On Monday I went to a funeral. Not somebody I knew desperately well, but every time I met them I got on and, at 92 they had had a good innings or whatever the phrase is. She was sparkly quick witted and stylish and even though her body had given out it was universally agreed that she had the indefinable something that made her seem forever young. It was not the only funeral I have been to where somebody has been remembered as the essence of vitality and it got me wondering, what will my legacy be? Will my funeral consist of a half dozen disinterested people standing around wondering what exactly I did with my life? I hope not. I like to think that when I am gone people will be able to talk about things I have achieved, I’ll never be the rock star I was going to be at 15, or the world renown academic but, I might just have a few people acknowledge that I did an awful lot of running, and I wasn’t too bad at that.
The funeral helped me understand part of the motivation for doing what I do. Of course I don’t just run because I want an interesting eulogy, I actually quite enjoy it and it makes me feel alive and focused. Running has taken me to places I had never dreamed of and I am sure it will take me to many more. It has given me experiences that I could never have had any other way. These are what will make up the stories told at my wake. “He was OK at running but not to sharp, he did Beachy Head as his first Marathon and always told of the heart dropping misery of realising what running the seven sisters actually involved. Still he got it done, he wasn’t a quitter .” They are also the reasons that I am prepared to sacrifice some of the things that people who do not train seem to value so highly. It is a choice that reminds me in some ways of that made by Neo in the matrix. You can have an easy life where you choose to do nothing difficult and have none of the interesting stories and adventures to tell, or you can see just how far down the rabbit hole your own capability will take you.
Once you’ve risen to the challenge of having a life full of adventure and challenge, running a sub 4 marathon, my current obsession for example, you then have to make the commitment to work for it. That comfortable life you gave up, that was the one where you could lie in every weekend, get home from work and slouch on the couch and stay up to date on all the fantastic TV that demands your precious time. The life you chose when you made the commitment to actually doing something involves early mornings to get in the miles before work, or going straight out running after work before you can settle down for the evening. It is the trade off where you make use of the time that others guard for doing, well not much at all, in order to get fitter, stronger and one step closer to whatever your long term goal is. Where do you find the time to train I am sometimes asked, and the answer is simple I use the time others let slip away.
Swilling around in this head full of smug self satisfied congratulation and, the imaginings of my legacy, I like to think that everybody will have admiration for what I do. Like the things you’re liable to read in the Bible, it aint necessarily so though! Despite my early starts, obvious commitment and my actual and potential achievements there are others out there who really wish I didn’t bother. They tend to be the ones who sit on the front desk at work and say, “it’s all right for you I don’t have the time to do anything”, or “I just can’t”, and any number of other excuses to sit down and do nothing at all. I don’t think everyone should run, but we should all strive to do something that makes a difference in
our lives. There are those out there desperate for a fall, a failure or injury, something to bring you back to the fold of idle underachievers. My funeral shining like a beacon amongst the Corrie watchers and slumberer’s who’s existence slips by making barely a ripple, will act as a rallying cry to those who want more. To those who want to be better than they are, and to continue to strive to be better. When I am gone I don’t want there to be a bland off the shelf order of service, I want the funeral to be unmistakably mine and, hopefully there will be a gloriously polarised opinion. Over achieving smug little bastard, or wonderful inspiring individual who lived a full and exciting life.