Did Joe Strummer run the London Marathon in 1983 and the Paris Marathon a year earlier?
As a boarding school lad, The Clash frontman was a talented and enthusiastic runner. So maybe he did run the Paris Marathon on a training regime of beers, smokes and no-brand trainers?
In the documentary Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (2007), directed by Julian Temple, we get to see and hear Joe talking about athletic pursuits in Paris before the release of The Clash’s Combat Rock (1982). Legend has it that Bernie Rhodes, the band’s manager, wanted to create intrigue to boost interest and thus ticket sales by having Strummer vanish for a while. The plan was for Strummer to get lost in Austin, Texas, where he’d stay with Joe Ely, the country singer. Strummer was warm to the idea but instead of Austin went to Paris, without telling anyone. He stayed there for 6 weeks. And whilst there he ran the Paris Marathon in just under three and a half hours. His keep-fit regime for success: “Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race.”
In 1999, Strummer discussed his showing at the Paris Marathon of April 1982 with American magazine Steppin’ Out.
Steppin’ Out: Didn’t you once run in the Paris Marathon?
Joe Strummer: Yep. I ran three of them.
SO: Correct me if I’m wrong but is it also true that you never trained for any of them?
JS: You shouldn’t really ask me about my training regime, you know.
JS: Because it’s not good and I wouldn’t want people to copy it.
SO: Don’t make me beat it out of you.
JS: Okay, you want it, here it is. Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race.
SO: No running at all?
JS: No, none at all. And don’t forget the 10 pints of beer the night before. But make sure you put a warning in this article, “Do not try this at home.” I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I do.
The Paris Marathon story remains unsubstantiated. But Joe tells us a little more of what happened in the video below – the Paris segment begins just after 4:30.
But Strummer did run the London Marathon – twice (via).
In 1981 he ran his first London Marathon – sponsored by English tabloid The Sun. and in 1983 for the second and last time he ran the London Marathon on The Sun newspaper team, who were running in aid for Leukaemia Research, where he finished with a time of 4 hours and 13 minutes.
Chris Salewicz (Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer – 2008) quotes Gaby Salter revealing: “He hadn’t trained. He just bought some shorts and said, ‘Let’s run a marathon.”‘ Antony Genn, who worked with Strummer in the Mescaleros, recalls the runner telling him: “I didn’t fuckin’ train. Not once. Just turned up and did it.”