I have warned my wife that I have one big adventure left in me. Last weekend I think I probably came one step closer to it and, like most of my life in the last 3 years it was all thanks to my running habit. If I wasn’t a runner there is no way I would have been travelling to North Africa to run a half marathon. For starters I don’t think I would have had the balls and, probably more importantly why would a non runner be running at all?
In my quest to run a sub 4 hour marathon I found a plan on line and, one of the elements of it was to run a Half Marathon race on the 31st of January. Being a bit anal I decided that it had to be right on the 31st, not a week sooner or later, so I went to google to see what I could find. My Googling activities turned up two, one was up North, I forget where, and the other was in Marrakech. I raised this dilemma with a few friends secretly hoping someone would say lets go to Morocco to run, but unsurprisingly nobody did. Most people have lives that don’t revolve around my marathon training. (I know it’s hard to believe isn’t it, how dare they.) Anyway I then had another question. Did I have the balls to travel to a completely foreign country to run a Half, even if no one else was going to go? Well the answer was yes, so I turned my brain off booked the run and then thought about how I would tell the wife.
Having gone as far as booking a place I had no choice but to figure out how to get there. I booked flights and hotel after a quick search for city breaks online and let the nerves start to percolate. When I was in my early 20’s I had no qualms about travelling. On my 21st birthday I landed in India at 2 in the morning with no idea where I was going to stay and, spent months winging it around the continent. After 15-20 years of domestication though I did not know if I still had that spirit of adventure in me and, the more I thought about it the more worried I became. What I didn’t want was to discover that I was the kind of person who would spend the entire time locked in my hotel room. A tourist who didn’t actually see anything, too scared of being somewhere strange to take any risks at all.
I have changed quite a lot in those years since I went to India, family can have that effect. I had not realised it till now but in some ways running has bought back some of that chap left behind so long ago and, added something new. It’s not just that I have regained a little confidence in my own abilities, I now have to hand a supportive community behind me. I don’t think that we always understand how important this is, but without my immediate club mates, the online friends I have made and, the wider open world of runners out there willing to help out a kindred spirit I would have had a very different experience. One of the things that I learned during this adventure is that unlike many of my journeys in the distant past I am not alone.
The nicest revelation was that I had no qualms about exploring the city and markets, even to the extent that after getting lost once in the souks, I went back and did it again. Yes there were characters who I am sure were up to no good, being offered hash twice in the space of 50 metres is something that hasn’t happened to me in a long time and, the guys selling it sure didn’t look like pillars of the local community. I dare say I got ripped off on some tourist tat but nothing felt too scary or uncomfortable. If the worst came to the worst I could always run away; I’m getting quite good at that. Wandering around on my own I could look at what I wanted and spend some time saying hello to the many feral and not so feral cats. I could doze the afternoon away in my hotel after busy mornings only to emerge once again in the early evenings for a little more exploring.
It was while up at the race village looking at the ‘welcome’ 5k run that I bumped into a bunch of English runners from near Milton Keynes – The Redway Runners. All of a sudden I had temporary membership of a club for my running activities out there, the conversation inevitably turned to pacing, racing and rehydrating (well drinking really). Our common understanding of all things running and shared experiences, like Parkrun and even being knowing some of the same running folk meant they were more than happy for me to tag along with them for a while, and also to meet up on the morning of the race. It meant that when I crossed the line there were familiar faces there I could talk to about the run itself. Thank you Redway Runners, it was really appreciated and I will see you at Bacchus.
Possibly the most important people on my adventure and the ones who did the most were the ones inside my phone. I may have mentioned before my little support team from my running club, but while wandering around the markets I knew that however it seemed I was not completely alone because, at the other end of the internet there were people sharing jokes and understanding my neurosis about pacing. I was very nervous that the actual run was going to be a disaster, the last time I had a specific time I wanted to achieve it all went wrong and I was paranoid that this would be a repeat of that. My support crew kept me going, reassured me and listened patiently to my pre race excuses. They shared in my joy of actually achieving what I had set out to do and even though they were miles away they still acted as the best team anyone could ever want. I am not however getting a club tattoo…. I just wanted to get that out there, much as I love you all, it’s not going to happen.
There we have it, just as the half was a toe dipping exercise to get me ready for the plunge of Manchester Marathon, the whole adventure was a small dip into what will inevitably come. Yes there is a big adventure left waiting for me. Not sure what it is yet, but it’s a safe bet that it will involve running. Between now and then whenever it maybe I know there will be another couple of training adventures to come. The first one already booked, so if you are in Valencia around 20th Nov look out for a trainee adventurer, the single #teamgreen on the #ukrunchat #teamred running tour.