I attempted my first half marathon in 2006. I say attempted because it didn’t end well. A week before the race, a chest cold completely wiped me out. Ignoring medical advice, stupidly, I was going to run that race come hell or high water, and after 12km my wheezing body gave out before I was carted off to hospital in an ambulance.
If ever there was an argument for abstaining from running when you’re ill, that should be it.
So I didn’t hesitate to sign up for a second half marathon program because I had something to prove. My ego was bruised and I wanted to prove to my sponsors that I wasn’t a flake, which in hindsight seems completely ludicrous.
But I also had something to prove to myself. For 14 weeks, I had abstained from anything remotely unhealthy. No sugar, no alcohol, no fat, no fun. I followed the program. I trained hard. So I couldn’t believe my body had let me down before… and then during the race.
It mentally hurt me.
I ran my second half marathon 12 months later in 2 hours and 26 minutes. I was so pleased with myself. Even more so when my Can Too mentor waited at the 12km mark to run me past that mental hurdle.
When the race was over, I kept up the running. I discovered that I actually liked running. I liked that I didn’t need fancy equipment. I liked the way I felt after smashing out 12 or 16 or even 18km. I just liked the way it made me puff.
So I signed up again. And again. And again.
I have just run my sixth half marathon and I still like it.
This time though it was different. I didn’t run for myself. I was captain of a team. Given that the only living thing I look after is a pot plant (and sometimes even that’s questionable), I found the experience both humbling and daunting. It took the focus off my own running and put it on everyone else’s, which is actually a great mental place to be.
But I discovered something else. My running – and my attitude towards it – has matured. It’s a bit like studying – the more you put in, the more you get out. I now know exactly the amount and type of training I have to do to get the result I want. Which might seem obvious, but actually for me it’s not.
Some people are blessed with the ability to run like a gazelle. I am not. Being all boobs and bum does not bode well for running. I mean, how many women do you see running in the Olympics with massive cans and an arse?
So I have to work at it. Consistency is my friend. When I lead a balanced, healthy life and I train well, my body responds. When I’m serenading the speakers at 2am in the Monkey Bar and inhaling 10 pides, well… you can imagine how that story ends.
We have 17 weeks of marathon training before race day and, in addition to maintaining a good running-work-life balance, I’ll be doing less of the serenading and being a little kinder to my person. And that means being kinder to my mind if my body does fall ill… I just have to accept that I’m susceptible to colds and if I get injured, I’ll suck it up… even if it does, well.. suck.
It’s taken me many endurance events to find the recipe of a happy run. A lot of exercise, handfuls of healthy food and a pinch of fun. The fun is important. Taking it all too seriously means that you don’t get to enjoy the journey. And where’s the appetite in that?
Hey – Have you sponsored me yet?!