Monday, 20 June 2011

"Have you ever won a marathon?"

No, no I haven't.

Through my day job, I had the privilege of meeting a young man who had recently been selected for the Scotland squad at this summer's Homeless World Cup in Paris. The competition is an amazing initiative, offering disadvantaged young men the opportunity to travel, represent their country, compete at a high level, and play on a stage which pro and semi-pro recruiters keep an eye on.

I was talking to this chap about his achievement of making the squad, and he asked if I play football. Definitely not, I tell him, I run instead. Oh, what kind of running? he asks. I run marathons and half-marathons, I tell him. Have you ever won a marathon? he asks. 

No, no I haven't.

His logic, in the context of his sport, was sound - why enter if you're not going to win? Who cares about times if you're in twenty-thousandth place? What's a PB really worth anyway?

Everything, obviously. This is the beauty of running. We don't have to win to be winners. The loser hasn't really lost anything. It's between him and the course, for better or worse. But it seems a shame that those of us slightly further from the sharp end of the field only talk in terms of finish times, not positions... This got me thinking about my placings in various races over the last 3-4 years, so here are the highlights:

England Kilomathon 2010 - I made it home in 457th place out of 4186 finishers. This was the world's first kilomathon, so I like to consider my finish position as my world ranking over that distance at that time. I surprised myself that day - I hadn't turned up with a racing mentality but for some reason everything just clicked...

At the Edinburgh Christmas Run last year I finished 4th out of 150 runners in some pretty mad conditions. Despite the fact that this was a fun run and I was dressed in a disintegrating Santa suit, I like to think of this as my best race finish. Full report here.

My 10k effort at the Great Edinburgh Run - not crazy fast by any measure - was good enough for 668th place. This may sound a bit average, but over 10,000 people finished the race so I'm rather happy to have made it home in the top 7%...

I may not be first, or even second...
...but I've yet to finish last.
Just three weeks ago I registered my highest placing ever at a half marathon when I entered the MoKRun down in Campbeltown, finishing in 38th place overall from a field of 260.

My two marathon finishes - 2,761st in Brighton and an almost incomprehensible 16,176th in Paris are quite a long way from winning. But hey, never say never. Will San Francisco be any better? Maybe. The full marathon typically has around 6,000 finishers, so with any luck I'll do better than I did in Paris, at least... But with the challenging course and the cumulative effects of my jetlag and randomly fluctuating training routine, who knows? Maybe a four hour marathon will be good enough for a top-third finish? Or maybe the race attracts the masochists and hill-lovers, who will kick my sorry backside over the Golden Gate Bridge and back...

I have a feeling that if I'm ever going to win a race I'll have to be allowed to choose all the other competitors myself, and probably recruit them all from darts competitions. And make them all wear chain mail running vests. And not tell them the route. Or even where the race starts. And then cheat.

I ran home this evening, on my own. You'll be glad to know I won.

Happy racing


P.S. Check it out - over 600 miles in 2011, woohoo!

2011 to date - miles: 617.1, parkruns: 6, races: 3, miles biked: 47.44, metres swum: 925

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