Wednesday 25 June: 4 miles.
“But you have to choose: to live or to recount.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea.
Fourteen months ago, I ran my first and only marathon. It was in Manchester and I completed it in three hours and 52 minutes. This is a respectable, although hardly impressive, time but my main goal was simply to last the 26.2 miles, which I did fairly comfortably. I paced myself well, did not encounter the feared ‘wall’ and ended strongly. In fact, knowing at 23 miles that, barring an accident, I would finish in under four hours, I ran the final three with renewed vigour, even overtaking other runners in the final metres (somewhat comically, in retrospect). I didn’t even feel too bad after the race.
Completing a marathon ranks as one of the happiest moments in my modest life but the elation was very brief and, in the days afterwards, I felt quite depressed. I missed the growing anticipation I had lived with during the preceding weeks, the discipline of the training regime I had quietly followed and the sense of progression as I passed each milestone. I felt sentimental about the incrementally longer weekend runs I had undertaken – 15, 17, 18, 20 twice then 22 miles, three weeks before the event – but lacked any reason to attempt new ones.
As I grow older, I realise that contentment comes from the satisfaction of effort rewarded and tasks completed rather than the diminishing pleasures I spent my youth chasing. Training for, and running, a marathon is a perfect example of this. But, in truth, the happiness is as fleeting as any other and perhaps it is more accurate to say the reward lies in the process of achieving rather than the achievement itself.
Anyway, following the marathon, I was left with an emptiness that I felt I could only fill by signing up for another one straight away. But, for various reasons, I didn’t and then that feeling, too, passed and I fell into the pattern of running I have kept up for the last year and described in this blog. Now I have put my name down for a second marathon and will embark again on a journey which I hope will bring me some joy amidst the inevitable toil.
I won’t be blogging about it, though. This was always intended as a brief exercise, to encourage the habit of writing. Running can be an opportunity both to inwardly reflect and to notice more the world around me (I am normally very unobservant); attempting to articulate and capture these thoughts and perceptions has been rewarding. But it can also be a distraction and I’ve found that it clouds my mind at times and detracts from the purity – the wonderful blankness – of running, which is also one of its attractions for me. Even in a short space of time, I’ve become aware that the decision to describe a small aspect of my life has inevitably changed the actual experience of living it. Simply put, I have become more self-conscious about my running.
So, thanks to my handful of readers. Tomorrow, I’ll be getting up early again and setting out on another run; however, it will have gone back to being a private affair: just between me, my body and my mind. 27:54