Thursday, 16 December 2010

On Nick's running adventures, and my running misadventures


After a very great deal of extremely positive feedback from My brother runs, I thought I should thank Nick again for writing that extraordinary and slightly heart-wrenching race report, and elaborate slightly on my own perspective. His post is fascinating and insightful - if you've not read it yet then go back and read it now.

Read it? Good. Then continue reading this one.

Just to be clear, Nick ran the Dublin marathon while I stayed home doing myself permanent lung damage in October 2009, not 2010. It would have been my second marathon in the space of 6 months. My various breathing problems are more or less resolved now, though I can still feel the scar tissue on my lungs when I'm running really hard. I think I probably always will.

A few things happened as a result of Nick's marathon glory and my respiratory misery: Nick ran a marathon, on his own, for one (quite a big one). It was his first race ever. I am incredibly proud of him and what he achieved by his own sheer force of will, and it inspires me in my running more than any elite performance could. Meanwhile I sat at home and felt incredibly guilty, but also very, very angry. My muscles were toned(ish) and ready to go. I'd committed to carb-loading and tapering. I'd broken in a new pair of running shoes. In short, I was ready to run a marathon (fluids and holes in my lungs notwithstanding). This anger led me to do two things. First, I got very upset and disgustingly jealous of Nick's achievement. And second, I decided that I had to run a marathon, as soon as bloody possible.

I dragged my pathetic frame over to a laptop and explored a few options. I quite seriously considered the Marathon de La Rochelle in France at the end of November, including eye-wateringly expensive flights and hotels. I actually got as far as signing up for the Bexhill Poppy Half Marathon just a few weeks away, a local and small scale race on a lapped course that I knew I wouldn't really enjoy. I even considered running a marathon distance, on my own, on a random Sunday in my home town. I mapped a route and planned my own aid stations. But as the dates for these plans and races approached I remained weak and unwell, and had to concede that I wasn't going anywhere in running shoes any time soon.

Setting my sights instead on the spring running season, I was very lucky to get a late entry into the 2010 Brighton Marathon. This really was lucky, as there were only a few hundred places up for grabs and they sold in under an hour, and more importantly I had a goal to work towards and a marathon in the pipeline. But it would be another 6 months before I had the opportunity to toe a start line and make up for lost time. It wasn't enough to lift my spirits. I decided that I could somehow atone for missing Dublin by running as many races as I could afford. I entered the Alloa Half Marathon, the England Kilomathon, the Great Edinburgh Run and the Edinburgh Marathon Relay. 5 races in 10 weeks from March to May 2010, over a total of almost 70 miles. Suicide.

But it wasn't suicide. It was glorious. I ran 5 PB's in 5 races, and at every race I had friends competing or supporting. I met Rosie Swale-Pope in Brighton. I got my photo in the paper in Edinburgh. I ran a time which ranked me in the top 500 in the world for the Kilomathon (it was the world's first Kilomathon...).

They were the highlight of my calendar, and I had a truly epic few months. I think it was this time of my life that I went from being a fairly casual runner to an obsessive. It was that combination of Nick's hard-won achievement and my own vicious annoyance that drove me forward. And now there's no going back.

So what I'm really trying to say is: pleurisy has its upsides.

I really need to work on my conclusions.

Happy running!


P.S. I'm getting a steady stream of guest submissions to this blog, and they're really all excellent and very welcome. I promise to publish every single one, though you may have to be patient until I've collected enough to make up a post. Do keep 'em coming!

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