Ross Noble: I’m a runner

The surrealist comedian, 47, on switching motorbikes for marathons and being heckled on the run


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I used to run to help with other things.

I race motorbikes, so running was a thing I did to stay fit for that, and for a tour or a show. Then, around 2016, I got into trail running, and started running for the joy of getting out and exploring.

I have an all-or-nothing approach.

The day I bought a Garmin watch, I thought: ‘I’ll just see how far I can go until everything gives up.’ I didn’t know anything. I was googling ‘How far is a half marathon?’ as I stumbled around for hours and hours. When I got back, someone asked if I was having a heart attack.

As I’m from Newcastle, I thought I’d better do the Great North Run.

But it was a complete disaster. I was too fat, I was suffering from gout, and I got heckled the entire way. Every tenth person would say: ‘Ross, where’s your motorbike?’ and think they were the first one to say it. I wasn’t so friendly after a while.

People can’t believe that I’ll do a half marathon in the morning and then dance around on stage for two hours that evening.

I was talking to a man outside my show in Adelaide who said: ‘Were you running in the hills today? You don’t look like a runner.’ I said: ‘Well you don’t look like a man that can attract a wife, but here we are.’

I love doing parkruns, but…

I don’t like it when they notice me and announce that they have a ‘special guest’. It just paints a massive target on your back. People go: ‘There he is. I must beat him!’

I like the conversations you have at the end of a parkrun, though.

When somebody sees me in the street normally, there’s this weird imbalance. It’s like: ‘Go on then, make me laugh.’ But when you’re sweaty and red-faced and you’ve all just done the same race, people only want to talk about running. Nobody really cares who you are.

If I’m achey after a run and have a gig, ‘Doctor Theatre’ will sort me out.

‘Doctor Theatre’ is what they call it when, 10 minutes before a show, your body just magically replenishes. All of a sudden the pain goes away.

Once you start to follow a plan, you get better at running.

Who knew? Now I’ve got my gout under control, in the past year I’ve done six half marathons, one trail marathon and 31 parkruns.

I’m still sort of pretending that I’m only doing it as a bit of fun – but I’m not.

I do want to push it and improve. And the best thing is, I’ve got mates who ran when they were younger and they’re getting slower. I’ve spent all these years just being a touring comic, so I can only get better.

Technically, I’m an ultrarunner.

I did the Surf Coast Trail Marathon, south of Melbourne. It was on sand and hills and went into the bush, and ended up being about 44km – so I’m calling that an ultra.

I have done 24-hour races, but on a dirt bike.

There’s something about it. You start hallucinating and seeing rabbits that aren’t there. There were guys way faster than me who I was beating because they mentally shut down. So I know I can keep going for that time. I’ve got my eye on this Endure 24 run around an 8km loop in a stately home estate near Leeds. I think I’ve got the mindset – I just don’t have the talent.

Runs can be good inspiration for what to talk about on stage.

But it doesn’t take much for me. I might see a weird weather vane on a farmhouse and by the time I’ve got back to the hotel I’ve got 50 things in my head that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. You just need one thing to jumpstart the train of thought. But you have to be careful you don’t end up with loads of jokes about sheep.

Sometimes, the joke arrives perfectly formed.

I was doing a race in the New Forest and a man ahead of me was trying and failing to open a gate, just getting more and more frustrated. On the back of his T-shirt it said: ‘Unstoppable’.

Ross Noble’s UK tour, ‘Jibber Jabber Jamboree’, runs until 17 March. Tickets are available at rossnoble.com.

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