Splinters in your arse are just the start. It is amazingly and tortuously uncomfortable to be sat on a fence for any length of time, and I’ve been astride these metaphorical railings for far longer than is healthy. It goes right back to that first decision ‘to run or not to run‘ when I sort of ended up entering the Sheffield Half Marathon by accident back in the mists of time. Technically it’s the Yorkshire Half Marathon I think, but I don’t really care about nomenclature here, much more worried about the distance. It is a long way. Too long for a hobbit, probably. All those weeks ago I think my reasoning went along the lines of ‘what’s the worse that can happen?‘, ‘it’s ages away, I might even train a bit‘ and ‘as long as I don’t inadvertently blurt it out and tell anyone, I don’t have to actually turn up at the start line on the day‘. The clincher was that old ‘what the hell…’ philosophy, even though I’m not completely sure it’s actually true. It’s not my immaculately manicured thumb in the photo incidentally, just in case your judgement, senses and all capacity for reason had temporarily abandoned you and you thought it was.
So, having worked on the basic, unfailing principle that if you ignore something for long enough it might just go away, time has passed, and I have come to realise that the principle is not as unfailing as I had first thought.
The marathon is now just a few weeks away, and inexplicably, I have not transformed myself into a lean, mean, muscled running machine, I have instead rather hung on to my hobbit like physique and fundamental tendency towards inertia. I know it’s a myth about ostriches burying their heads in the sand by the way, and if I was an ostrich, I don’t think I’d be worrying so very much about having to run a half-marathon, they are awesome athletes. If I had legs like that I’d certainly leave the rest of the field for dust AND probably get my own spin off reality TV series as well, so no need to ignore anything very much then.
Running last week was particularly dire. I only made it out for one run, and due to being away from home and other stuff, my diet consisted largely of digestive biscuits and chunks of cheese. Whilst such cuisine was not inherently unenjoyable (au contraire), it was also not conducive to achieving a svelte waistline and athletic frame. I don’t think Mo Farah would eat like that training for an event. In fact, I think he mainly eats Quorn. Actually, so do I, but I haven’t turned in to him either. Strange, but true. The prospect of even starting the half marathon, much less finishing it, seems to be ebbing ever further away.
On the other hand, if I don’t do the Sheffield half this time round then realistically I never will do it, and there is that irritating FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) echoing in my head all over again plus the unhelpful ‘conscientious if not keen‘ gene, that makes me feel obligated to go through with things that I have made a commitment to do, however unwisely. Also, (touch wood), I am miraculously still uninjured. Apart from my crumbling arthritic feet, which isn’t really an injury just a perpetual state of being, I’m basically OK. A lot of my fitter, more committed running club friends, gurus and competition goddesses (Smiley Paces members I salute you all) have been pushing themselves through the winter months and, whilst they did some awesome running times, some are now limping about, nursing strains and pulls and even stress fractures. Mind you, Dr Smiley can still go faster with a pot on her leg and on crutches than I can in a sprint, but I won’t draw undue attention to that… I feel I sort of owe it to those who can’t now take part, to give it a go and to at least show willing by turning up on the day. Plus I have promised Roger an outing, and that bit at least I’m looking forward to – showing off my very own pony after a half century wait for an equine of my own!
So why am I posting this now? Maybe, because at this precise moment I have no idea whether or not I am going to run, and it might be interesting to look back and see what was happening with my motivation once Half Marathon Day has been and gone. Exciting isn’t it? Which way do you think it will turn out?
When I was down South last week, I walked into Kingston and found I was crossing over the bridge over the River Thames, just as a stream of runners was emerging from the tow path, whizzing round the corner (some runners were more ‘whizzy than others to be fair’) and dipping back into Home Park from, where they’d run on to Hampton Court Palace. It was a clear but cool morning, there was a cheery band by the riverside that burst into energetic songs as groups passed, and loads of Hi Viz marshals on hand to clap them round. Turns out, this was the Hampton Court Half Marathon confusingly, there is another event called the Original Hampton Court half which happens in February, but this is a different one, very bizarre. Anyway, that wasn’t the point, the point was, watching all those runners, pounding onwards I found I felt quite emotional. They all had looks of grim determination about them as they were entering mile 11 (or thereabouts). They weren’t finding it easy, but they were doing it. At that moment I felt a wave of not only admiration, but a sense of really wanting to be a part of something like that. ‘That looks great! That would be amazing! I’d love to be part of that!’ I thought, probably erroneously. As the conductor waved his choir into a rousing chorus of approval, and the rhythm of so many tiring feet thudded their trainers on the ground it all seemed perfect…
I kid you not. Almost as a reflex response to my having this thought enter my head, the next runner I saw came round passed me, then lurched into a fence at the side of the pavement, grabbed hold of it, and promptly threw up. Hmmm, maybe not quite such a great advert for running, and also a much needed reality check… or not. That’s the point, I really don’t know!
Hours later, I was in the car, driving back to Sheffield, and I went past the finish area for the event. It was on the Hampton Court Green for those of you that know the area. It had that post-event/ post-festival air. The finish funnel was empty, there were a few stragglers hanging around, and walking away from the event some limping, but smiling runners wearing the biggest and best medals I have EVER seen. No really, these give the Percy Pud Christmas Pudding a run for best prize ever…. Then I spotted a woman walking towards the finish. She was really struggling, sweat pouring down her face, she wasn’t having a good time, but, and this is the point, the end was in sight and she was bloody well going to finish what she started. I didn’t think that was weak to be coming in so late, possibly even last, I thought that was strong. She was awesome, every step was an effort but she had that medal in her sights. Yet again, I find that it isn’t always the strongest runners that really inspire me, but the unexpectedly resolute against the odds. Swift runners impress me certainly, they are awesome, but they impress me like a cheetah does. They show extraordinary running prowess, but they are also an entirely different species to me. I might as well compare myself to them as reach out and touch the moon (I’ve tried that, it didn’t work). That woman showed serious resolve, if anyone or anything can get me to that start line it will be the image of her, putting one foot in front of another, persevering with gritted teeth. I know she got there, I just know she did. What’s more, she wasn’t even in fancy dress – I’ll have an advantage over her with that alone.
So, whilst I’m still not saying ‘yes’ I’m not saying ‘no’ either. I like to keep my reader on their toes. On balance, I think if I don’t try, I’ll never know, and that will be really annoying. If I do try, and it’s terrible, I don’t have to ever do it again. Admittedly, sloping off undetected by abandoning the race half way round might be a challenge with Roger accompanying me, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Walk of shame could be a tad conspicuous in the circumstances. As for coming last, I’ve done that before, it’s fine, as long as there is an anecdote in it, it really shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
As things stand, if I stay injury free, and unless Roger trots up lame on the day of the race, I think I’d like to give it a go more than I’d like to risk missing out. This is highly likely to end up as one of those ‘I’m not sure if I enjoyed myself, but I’d have been dead pissed off to have missed it‘ sort of occasions. We shall see. Also, I blame Eddie Izzard. That man is a machine. Twenty-seven marathons in as many days (double marathon on last day due to logistic problems – seriously?). And all to mark Nelson Mandela’s period of imprisonment, one marathon for each year. Now, I’m honestly not putting myself in the same category as either Eddie Izzard or Nelson Mandela, just in case you were wondering, but I am thinking it does rather put in context my angst over tackling a measly half within staggering distance of my own home. Lawks a lordy, I can walk it. They are doing a series about Eddie Izzard Marathon man by the way, must get round to watching that some time. He does walk/running too apparently, so it must be a legitimate tactic. Also, he looked like he was about to die at the end, and that part I’m really confident I can replicate, I look shite on finishing too!
So there are some positives here after all. Some bits of marathon running I have nailed… as for the rest? Let’s just say I’m working towards excellence in the bits relating to the actual running part, but everyone starts somewhere, why not me?