All the four Houses, Martin in blue; Hodson in red; Cornwallis in green; and Lyons (my House) in yellow, were lined up for the junior Marathon. I was 12; had just moved from the colts to the juniors and was short for my age and wore specs. I was nicknamed ‘Silly goggle-eyed', by my peers, who towered over me. This was my first marathon. My stomach was dry with trepidation. The Warden blew a whistle and we were off. All the boys rushed madly down the road. I thought: is this how this is done? We crossed Boulogne's tomb; the College gate and then Martin Purwa village. I was still at the rear of the horde. The first turn came at the golf course, and at that point my cylinders started firing. Peter ‘Blondie' Quieros fell behind, and so did Roger O'Shea the sprinter, and Tommy Henderson, the bully. By the next turn, at the Minister's house, I had advanced to the front third of the hurtling mass, but there were about 50 chaps still ahead of me. Richard Muganda from Uganda cursed, "What de bloody hell. Shit. I'm not running anymo'." Too many fags smoked in the House rooms and too many girls chased, had got his goat. His House Captain, who had followed us on his bike, called him a rotten egg and gave him a strong kick in the rump. His cousin Urquhart ‘Rhino' Kampala, a strong favorite, coughed and collapsed by the roadside, pissing blood. He had never practiced on the course, and had worn himself out half way through.
My engine was now running at optimum power, the carburetor pumping in the mixture strong and steady. The stretch from the Minister's house to the big tamarind tree was uphill, and I could almost see the steam come out from the rear orifices of the smokers, the big shags, and the fornicators. Some steam escaped from my rear end too (I had recently joined the second group of sinners). Stalwarts gasped, panted, cursed, removed their shirts, and poured water over their heads. Richard Wheeler, bully number one, tugged at my shirt, "Where do you think you are going, pip squeak? If you cross me, I'll kick the shit out of you." I shrugged him off, and toiled up the climb. My House Captain, pedaling alongside, yelled out, "Wheeler, you yellow rat! If you touch him again, I'll cane you till your bum is sore." He cheered me on, "Run Sri, run. There are only a few chaps left." I looked up, and sure enough, there were only a handful ahead of me, and we were yet to reach the tamarind tree. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by a dozen Blue Shirts (Martin House boys), who had crept up unseen, and now hemmed me in. Three were in front, three behind and three each on either flank. I tried my best to break their cordon, but was pushed back and forth, side to side, by my tormentors. As we approached the tamarind tree, my mind worked fast, as I had to get out, somehow. Soon the tree loomed, just ahead. I pushed the Blue Shirt on my left really hard. He went sprawling, and took the other two on his left with him. All three banged into the tree, and fell. I quickly darted to my left, went round the tree and raced ahead of the three villains in front, who were taken unawares. They wanted to play rough, and they got it.
We turned on to the last stretch from my lucky tree (it is still there, 45 years on), to Hodson's grave. Only three fellows were ahead of me, now. They were the best long distance runners among the juniors. The colts and the seniors were lined up along the road, cheering their fellow House Members, on. I somehow managed to pass Carlisle, and then there were two to beat. From a distance I heard a shout, "It's your cousin, you bugger, it's your cousin," and saw my little cousin jumping up and down, babbling, "Come on my bro', come on." The carburetor pumped in its last bit of juice and I managed to cross Innes. But I had left it too late. "Friar" Tuck was a hundred yards ahead of me, and was too close to Hodson's grave, for me to catch up. He crossed it first, and then I. My House Captain lifted me up on his shoulders, "Never mind boy. You'll win the Cup next year." Sweet melon juice poured down my throat, and the pit of my stomach was no longer dry.
That night, I wrote a letter to my mother. The first line read, "Dear Mummy today was the happiest day of my life. I came second in the junior marathon." The next day my nick-name was changed to "Despo" (short for desperado), by common consent.