40 years ago, Joe Strummer ran the “London Marathon” and passed out as he crossed the finish line. In just over 4 hours, he had run over 40 km, it was not the first time he had done it. but it was the third and last marathon he participated in. The hardest. But what was truly amazing was the “training method” which the late leader of The Clash revealed years later: “Drink 10 pints of beer before the race.”
A special type
John Graham Mellor (real name) was born to a diplomat father in Ankara (Turkey) in 1952. During his early childhood, he lived moving from place to place – from Cairo to Mexico – before being sent to a boarding school in Surrey. with his brother David, a year his senior. “At nine years old, I had to say goodbye to my family.because they went to Africa or something and I only saw her once a year. Another benefit of my father’s job is that all expenses were paid for by the government. They left me alone. And I went to that school where rich people sent their rich kids. At that time John developed his racing skills like the wind and used the exercise as an outlet for your sanity or to burn off your runaway physical energy.
Before becoming the co-founder, guitarist and lead singer of British punk rock band The Clash, Strummer was a professional cartoonist and played the streets on a ukulele – which he bought after saving £1.99 – the Johnny B. Goode version. He also worked as a gravedigger or gardener in Hyde Park (“to have money to buy me a guitar”). Already in the 80s, and after his group bringing together Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Nicky “Topper” Headon, would have crossed the borders of the United KingdomAlso It was ‘Marathon Man’. As he himself admitted, participated in three marathons.
“After 15 minutes, I stopped seeing him”
On March 29, 1981, the the first “London Marathon”. And there, Among the more than 7,000 attendees was Joe Strummer. His girlfriend, Gaby Salter, accompanied him on this first race. The two had been romantically involved since 1978 (shortly after he turned 17) and in the 14 years they were together they had two daughters (Jazz and Lola). In the book “Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer”, Gaby explains: “We went to buy new running shoes. None of us had run since school, nor had they trained before.. We just made it to the start line at Blackheath and mingled with all the runners as we didn’t have official jersey numbers! After 15 minutes I stopped seeing him”.
Joe Strummer, singer of The Clash in a photo from 1981 / Getty Images/Steve Rapport
Gaby gave up mid-race and joined other “charming and very brave” participants, whose average age was 70. In a double-decker bus, he approached the final goal. But he saw Joe running and “I decided to start running again to get the keys to the apartment, which he had hung on his shorts. I ran the last 3 miles to the finish but did not accept the medal. When I found Joe, excited and wrapped in a silver blanket, we took the bus and headed home.”
“The day before, I was completely drunk”
As is already known – and appears as one of the most unique episodes in British pop history – in 1982, the leader of The Clash “mysteriously” disappeared for 20 days. He was in Paris, with his girlfriend. As the band were forced to cancel their UK tour, he spent his time in the City of Light visiting pubs, walking… or running the marathon. The idea came during one of those lazy afternoons when Joe had bought a French newspaper. He was in the bar, with Gaby and her friend Richard Schroeder, and he read the news of the ‘Marathon de Paris’: “Oh, there’s a marathon on Sunday (May 16), do you think we can do it?” the friend counts. “I replied that I was not in good shape to run, but he told me that going on stage was like a sport. He didn’t prepare. He didn’t train. The day before, I was completely drunk.”
“We went to buy sneakers and shorts! I remember our running shorts well, in red satin with black stripes,” says Gaby. “This time our friend and photographer, Richard Schroeder, took us to the start of the race. One more time, Joe walked away from me and I found it when it was at the end of its course”. They were not officially registered. “He finished that marathon in 3h30, his best time. Richard, Joe and I celebrate drink beer and smoke”.
“He fainted when he crossed the finish line”
On April 17, 1983, and for the third consecutive year, Joe showed up again in London. It was his third and last marathon. This time, for a charitable cause. He was part of the team of The Sun newspaper, which was trying to raise funds for the fight against leukemia. And this time he had a number: D918. Photographer Steve Rapport immortalized “that skinny dude with bamboo legs” running through the streets of London“I parked at Blackheath Common. I got out of the car and there was Joe Strummer warming up, not on the grass, but by the road, surrounded by thousands of people,” he said. he told NME. They all had their raincoats on, and then there was Joe in a “White Riot” Clash T-shirt. I asked him, “Can I take your picture?” And he posed for me.”
“For him, it was the hardest of the three races, maybe because of the pressure I had to make it work. He fainted crossing the finish line. He covered 26.2 miles (over 42 km) in 4 hours and 13 minutes,” Salter said. A very respectable time considering his disreputable training methods.
“10 pints of beer the day before the race”
Experts say that to properly prepare for a long distance race, it takes between 4 months and a year. In 1999, Strummer explained how he had formed in the American magazine Steppin’ Out: “Yes. In my life, I have participated in three marathons”. And it detailed: “You really, really shouldn’t ask me about my training program. It’s not good and I wouldn’t want people to copy it.” At the reporter’s insistence, Joe confessed: “Okay, if you want, it’s here: drink 10 pints of beer (5.4 litres) the day before the race, you have it?. And don’t take a single step at least in the previous four weeks“.
Aware of the bad example he was setting, he wanted the publication to add these words: “But assure me that you will put a warning in this article. ‘Don’t try this at home.’ I mean, it works for me and for Hunter Thompson, but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I did.”
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