When Richard Palmer idly remarked how wonderful it must be to run in the London Marathon he had not the slightest intention of doing anything about it.
But he reckoned without his ten year-old son Tom. Important lesson ... be very careful what you say in front of a child with a computer.
Thanks to his son, dedicated non-runner Richard will be lining up with thousands of others next month for the start of the world’s most famous race.
A few clicks of the mouse and Tom had applied to enter his dad in the marathon and - against the odds - the entry was accepted.
“I went along with it because I never dreamed I would get in. My brother-in-law has tried three times wthout success,” says Richard, who runs Number One Delicatessen and Cafe in Clare.
“I hated cross country at school and I have never done any running since. “I used to play football and go the the gym, but not for quite a while now.
“But once Tom had done the entry I felt I had to go ahead with it. I couldn’t let him down.”
After Richard’s entry was submitted he was contacted by a charity called Victa, which supports children with impaired vision, offering him the chance to run for them.
Now, in just a few weeks time, the cheering crowds and the whole overwhelming experience of running the London Marathon will be a reality.
Getting there, though, has been a long, hard road.
“On my first training session I ran for 20 minutes towards Stoke by Clare, and when I got back I thought I am never going to be able to do this.
“But things like mixing jogging with walking to start with, and getting my breathing into a pattern helped.
“Training was going brilliantly till December when I did my knee in. Even now it’s a bit tender and I’m still having physio.
“I try to go out two or three times a week. Really I should be doing 10 and 20 miles now but I mostly do about five at the moment. The longest time I’ve run for is two hours 20 minutes.
“I have had some lovely runs, like one on a Sunday morning where I left home in the dark and the sun came up while I was out – I had the moon one way, and the sun the other.”
Slogging on through lashing rain, though, was less appealing. “The worst thing is getting somewhere like Hundon and seeing the dark clouds coming, then it starts to pour with rain,” he says.
Running in the dark was a problem too until his partner Claire Kent bought him a head torch. “Until then I had to turn back when the streetlights ran out,” he says.
Richard and Claire, an ex-teacher who works for Suffolk eduacation department, have been together for more than 20 years and have three children, Harry, 19, Tom, and three year-old Pip.
They moved to Clare six years ago. Richard previously owned restaurants in London and Cambridge.
“Claire’s been incredibly supportive of my marathon training and they’ll all be coming to London to cheer me on,” he said.
Tom, who goes to Clare primary school, was spurring on his dad by going with him on short runs. “He also used to come out with me on his bike, like a pacemaker,” Richard says.
But the sport-mad youngster is temporarily out of action and using a wheelchair after an operation to straighten his legs. He had a condition that was making his feet turn inwards.
“He loves his sport, playing and watching it and is a keen Ipswich Town supporter, but as the problem worsened he was in danger of turning his ankles over,” said Richard.
“He had surgery at the start of February and cannot have any weight-bearing on his legs for seven weeks. Then he will be on crutches for a time.”
Running 26 miles is one challenge. Raising money is another. “I have to make Victa at least £2,000 so I am holding fundraising supper evenings in the cafe, and putting envelopes on the tables for donations, as well as getting sponsors.”
To sponsor Richard go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardPalmer4. More information on Victa on www.victa.org.uk