Driving home today it suddenly occurred to me that I have changed a huge amount. I mean intellectually I already knew this but I had one of those moments of brain searing clarity given form by a question. At what point did I turn into a person who really has no qualms about running a marathon? I am less than 2 months away from my next one and to be fair my training is not going well. I didn’t even manage to clock up 100 miles last month, despite this the prospect of running my next marathon does not give me any cause for concern. I know I can do it, maybe not well, maybe not fast but, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will finish. How long have I been like this? I have no idea but the roots of this mentality might go back a long way.
The first time I can remember being involved in any long distance exploits was as a child. My Father used to be a head teacher and annually the top year at his school went on a 12 mile walk. This was something to aspire to, every year I asked if I could go too eager to show what I was capable of and I can still remember the one and only year he said yes. The walk seemed to go on forever, it took all day. We set off through back streets by the school walking boots on our feet and lunch packs on our back. Eventually we headed out into the country and across fields ending up hours and hours later in a small village hall in the middle of nowhere just as it was starting to get dark. I can’t remember what time of year it was, it can’t have been anywhere near summer because even way back then when I was a mere pup we must have been expecting to finish by about 5 or 6 at the latest. I can remember sun, and mud and aching feet. Like all good expeditions though there was a treat at the end. A choice of hot drinks, coffee, hot chocolate, tea and, my choice bovril. When I finally made it home I can remember making my way upstairs to my bed and lying down fully clothed with my feet hanging off the edge. I was just going to rest for a moment before I got undressed and went to sleep…. And then I woke still fully clothed about 5 hours later.
That 12 miles was an epic struggle I was proud of, I told people about it with pride. I felt like I had achieved something great, something I would never be able to repeat. Yesterday I ran 16 before breakfast.
I admit my legs are longer now, but there is more to it. There is an adjustment in my personal expectations and so there should be. I am substantially older and have almost grown up. Now I have a better idea of the extraordinary things I have allowed myself to be capable of simply by trying them. I say extraordinary because even though the majority of those I count as close friends are equally as extraordinary I still see some incredulity in some peoples faces.
After my run yesterday we went visiting. Sunday is long run day so nothing could be done till that had happened. To be fair the other half doesn’t get dressed till about 11 but my running is always a good excuse to not get going early on a Sunday. When we arrived at the venue of the visit the question came, how was your run was it a good race? I explained, it wasn’t a race I was just out on a training run, 16 miles. “I couldn’t do 16 laps of the car park” came the response. Very witty but very telling. What saddened me the most was the degree of tongue in cheek pride involved, as if being unable to walk less than a mile was something not only acceptable but something to be almost proud of. As if at least not being able to run made you normal, allowed you to be a human being, whereas the people like me were just freaks of nature.
Still I don’t mind, I would rather be a freak of nature who realises on the way home that 26.2 miles of running is not something I am scared of, than a borderline heart attack who thinks that being unable to move makes me normal. I would rather be the adult who looks back on the epic struggle to walk 12 miles they made as a child and thinks it might have helped make them extraordinary, than somebody who cannot manage to do what they could do as a toddler.
I can also jump from a dead stand onto a table top, that was an old party trick… I know I can do this because I just tried it out. I cannot touch my toes though and I probably should have grown out of jumping on tables so…… still some room for improvement.