To run or not to run? Whilst generally speaking I agree that you don’t regret the runs you do, only the runs you didn’t, it is also surely true that it is easy to romanticise the runs that never were. If I’d only done the ultra to the stones, I’d have skipped sprite like the whole way, arriving as fresh and lovely as I was on the start line.. Know what I’m getting at?
So it is, I’m agonising over what to do for the best. The ‘To run or not to run‘, question relates to whether or not I should bite the proverbial bullet, and commit to doing the Sheffield Half Marathon on 10th April 2016. Strictly speaking it is now the Yorkshire Half Marathon – Sheffield, following a bit of strategic re-branding following the no water malarkey of a couple of years ago. For the record though, I always felt really sorry for the volunteer organising committee about that, they didn’t deserve the witch hunt that followed. Yep, it went horribly wrong, but they put in so much work, and were devastated, it’s not like they messed up deliberately. In any event, it seems a horrible way for them to finish their years of service in setting it up many times before. Who’d be a volunteer after that?
Anyway, enough of them, and their grief, back to me, and my self-centred angst of indecision. So thinking about ‘to run or not to run’ I try and talk myself down a bit, breathe deeply, and calm down. Ask myself, seriously though, what’s the worst that could happen? Well, quite a lot it seems, when I come to think of it, hence this could be both the best of ideas, and the worst of ideas. Oh the agonies of not knowing which way to jump.
I’d only nipped round to Cheetah buddy’s house so I wouldn’t die intestate. Been meaning to write a will for ages, and having reached my half century in life, felt I couldn’t put this off any longer. Will drawn up thanks to the nice people at the co-op, just a matter of getting my signature witnessed.
So round at her place, sat at her nice kitchen table, sipping steaming coffee (that trick with shaking the hot milk in a jam jar is genius – instant froth) and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere where positivity penetrates every corner like steam in a sauna (hmm, might need a better analogy than that – creosote in a fence maybe? I’ll come back to that). In this cocoon of warmth and calm, everything seems possible. I do have to be careful though, she is a svelte and enthusiastic runner, who has been on a meteoric rise in relation to her running performance, I am… well not, and mainly embrace my inner hobbit. I need to be on my guard, but it is slipping.
Innocently enough, I start asking about her ‘half marathon training plan’ which has been cut out from some magazine or other, or downloaded from a website, and secured to the wall. Paper I can relate to (you’ve perhaps already heard of my passion for stationery shops). It looks innocuous enough, a list of dates, with suggested activities. Two days out of each seven are designated as rest days. Well that’s OK, in the bag for a start. At least one day is allocated for cross training. Yep, I’m up for that – oh is it supposed to be cardio cross training – I’ll ignore that for now. The ‘long run’ though, for week one is just 5km. That’s just a parkrun! Suddenly this doesn’t seem impossible… I regularly go out for longer than that, I don’t necessarily run it continuously (actually, I never run it continuously) but the distance doesn’t particularly scare me. I need to give this some thought.. Maybe there is time to up my distances between now and April?
Time to think it through – so running a half marathon is the best idea and the worst idea because…
The best of ideas because:
- Unimaginable smugness on conclusion
- Loads of Smileys doing it – don’t want to miss out – I get to wear my Smiley vest with pride, and cash in on Smiley supporters going round
- Being part of a Sheffield institution
- The support is supposed to be amazing going up and back, that would be extraordinary to experience for myself
- It’s local, if I am ever to do a half marathon, this is the one to do, I can train on my home patch for goodness sake
- If I don’t think about the time, I know I can walk it, there is no shame in that, I often walk/run on trails anyway. Surely I wont be last, and if I was, that wouldn’t be the first time it had happened to me (ref Wingerworth Wobble) and there is a certain 5 minutes of fame in being in the frame for that as last one home…
- Tapering the last week before hand would be amazing licence for carbing up (I know it’s more complicated than that, but I’ve just listened to the radio 4 food programme special on diet and running, and people used to run on pork pies pre performance and shandy to replenish things after – how hard can it be)
- Might give a focus for more running – plus I get to play with my Tomtom loads (MASSIVE plus)
- Participation will be like ethnographic research, I can be an active spectator – as I never run with headphones, there will be loads of eavesdropping potential on the way round
- Bragging rights – though only to non-runners, most of the runners I know have already done loads of half marathons already
- Plenty of Smilies are doing it, there should be support along the way
- It’s far enough away in the future that it seems a distant hypothetical goal rather than imminent threat
- If I do die as a consequence of either training or participation, I won’t die intestate any more, so that’s good
The worst of ideas because:
- You have to run, a lot, in training as well as on the day
- You have to run a half marathon
- It’s on roads, I hate running on roads, the arthritic bones in my feet may actually shatter
- Humiliation if I don’t finish – more than if I just never start
- You have to train for it for ages
- I’m worried about getting injured during the training
- You have to run the outward bit ALL UP HILL
- You have to run the return bit ALL DOWN HILL
- The genie doesn’t go back in the bottle, once I say I’m doing this, I might have to go through with it (see earlier references to being conscientious if not keen, it’s my cross to bear)
Hmm, it’s difficult, but a couple of recent happenings may yet sway me. I was reading another runner’s blog, talking about anxieties she felt in advance of running her first marathon (I know, there is a limit to the comparisons I can make between her and me and the extent to which I can honestly relate to her as a fellow runner), but one thing she said did stand out. Nearly every runner who has ever done a marathon probably thought at the start of their running exploits ‘I could never do that‘, yet they could and they did. What’s more, I even contacted the original poster, and said I’d found her perspective encouraging in that even ‘proper runners’ are riddled with self-doubt. Her reply was hilarious, spluttering incredulity – as far as it is possible to splutter and be incredulous in writing – ‘I can’t believe you think I’m a proper runner‘ she said. This the woman who has now done loads of marathons! Now on a good day, this tells me that because everyone is always battling with themselves, few people ever feel complacent or confident in their running abilities. My doubt is therefore proportionate and normal, it will be challenging for me, but that doesn’t mean it is actually impossible. On a bad day, i think ‘blimey, if even multiple marathon runners suffer performance angst, how can I as a leisure parkrunner even contemplate upping my distance? Much better to watch a film on the telly on a dark wintry day, and maybe have a cocoa.‘
I thought I could never do a parkrun, but I do that every week now, reluctantly sometimes, but I hate to miss it. I thought I’d never do 10 km, but although I find it harder, I don’t feel it’s beyond me any more. Now, I’m mindful that the gap between running a 5 km and a 10 km isn’t so great – it really does seem to be true that you double that distance, you double your time. This makes no sense to me at all, but seems to be the case. It is a very much bigger challenge to go from a 10 km up to a half marathon. Then again, I’ve done the Round Sheffield Run twice (24 km – of which only 20 km is actually timed) , and it’s my favourite run ever… but you do get built in breaks for that. Still, as far as I know there are no marshals on the sidelines of the Sheffield Half Marathon route, armed with flame throwers to get you moving again if you slow to a walk on the way round, so who cares if I stop for a chat and a sit down en route. Maybe it’s just about positive thinking and making the choice (below is stolen from getgoing-getrunning.com – copying is the ultimate form of flattery I’m told):
The clincher may be thanks to an article in The Guardian last Saturday, can’t even remember who wrote it, but the gist is, stop caring about things you don’t care about. – or as they put it, just ‘stop giving a damn!’ What does it matter what other people think (as long as I don’t turn into a cruel psychopath) , honestly, will anyone even notice, let alone care if I’m slow going round or have to have a lie down mid-way, or cry at some point? Afterwards, there will be a lot of cake.
Maybe it’s true what they say. Running is more in the head than in the legs.
I think maybe the only way to do this, is quietly. I will enter, but I just won’t tell anyone. I can see how the training goes, and make a last minute call on the day or day before. That could work..
So, my motivation for running will boil down to these key points:
- Fear of missing out
- If I don’t try I’ll never know
My strategy will be to train with stealth, shussh, don’t tell a soul, it can be our little secret. Then I can explode from the start line on the day, and I’ll metamorphose from hobbit into hare just like this woman here. It could be me!