Last week I was sat on a train on my way to Edinburgh to run another bloody marathon, as if doing 10 in 10 days is not enough for the year. It was crowded and hot and like so many others in that tin box I watched a film. It was called ‘A monster calls’.
I actually loved it. A dose of magical realism straddling the worlds of imagination and reality that I used to inhabit in my youth. Very very intense, emotional, and most importantly for me there wasn’t really any happy ending. A bitter sweet one at best but, the central character did not get what he wanted. A bit like real life, which for a film which is essentially about a monstrous talking tree is ironic. Most films have a realistic style but have completely ridiculous and fantastical stories with fantastical happy endings. This film however had a ridiculous and fantastical style with a grimly realistic ending and, that is what made it so satisfying or me. The ending is messy and unpleasant and although there is a resolution which leaves you satisfied it is not a neat pleasant dollop of happy joy.
So what does this have to do with me and why is it in my blog? Have I suddenly become a film critic? Are my running days over? The answers are as follows – wait and see I’ve got to have some content – no – and… quite definitely no.
Messy and unpleasant endings are something that I am only to familiar with. As a regular runner of marathons I have plentiful experiences of messy and unpleasant endings to races. Take my last 2 marathons. Valencia ended as a nightmare, my legs gave out, my stomach gave out, and my head gave out. That was no pleasant dollop of joy I left in a race loo, my legs had a particularly unpleasant sensation, and finally I was left with a head that was a mess. Why could I not get it right? I just cannot get the time I want. I must be crap etc…. The remedy for that particular dose of mental self flagellation was to stop chasing times and have a few more easy run social marathons of joy.
The next marathon I ran was a ‘recreational’ race. All over hilly trails, meant to be a day out in the country with stunning views and good company. Well that started getting messy within the first 2 miles when a friend I was running with slipped up and hurt herself. Still, not being a quitter she kept going and for a short while, despite the mud we thought things were getting better when…. It started raining. From mile 18 till about mile 25 it was chucking it down. The mud was so all pervasive you had to concentrate to stand up, running was impossible. When we got back to race HQ they wanted you to take your muddy shoes off to go inside. However as the floor was already covered in mud all that happened was you ended up with muddy socks. We were so disheartened that we numbly got in the car and drove home.
Ahh I hear you cry, you like shitty endings and all marathons are shitty, that is the folksy running wisdom of the day. Well almost… there is just one fly in the ointment of that analysis. Just ask me about Edinburgh marathon.
The first 2 miles were great, downhill more or less and a perfect pace. Easily manageable bearing in mind that I have 10 in 10 coming up. Then it started getting a bit silly as we sped up along the coast. For the next 18 miles we averaged 30-45 seconds a mile quicker than had originally been planned. My running companion and myself kept saying alternatively, we must slow down and, this feels comfortable lets see how we get on. Around mile 20 it was starting to get tough and I had to decide what I wanted out of this race. I could have pushed and made my legs work that bit harder with each mile, pushing home until I dropped as a quivering wreck at the end. With the ordeal I am going through at the end of this month that seemed like a bad move. I said to my little running buddy that I was going to ease off and fall back, that I would see her at the end. With aching legs I would just let myself stay plodding at a pace that felt reasonably comfortable even if I slowed down. The aim was to not walk, not cramp, and finish feeling fairly OK. Mission accomplished, when I crossed the line yes my legs hurt but, I did not feel crushed. By Tuesday I was back out running and I did a track session on Thursday. This Sunday just a week later I ran 15 miles and sprint finished the end. I reckon I could have done another marathon without too much trouble. Yes my legs would have hurt but I could have gone on.
So my folksy wisdom this blogg is as follows. Life and marathons are generally hard and don’t always work out the way you want but…
If you can hang in there and keep going without giving up things work out. Just enouggh to keep you coming back for more.