I was going to write about how sticking at it was really important and how great it was to see so many faces still coming back week after week for the learn to run group but, the TV program Mind over Marathon inspired me to take a different look at things.
I can’t remember why I ended up a runner. I can remember the conversation with a friend at work which ended up with me signed up to Blenheim Palace Half. I can remember the pain after the first 200 metres I ran. I can remember thinking that I could give up then or I could carry on and complete that half marathon. What I can’t remember was the reason that I decided to carry on, I think I just wanted to complete something that felt like a proper challenge in my life. Even more confusing is why I carried on after that Half was done. My motivations for running were and probably still are messy and confusing, I just don’t really think about it now. Running is just something I do.
The people on the Mind Over Marathon program all seemed to have very clear motivations for doing a marathon. That was for the TV I think, clear motivations make for a good narrative. I suspect things were a bit more messy for them too, if it was just a question of therapy there are a lot easier ways to get help than running 26 and a bit miles. Surely the sense of achievement has to be thrown into the mix. Maybe the requirement to invest so much time in training almost guarantees a change in life style and that might be the thing that is needed.
Back to the group of fresh faced and not so fresh faced runners who I have the delight in helping. Some have never run before and some are trying to get back into it. Some are there because they have been ‘persuaded’ to join in and some simply so they can say ‘I can do that’. Their reasons are as diverse and messy as any group of motivated people. What some of them are not yet aware of is just how much can be got from running.
There is a reason that running has a way of helping people to make their lives better. Quite aside from the benefits of exercise itself the runners mentality is quite peculiar, particularly the mentality shared by those who run for long distances. People who run tend to be mutually supportive. They want others to succeed, they keep on going and they want everyone else to keep on going even when it gets hard. The community of runners is like a vast and bizzare self help group. I know when I go for a race everyone behind the start line is willing me to get to the end, to do the best I can and, even if there is some rivalry there, taking delight when I do better than I could have expected. I know because I am one of those people.
The big story of the London Marathon was not the winner or some record being broken but of one man helping another man across the line. This incident was viewed by millions of people and the nicest thing was the interview I saw the next day. The chap who did the helping explained that he was not noble or great, he was a runner, and if he had not helped somebody else would have because that is what runners are like. He pointed out he was not the only runner to help a fellow athlete on that day, and that the same kind of thing goes on across the country every time there is a race.
This is what those just starting out on the running journey have to look forward to. Whether they know it or not, whatever their motivations are, whatever their own character is. They are becoming members of the most wonderful self help group in the world with no real membership obligations except for doing a bit of controlled falling.