Despite leaving countless gigs soaked through with sweat, my carefully-coiffured hair transformed into sodden mess, I'd never yet been panting and perspiring before having seen the support act. But then this is no ordinary show - it's a Rock N Roll Marathon.
Organisers claim it's the "world's largest running series", attracting nearly 500,000 participants across 30 or so events each year. Starting in 1998 with the aim of making endurance races more approachable to non-runners, they set about designing a race that would "make running fun". Their solution was startlingly simple: a strategically-placed band, every mile along the route, blasting out tunes. Fourteen years on, and I'm signed up to run in the first ever UK leg of the series, the Edinburgh Rock N Roll Half Marathon.
While it's by no means the only event of its type to include live music along the route, it is the first to explicitly trade on the relationship between the two. Considering how the Walkman (and latterly the iPod) made running tolerable for millions of reluctant joggers, it's remarkable that nobody tried to pair the two in this manner before, especially given that official races usually forbid running with headphones. While I can't speak for other would-be participants, the prospect of being left music-less for a couple of hours, with just my brain for company, doesn't bear consideration.
Normally I wouldn't have thought twice about entering a race, let alone a half marathon, but the intrigue factor got the better of me. Let's face it; tight jeans, battered converse and big hair don't exactly go hand-in-hand with distance running. I felt compelled to enter, overwhelmed by the music writer's fervent sense of duty. Once more unto the breach, so to speak, in order to discover just how rock and roll the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon actually is.
My preparation had gone smoothly. I built elaborate playlists with running-related themes, perfected my Devil's Horns technique and, very occasionally, tried some actual running. My pre-race visualisation was always the same: Romp through it in a flurry of pyrotechnics, knee-slides and guitar windmills before finally crowd-surfing triumphantly over the finish line. It was only when waiting in the holding pen, a few short minutes to go, that the reality of the situation struck me. Almost everyone looked lithe and eager. They certainly didn't have the drawn, pallid look that comes from a diet of Jack Daniels and non-brown M&Ms.
I'd imagined infrequent joggers like me, lured here by the promise of glamourous indie rock and roll, perhaps paying homage to their musical heroes by donning costumes or band t-shirts. Instead I saw only pace bands, tight lycra and steely expressions. I should have had an inkling that the day would turn out differently when I'd noticed some of the acts that had played previous Rock N Roll Marathons. Seal, Flo Rida and, erm, Journey don't exactly scream "RAWK!"
The starter's gun (fired by a local councillor rather than Phil Spector) roused me from my thoughts of impending doom and the collective seriousness swept me along the first mile comfortably, where we encountered the opening band of the day, The Deadly Winters. They looked amused and bemused in equal parts as their audience first ran towards them, then away again just as quickly. It was an expression I would soon recognise, repeated on the faces of the performers. "It was definitely a unique experience," said Mike Smith, guitarist for Glasgow alt-rock outfit The Detours who'd manned the seventh stage.
Mindful of the task in hand, I kept watch for those three staples of rock and roll; sex, drugs and satanic worship. While I can't claim to have seen any evidence of either of the first two, come the halfway mark, I'd have happily sold my soul in return for the race being over.
Those aiming for a personal best might not have paid much attention to the bands, but for the rest of us plodding our way round, they provided some welcome relief, diverting thoughts from the monotony of running even if we caught only a brief snatch of each set. By now, I'd also started to notice others who'd embraced the rock and roll ethos; a body-painted Gotye lookalike, a group in full KISS make-up, even a Vegas-era Elvis complete with cape and rotund belly who, rather crushingly, overtook me on the final stretch.
Although not quite the twenty-plus kilometre-long party I'd envisaged, the mood had certainly lifted ahead of the post-race concert. Headlined by Kassidy, it drew a impressively large crowd of runners and supporters, the competitive nature dampened, everyone now much more amenable to the music. Even the supreme athletes amongst us managed, if not some full-on head-banging, at least a gentle foot-tapping.
So how rock and roll was it then? Well, answering that question requires me to resort to the age-old music journo cliché: If it were a rock song, which one would it be?
Is it a game changer, something new, exciting and a little bit dangerous like, say, Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode?
An industry wake-up call like the Pistol's God Save The Queen?
Or perhaps a full-on, no-nonsense rock onslaught like AC/DC's Back To Black?
Nope, it's none of those.
Instead it would, rather fittingly, have to be Journey's Don't Stop Believin'. Lacking the true rock and roll credentials so desired by fans of the genre, yet still strangely, guiltily enjoyable.Suggest a correction