In just over 3 weeks I will be standing on the start line (well technically about 1 mile behind the start line after all the fast people!) getting ready to run my 8th London marathon (re-named the Great Annual Shuffle - Kate’s GAS). I will almost definitely have blubbered at least once, will be feeling slightly sick, will be worrying that my iPod will pack up during the course, will be wondering why my legs suddenly feel like lead and will be needing a pee for the 6th time in less than 30 minutes due to nerves! Most people around me will be going through variations of the same thing. A few weeks after London I will be running my 9th marathon, the Midnight Sun Marathon in the Arctic city of Tromso, Norway. The sun doesn’t set so we start in the evening and run through the night. If someone had said to me years ago I would run one marathon a year for the next 8 years I would have laughed heartily, never thinking I had it in me. It goes to show that until you try you don’t always know what you are capable of achieving.
Since the beginning of the year I have been out pounding the streets of London. Do I bound out of bed, stretch and shout ‘hooray, today I have to run at least 15 miles’? Do I heck. The training is an absolute b*gger (well I’m sorry but it is) and takes a lot of mental effort and stamina. Dragging yourself out of bed in January and February when it’s cold and pouring with rain is very few people’s idea of fun, but once outside it’s fine.
When you run outside you notice things that often pass us by in daily life; the small changes in the trees and flowers week on week, the fact that the light is different depending on the month and the definite feel and smell of spring arriving once everything starts to bud. Life. Within about 20 minutes of being outside last weekend I saw a blind runner with his guide, I saw someone running with two prosthetic feet and a wheelchair athlete. All these guys have had to overcome obstacles far greater than me just dragging myself out of bed in a bit of a grump.
The marathon is a brilliant event to be involved in, it is exciting, challenging and fun (at times!) but it is also very grounding and inspiring. Very few find it easy even if they are fit; it takes time, effort, stamina and determination (in my case stubbornness). Each year I stand at the start with all sorts of people; every shape, size, age, each with their own personal reason for running. For many it will be the most difficult thing that they have ever done but each person is running for a reason whether it’s in memory of someone, because people they love are unwell or because it’s a personal challenge.
I have raised money each year for various charities, this year is no exception and as usual I am overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness. Over the years I have raised thousands, this is down to the generosity of the people who sponsor me year after year. Equally amazing is the generosity, kindness and support of the crowds and if you are a spectator you shouldn’t underestimate the impact that you might have on someone flagging when you shout their name.
This year has been as entertaining (for everyone else) as the others, to name but a few incidents I tripped over an over zealous spaniel in Hyde Park and landed in a heap (with the dog), got yelled at by a woman in a fur coat who (somewhat disrespectfully I thought) was about to go into London Zoo, skidded in the mud in Richmond Park and ended up covered and had a classic flailing arms incident on the ice which resulted in total loss of dignity, in that the flailing arms didn’t prevent me landing on my rear. Chafing, blisters and embarrassment are all temporary; the work the charities do is ongoing.
Running a marathon teaches you that there is more in you than you ever knew and it’s more about your head than your legs. The trouble is that most people don’t push themselves further than they think they can cope with and this doesn’t apply just to sport. The marathon is only partly about being fit; it’s about managing your head, having a go, not giving up at the first set back, belief that you can do it and that anything is possible. It’s about pushing yourself to keep going when you don’t necessarily want to and when it’s hard and it’s also about human spirit, determination, kindness and generosity. Support, encouragement, a bit of tough love if needed and a lot of mind over matter can reap amazing rewards.
This is about trying something different and putting yourself out of your comfort zone to see if you can achieve things you are not sure you can. This applies to everything; sport, work and life. Most of us get bored because we don’t push ourselves. Well without meaning to sound harsh, how about getting on with it, whatever it is for you. You can push yourself; don’t wait for someone to push you.
I want to finish with a quote from Lou Holtz, who is a retired American Football coach because it sums it up nicely for me ‘Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.’
Happy Easter to all, go easy on the chocolate.