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27 April 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 4:16pm

Adam Kay’s Diary: Running marathons, leaving medicine, and a Calippo stuck where the sun doesn’t shine

Announcing in 2013 that I’d be running the marathon elicited more shock from friends than when I came out, or left my career in medicine.

By Adam Kay

It is paperback publication date for my book, This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor. I decide to pop into a couple of local bookshops to sign any copies they might have. I’ve been informed by my publisher that booksellers like this kind of thing. “A signed book is a sold book” apparently.

I head to the counter of my first shop and ask if they have any copies in stock. I don’t immediately identify myself, to save embarrassment if they don’t. The lady behind the counter thinks they have some over on a table, and pops over to check. The man behind the counter tells me he’s read it and it wasn’t really his thing – he’s not a fan of so-called humorous memoirs and much preferred Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air. It’s now definitely too embarrassing for me to identify myself; their stock will have to remain unsigned (and presumably unsold if they stick with that particular sales pitch).

The lady returns with a copy and asks if I’d like to buy it. I say I will – mostly because I didn’t want her colleague to think he’d persuaded me not to get it, even though I’m now out of pocket from this entire enterprise. I’m glad I have the £8 as cash, so I don’t need to risk handing over my card and them seeing my name.


My phone beeps urgently with a BBC Breaking News alert. The threshold for what constitutes a newsflash seems to have dropped quite extraordinarily over the last few months. It’s now mostly about athletes I’ve not heard of failing to win at sports I’ve not heard of in a competition I’m only aware of because of these updates.

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The news big enough to disturb my food? “Commonwealth leaders agree that Prince Charles will be the next head of the organisation, it is understood.” I pick up my phone, tut loudly at the banality, and chuck it back down on to the kitchen table. My boyfriend looks at the screen to see what upset me so much. He looks a little confused, but consoles me that maybe I’ll be made leader of the Commonwealth after Charles.


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A lazy day, mostly spent drinking wine in the garden, as the temperature hits the mid-20s. I update my social media accounts with “It’s the kind of weather that makes you wonder if an anal Calippo might be a good plan.” I suspect it won’t be troubling the Pulitzer committee, but it amused me, and it got a hundred or so likes and retweets, giving my self-esteem a little dopamine fist-bump.

On Facebook, a doctor friend replies to tell me he once saw a patient in A&E with that exact presenting complaint. Objects in orifices are the thumping bass line of every doctor’s life. Most patients suffer from Eiffel Syndrome – “I fell, doctor! I fell!” – and the tales of how things got where can be skyscraper-tall. Come to think of it, it’s only a matter of time before someone tries to sit on the Gherkin. I’ve had patients insert toilet brushes (bristles first), the glass from a smashed television screen, a seven-inch diameter ball of rubber bands, and the contents of a KFC bargain bucket. One patient attended with vaginal burns, having inserted a string of Christmas lights and turned them on (brings new meaning to the phrase “I put the Christmas lights up myself”).

I suspect my friend’s patient with the Calippo had a self-limiting condition that would have resolved itself by melting during the traditional four-hour wait in A&E. Unless freezer burn is a possibility? Or some horrific rectal version of an ice cream headache?


Watching the London Marathon on TV and feeling grateful that I’m not running it in this heat. I ran the marathon five years ago, in much more temperate weather. (I didn’t win, unfortunately – an Ethiopian athlete called Tsegaye Kebede managed to nip round about two and a half hours faster than me.) When I announced to friends in 2013 that I’d be running the marathon I received quite extreme reactions of shock and disbelief. Much more so than when coming out, or even on announcing I’d left my career in medicine. One friend assumed by “running the London Marathon” I meant that I’d taken on some kind of executive role in the organisation, which clearly seemed far more credible than the fact I’d be dragging my inelegant frame round 26.2 miles.

Competitors in this year’s race were advised to strongly consider dispensing with elaborate outfits, given the heat. While obviously disappointing to those people who’ve prepared costumes, it’s actually rather good news for the mental wellbeing of other runners. There’s very little in life more dispiriting than being overtaken by a ten-foot Iggle Piggle and a jouster in full chainmail. My abiding memory of my marathon was the unshakeable feeling about halfway through that my heart was making some kind of crunching sound, and spending a good hour trying to think of a medical explanation. I suspect it was my body pointing out to me that I shouldn’t be doing this level of exercise, and just flashing the engine warning light.

I’m sat watching the marathon this year when my phone goes off, plugged into a charger on the other side of the room. I can’t face getting up from the sofa so let it ring off to voicemail. That’s more like it.


My ego recovers nicely from its bruising at the bookshop when I receive an email from a theatre where I’ll be promoting the book on tour, asking about my rider. Not a question I’m used to answering – I don’t want to appear greedy, but I’m not going to pass up this milestone of Z-list celebrity life. I opt for a bowl of grapes, strawberries, some still water and a bottle of white wine. The reply comes back, “Sorry I meant tables, chairs, microphones etc. There’s a Co-op you can go to behind the theatre though.” 

Adam Kay is the author of “This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor”

This article appears in the 25 Apr 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Corbyn ultimatum