View from the sofa: The loneliness of the long-distance runner could teach Kevin Pietersen a lot

Get Inspired; The Graham Norton Show; Sportsweek  BBC

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It was only a three-minute clip, put up on the BBC Sport website on Friday afternoon, but it resonated more strongly than a whole week’s worth of Kevin Pietersen’s self-obsessed, poor-me laments.

It began with a shot from behind of a man in shorts looking over some damp Snowdonia scenery. “My name is Simon Lamb,” a voiceover said. “I am 39 years old. I have a very big beard. I like to run very long distances.” Then, as the man’s face came into shot, he said: “I have a mental illness.”

Lamb went on to say that he had been diagnosed as bipolar eight years ago and had attempted suicide “quite a few times”. And where medication had failed to help, running unfathomable distances had proved to be extremely beneficial.

As he put it: “I tried to change my life around by starting to run. As soon as I started, things started to change – it was as simple as that, really. The more I ran, the better I felt. I set myself a target one day when I left the house and I ran 36 miles.”

It was a well-told, touching three minutes of self-awareness from a normal man who had been faced with adversity and found a way to overcome it. Unlike anything we heard from Pietersen last week.

Hours after Lamb’s film had gone live, KP graced the Graham Norton sofa and embarked on yet another soliloquy about how his book of bile was “closure”. All he needed was his own spotlight and he could have been Maria from West Side Story doing her “you killed him, not with bullets and knives, but with hate” speech.

He wasn’t quite aware enough to notice that much of the laughter generated by Norton was at Pietersen’s expense. Faced with such formidable opposition in the wit stakes, the former cricketer was as successful as the proverbial one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest.

Then on BBC 5 Live’s Sportsweek yesterday morning he spoke – again – about the “horrible bullying” that existed in the England cricket team. He admitted he was not the man who had been bullied – nor would he disclose to Garry Richardson, the host, who the victims actually were.

But he went all Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men when he said: “I will go to sleep tonight extremely happy because I know that I have spoken the truth.”

Then he was asked about the text messages he sent to some South African players, purportedly denigrating the then England captain, Andrew Strauss. And, Richardson asked, what was it that he said in those messages? “It’s in the book,” Pietersen replied. Please, enough. 

At this juncture it was worth recalling something else Lamb said about his struggles with mental illness – and though it may be glib to compare them with Pietersen’s woes, it puts them into context.

“I still struggle to put my shoes on sometimes, but then I used to struggle with medication,” he said. “Running is a way of getting outside and answering questions about why I am here and what I am supposed to be doing as a human being.”

Questions KP might do well to consider.

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