“So that thing that makes you you, can you just stop that?”
It’s really hard explaining to someone who doesn’t run what it’s like for a runner to not be able to run. I don’t mean that in a twatty knobhead way, it’s just that loving running is a largely irrational, inexplicable thing. I spent a good hour the other night trying to justify how something that can be so physically and emotionally crushing can become so intrinsic to your existence you can’t separate yourself from it. I gave up in the end because it basically doesn’t make any sense. Running is hard, it hurts, if you don’t keep doing it you end up back where you began and there’s always someone better at it than you are.
And there is injury. Lots of it.
Historically I’m shite with injury. On the whole I don’t get injured a lot but when I do I make sure it’s a really fucking awkward one that completely floors me. Added to that I have one or two well documented but incredibly tedious health issues that just get on my tits.
Before Great North Run I hurt my leg, as usual I didn’t bother trying to get over it I just kept running until it was so bad I struggled to even sit comfortably. Then I ran a very hard half marathon on it which I coupled with a steady and not unsubstantial episode of angina. Determination can often be stupidity in a clever disguise. That was enough to clip my wings decisively and since then I’ve been in hiding. I scared myself and I’m not that much of an arsehole that I can’t admit that.
As much as I love running I love my life more and I have had too many lucky breaks to overplay my hand. Besides, if running was the only passion in my life, the only joy then I’d have a problem. Yes, I’m a runner, yes it’s a part of me but there has to be more to me than that. The thing I do can’t be exclusively who I am.
Two weeks later, a trip to the Doctors, a break from the work at home and a trip to the physio and it was time to take a few tentative steps back out. Already as I was getting dressed the planned lap around the park was being converted into a steady 5k. I have no idea why I ever entertained such idiocy but it was only when I began to run as my jaw began to ache and my leg sting did I have some sort of realisation about what a dick I can be. I finished at 1 Mile and that was enough, for now it has to be.
I asked Marc before if he could explain why it is that we run, what that urge is and why running long distances becomes so ingrained into our souls. He said that as human beings we are specifically designed to run distance. From our primal days we have no physical advantage over other animals than our endurance. We are not faster, bigger or more powerful than that which we hunt or hunts us but when the tiger is tired we can keep running. Our persistence is our power, our steadfastness our strength.
And that is what true determination is, not some bullheaded unwillingness to bow to common sense but an enduring resolve to survive. If I want to run for the rest of my life then I need to be smart and measured and play the long game. Anything else is risky and like I say, I’ve beaten the odds more than enough times in one lifetime.
This is the part where I find out who I am.