeting one afternoon. "The vicar's trying to raise some money to fix the church roof!"
"My goodness!" exclaimed Des, falling off his chair in shock. "That is a surprise!!! He's never done that before!!"
"No, not since, now let me think, last week!" said Mick.
"That's not the surprise," said Clive. "To help him I'm going to be running the London Marathon!"
"Yes, I read that in the local paper," said Mick. "You're completely mad! I suppose you want us to sponsor you then."
"Well..." said Clive.
"The London Marathon, even I could do that!" said Des.
"That's all right then," said Clive. "Because I've entered all you lot as well."
"What???!!!" exclaimed Mick, Mrs Greasy, Wayne, Dave and Mike.
"No problem," said Des.
"Do you know how far it is?" said Mick.
"26 metres, isn't it?" said Des. "Anyone could do that!"
"No, it's not, it's 26 mi..." started Mick.
Clive put his hand over Mick's mouth.
"Yes, that's right, 26 metres," said Clive. "You obviously read the item in the local paper!"
"Yes I did," said Des. "I always thought it was 26 miles, but I was obviously wrong."
Clive smiled. Mick and the others looked at him a little suspiciously.
For the next few weeks Clive trained continuously for the big race, while Des was mostly to be found slumped on his sofa watching television.
"Why did you make Des think the marathon is 26 metres?" asked Mick of Clive. Mick was talking to him on the bus while Clive was running alongside.
"For years and years and years, I have got myself mixed up in more of Des's ridiculous schemes than I care to remember. So I thought it was time I got my own back!"
"But what about us lot? Why do we have to suffer as well?" complained Mick.
"You're almost as bad," said Clive. "Anyway, the exercise will do you good."
"Hmmm," said Mick. "Maybe it is a good idea - making Des run 26 miles might finally knock some sense to him, and finally put to an end his ridiculous schemes! Hey Clive, watch out!"
The bus went under a bridge and Clive ran into a wall.
"Maybe that will knock some sense into Clive," thought Mick.
Later that afternoon Mick called a meeting in the cafe for all participants except Des who was getting in some training (walking round the supermarket) and Clive who was recovering from his meeting with a wall. When he arrived he saw them all jogging round the cafe.
"What are you all doing?" said Mick to them.
"We don't want to waste any time," said Mrs Greasy, narrowly avoiding running into a table. "If we've got to run 26 miles, we need every second of training we can get!"
"It's all right, I've come up with a scheme where we don't have to run 26 miles!" said Mick.
Everyone immediately cheered and sat down.
"Des will be driving us there in his van," explained Mick. "So when the marathon starts all we have to do is to run a short distance, and when we've let Des get lost in the crowd, we'll sneak back to the van, and drive to the finish. Easy!"
"We'll never get away with it!" said Mrs Greasy.
"Don't be a pessimist!" said Mick.
"All right then, we're bound to get away with it!" said Mrs G.
Just then Des walked in, with bags full of chocolate biscuits.
"Bound to get away with what?" he said.
"Oh, nothing, nothing," said Mick. "What do you want?"
"I'm trying to decide what fancy dress to wear for the race," said Des.
"How about an Easter bunny costume?" said Mrs Greasy.
"Oh, ha, ha, very funny," said Des.
The morning of the marathon soon arrived. Des was awoken early by his Mickey Mouse alarm clock, and, bleary-eyed, drove himself and the rest of the crew to the start of the race in his van (except Clive who jogged there). They parked the van and found their way to Greenwich Park to where the competitors had gathered.
"Why is everybody laughing at me?" said Des. "I decided not to come in fancy dress after all! I'm just wearing a t-shirt and shorts!"
"That's why," said Mick. "They're all laughing at your knees!"
"This is so annoying - we're right at the back!" said Clive. "I knew I should have left earlier! If I'd have left home at 8.25 instead of 8.30 I would have got to the front!"
"I don't understand," said Des. "The race is only 26 metres, but there are so many runners, the ones at the front have already must have passed to finish line!"
"Oh yes, Des, there's something I think you ought to know," said Mick as they parked the van. "There was a misprint in the newspaper."
"Yes," said Clive, who was jogging on the spot and was raring to go. "You were right - it's not 26 metres, it is 26 miles!"
Des gasped, and would have fainted if there had been any room.
"I can't run 26 miles!!" he exclaimed. "It'd kill me!!"
Clive looked at him and smiled.
"So that's your game isn't it!" said Des.
"Yes, it's time I got my own back on you!" said Clive.
"For what?!" said Des.
"The time I have to dive into Loch Ness to save you and you weren't even in there! The time you allowed me to buy a Porsche and then confiscated it! The time you painted me white and made me stand out in the freezing cold all night! The time I fell through a hole in your canal boat..."
Clive looked round and saw that the rest of the runners had already set off.
"Look, I can't argue all day, I've got a marathon to run! I'll see you at the finish! In about three weeks!!"
Clive sprinted off and disappeared into the rest of the crowd.
"Well what all you lot then?" said Des to the others. "What do you think? This is outrageous!"
"Sorry, got to go!" said Mick. Des watched him and the others ran off at a somewhat slower pace than Clive, although was rather amused to see an official looking man stop Mrs Greasy and inform her that she had been at the men's start.
Des shrugged his shoulders and started to run, with the rest of the race heading further off into the distance.
"Oh well, only 26 miles to go," he sighed to himself. "Can't be that far, can it..."
Meanwhile, as Clive was finding his way to the front of the race, the others - Mick, Wayne, Dave and Mike were catching up with the back of the race. (Mrs Greasy had been disqualified for posing as a man).
"All we have to do is get into the crowd, then Des won't be able to see us any more, then we can run back to the van!" said Mick.
"Just one problem," said Mike. "There's been a BBC camera crew in a Range Rover filming us since the start! We can't sneak off while we're on television!"
"And here comes David Coleman!" said Mick.
"Hello there, who are you?" said David with a microphone.
"My name's Mick," said Mick. "We're running to raise money for our local church roof!"
"Quite remarkable!" said David. "What do you rate your chances? Do you reckon you'll finish!"
"Of course!" said Mick.
"Yeah, 'cause we're gonna cheat -" started Wayne.
"He means we're going to cheat the, er, rules by finishing despite that we're not as young as some of the other competitors," said Mick.
"Speak for yourself!" said Mike.
Right at the back, seeing the rest of the runners disappear further and further into the distance, Des suddenly stopped, struck by a thought.
"You complete idiot!" he said to himself. "Why have I been so stupid! I don't have to do this! Just because Clive entered me, it doesn't mean I have to run it! I could just go straight home now!"
He turned back, and tried to remember where he parked his van.
In the middle of the race, the others had finally managed to lose David Coleman and the rest of the BBC, as well as Des.
"Right, we've gone far enough," said Mick. "It's time we turned back and returned to Des's van."
"Hey, don't forget we must go back a different way, otherwise we'll run into Des!" said Mike.
"That's true," said Mick. "He probably hasn't even passed the Greenwich Park gates yet!"
This was true. In fact Des had wandered further into Greenwich Park looking for his van. Before long, Mick and the others had found it.
Mrs Greasy was sitting inside, watching the race on a portable television.
"Look, Clive is one of the front runners!" she exclaimed.
"Typical of him," said Mick.
"Anyway, I was really annoyed about being disqualified - NOT!!" said Mrs Greasy. "So I've cooked up some brunch for you."
"Wayne happily ate up everyone's brunch. Mick then decided it was time they made a move.
"Who's got the keys then?" said Mick.
"Errr...Des, I s'pose," said Wayne.
"Oh brilliant," said Mick. "So Des has the keys." Des at that point was walking past the Greenwich Observatory, completely lost.
"Hey don't worry, I can start this thing without keys!" exclaimed Wayne.
He got out of the van, gave the front wing a good kick, and the engine started.
"Hey, well done Wayne!" said Mick. "I knew you'd come in useful one day!!"
With Mike at the wheel, they drove off in the general direction of Westminster bridge. They switched on the radio in case there were any traffic reports.
"Oh that's good!" said Mick. "Many roads are closed around London today!"
"That's so stupid!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Fancy closing all those roads, especially on London Marathon day!"
Mike drove them aimlessly round the streets of London.
"Have you any idea where we're going?" asked Mick.
"Ummm....no!" said Mike.
Neither had Des. He had walked right across Greenwich Park, and found himself at the Cutty Sark. He sat down, exhausted, and got a shock when he saw the marathon front runners about to run past. This was nothing compared to the shock that Clive, one of the front runners, experienced when he saw Des.
"How did he manage that?!" he exclaimed. "That's impossible!! I don't believe it!!"
Des grinned, and started to run at the front of the race. David Coleman, commentating in his BBC Range Rover, was also surprised.
"And it appears we have a new leader, who has quite literally come out of nowhere! Let me see...he's an old man in glasses! This is quite remarkable!"
Nevertheless, he was soon overtaken, and found himself back somewhere in the middle of the runners.
"I'd better stop and hide, otherwise I'll run into Mick and that lot," he said to himself. He stopped, and was then dumbfounded to see Mick and 'that lot' sitting in his van at a junction.
"Well done Mike," said Mick. "So this is why all those roads are closed! Now we're stuck here until all the runners have gone! And if that means waiting for Des to run past, we'll be here for hours!"
"Oh look, there's Des now," said Mike.
"Des??!!! Already??!!" exclaimed Mick.
"What's going on here, then?!" said Des, who had strolled over to his van.
"How did you do that?!" exclaimed Mick. "You were miles away at the back!!"
"More to the point, what are you doing in my van? You weren't trying to cheat, were you?" said Des.
They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.
"I thought so," he said. He opened the door, threw Mike out and sat in the driver's seat. "Didn't it occur to you lot that we don't actually have to do this? It's not compulsory! Why are we letting Clive order us about like this?"
"You're right!" said Mick. "We were cheating, anyway."
"So was I," said Des. "I walked across Greenwich Park."
"Let's show that Clive," said Mick. "It was time he was taught a lesson."
"I have a plan..." started Des.
The others groaned. Des explained the plan, and they agreed.
"But we'd better move quickly," said Mick. "We haven't got much time!"
Mike drove them to Tower Bridge, while the others made some signs.
"Right, this will fool Clive," said Des. He put up a sign at the end of Tower Bridge saying 'Garlic Shop leakage - marathon diverted this way' pointing in the opposite direction to the actual route. To add to the effect, Mrs Greasy distributed some garlic around the vicinity. Then they drove a little .further and put up another diversion sign, and then continued putting up their signs all over London
"This will teach Clive a lesson, once and for all!" laughed Des, as they put up their final sign, which put their diversion back onto the actual route at Parliament Square. "This diversion must be at least another 26 miles!!"
"I wonder if Clive really will fall for it," said Mick. "Switch on your portable television, Mrs Greasy."
She did so, just in time to see that Clive, who was well ahead in the marathon, had crossed Tower Bridge and was surprised to see the diversion sign. He smelled the scent, and his nose told him to follow the sign.
"YES!!!" exclaimed Des. "We've got him this time!!" They cheered to themselves.
As time went on the by-watchers, commentators and viewers at home started to become a little concerned. The marathon had apparently disappeared.
"This is quite remarkable!" reported David Coleman who was at the finish. "We should be expecting the leaders to have reached the Victoria Embankment - but there's no sign of them for miles!"
In fact, the front runners were dodging traffic in Regent Street.
"Oh," said Des, watching on the television in the back of the van. "We've made a major cock-up here. We expected just Clive to follow the diversion signs - but the entire marathon has!"
"We should have taken down the signs once Clive had gone!" said Mick.
Eventually, the competitors had been located.
"This is quite remarkable! In fact, it's exceedingly remarkable!" said David Coleman. "We have just had reports in that the front runners are heading onto the M1!"
"The M1??!!" exclaimed Des. "Did we really go up that far?!"
Television cameras raced to the scene, and Des and the others watched as Clive and the other runners headed up the M1 towards Watford!
"They must have missed the diversion sign we put up at Regents Park, and just carried on!" said Mick.
"Hold on a minute," said Des. "This is my big chance! We're not far from the finish!"
"Oh Des," sighed Mick.
Des jumped out the back of the van, and ran alone across Parliament Square and then across Westminster Bridge.
"This is quite remarkable!" said David Coleman, greeting him. "What a turn-up for the books! One competitor was sensible not to follow the diversion, and has completed the course in record time! How do you feel?"
"Exhausted!!!" blurted out Des, who actually was completely exhausted, despite having only run a relatively short distance.
As he recovered he watched the television monitors to see the rest of the race running headlong towards Leeds on the M1, and then was surprised to see Mick and others on the screen with some policeman.
"A group of people found watching the marathon on a portable television in the back of a Ford Transit van in Parliament Square, have been arrested in connection with the diversion of the London Marathon this morning."
"Phew! Winning the London Marathon must be the best move I've ever made!!" said Des to himself, relieved that he had managed to avoid being arrested himself. "I think I'll go and ask those policeman if I can have my van back when that lot go to prison..."
Copyright © Robert Williams