November 2018 marked the 10-year anniversary since I seriously got into running. Back in 2008 I finished my first marathon in New York. Fear, trepidation, excitement…basically a whole cauldron of emotions was present, along with the feeling of it possibly being the first and last marathon I ever do. But after crossing the finish line and hobbling back to the hotel misty eyed I knew in the back of my mind I would attempt another marathon.
Since then, I can honestly say running has changed my life and left me with moments and experiences that live with me forever. Back then, I was not seriously overweight but let’s just say I was carrying a bit of extra baggage. Now I can fit into the same waist size as when I was 18 meaning I share clothes with my twenty year old son! I am lean and trim and successfully combating the middle age spread. Greater however was going on to complete all six world marathon majors. Achieving the qualifying time alone for Boston was remarkable but then running there the year after the bombing was such an emotional and humbling experience. And then flying east to complete the recently added sixth major in the chaotic humility of Tokyo felt like a once in a lifetime trip. There have been too many trips and races to mention here but I have travelled far and wide because of my passion for running.
As I became a competent marathon runner, although it never seems to get any easier, I desired new challenges and motivation. So In amongst the journey to becoming a six-star finisher was the desire to push myself further and seek new challenges. This has led to me completing 14 marathons to date and you can also throw in a couple of ultra-marathons, a 12-hour solo race, 24-hour races oh and a beer mile to name but a few.
But it is not just the actual running that has changed my life. Inspired by the Like The Wind publication I started writing about running. One article was published and the illustration sold so I have a framed print of my work sitting proudly on the wall. Whilst never joining a running club I have gone on to set up a beer running club which flourishes . Yes, we do indeed run so we can drink beer. I have not yet worked out whether it is the running or the drinking that is the main motivation. See it’s difficult fighting expanding waistlines when your weakness is liquid hops. I have completed a leadership in running course and aim to encourage and possibly inspire others to discover a passion for running. Whilst I know full well that my achievements are very little compared to those of some others I am proud of what I have achieved and how running has shaped me in so many ways to be the person that I am today.
However, right now I wrestle with doubt and anxiety about the next ten years ahead. It almost feels like I have reached a crossroads in my running journey. Almost exactly to the day of the anniversary of New York I was struck down by a suspected stress fracture in my femur and running was brought to an abrupt halt. Not being able to run but having plenty of time to think about it is not particularly helpful. I am not sure what caused the injury, but in a lot of ways I’m sure it was a bigger reflection of the state of my life at that moment.
The previous year had been a very difficult and dark time in my life. In fact, there were times where I did not want to go running. This from someone who will happily run six days a week is quite a big statement. But I was tormented by a secret I was holding on to from everyone and so running on my own meant time to think. Running is meant to be a release but at times it became mental torture with my secret churning round in my head. Not every run was like this as there were a lot of times when I could block it out. But, like a tumour I knew it was there.
The secret I was running with nearly fractured and broke the relationship closest to me. It brought a lot of distress and upset and hurt. I see my injury representing all the pain and torment that was going on in my life. And I had to stop and heal, physically, mentally and emotionally, with myself and those closest to me. I am on my way back but the leg has taken longer to heal than I imagined. But then the relationship needed a long time to heal as well and so I have accepted it and been patient.
So I am entering these next ten years starting from a peculiar position. Being made to stop running has at times made me think that my best running years are behind me. I feel older and with all that has happened I have doubts about what I can still achieve and even if the legs and body will hold up. But it is wrong to think like this as when I think back to when I set out ten years ago I entered a marathon not knowing how I was going to cope and whether I would continue running afterwards. I was entering a world I was naïve to but enthusiastic to embrace. As I move forward with an older and more experienced body then it should not subdue and dampen the enthusiasm to see what can still be achieved. Age does not have to prevent us from looking forward and dreaming.
Right now I am at the crossroads being healed, restored and renewed in all areas of my life. I will be heading down the road to continue my journey, in running and life, inspired by the words of Emil Zatopek, “What has passed is already finished with, what I find more interesting is what is still to come”. Anyhow, I still have some way to go of achieving the dream of running an alphabet of marathons. Completing ‘X’ will definitely be a moment to remember.