I am preparing for the London marathon by reading Haruki Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running.” It is so exactly the book I want to read about marathon running right now that I can hardly believe it exists and that I have found it. You see, I have run a marathon before and have already read from cover to cover and back again the manuals about training – nutrition and race day preparation complete with training plans for the beginning and improver. Don’t get me wrong – I will read those books again. In fact on any given evening of my marathon preparation you will find me clutching one of these books – randomly reading a page here and there, having already devoured them in their entirety more than once.
I seem to need it. I need to take part in ritual acts of motivation and re-motivation that keep me connected to running while I am in an important training period – otherwise I become un-tethered and a bit unfocussed. I have been lost to running for some time now – going through the motions rather joylessly and it was only that extraordinary letter in the post that re-connected me. It is not really a letter but a magazine that lets you know that you have one of the hugely coveted places in the London marathon. You apply – you forget about it (well you try) and then one day it just appears.
At first when I saw that piece of post on the mat I didn’t quite know what it was. My monthly copy of Women’s Running? That’s always a good morning, but if that was it then why did it appear to have a running number and my date of birth written on the enclosed piece of A4? In the nano seconds it took me to work it out my body split from my mind and reacted to the news all by itself. I started to tremble and feel sick. On the one hand I was elated at beating the odds to get a place, on the other I knew it meant that I would have to run 26 miles plus all the hoopla that goes with it. For a first timer that might cue excitement, but for me, I already knew what it meant and there is no way you can gloss it – it is hard hard grueling work.
But it didn’t take me long to tap into the well of motivation – for which I am truly grateful. It would be a very hard road without it! Within hours I had started to look through the manuals again – wondering about plans – when to start – how hard to train – how may sessions? By the time it came for me to go back to weekly Boot camp with Annie I had dusted down my most powerful mantra – if you want to be an endurance runner then you have to learn to endure. You have to accept the pain as inevitable and learn to live with – dare I say welcome it. So at boot camp when my muscles began to burn during a set of killer squats I tried to tell myself that persisting through the pain was what it was all about and I did seem to last a lot longer than usual. With a marathon the thing that gets you to the finish is the “I’m not giving up” mentality and this needs to be practiced.
I have long known that for me it is mental toughness which makes you into a long distance runner. How else would a non sporty woman in her late 40s have completed 5 half marathons and a marathon? Really – I am not sporty and never have been but there is something about pitting my wits against endurance that appeals – slightly Calvinistic or even masochistic I know. As a child I quite enjoyed doing endurance jobs like weeding or polishing silver or ironing tea towels – boring tasks I could lose myself in. Housework ceased to be a game long ago – now it is a battle ground and there is no fun in that – instead I run.
So here I am – I have celebrated my fortune in getting a place, I have re-connected with my motivation and I have started to think about a plan – all I have to do now is go out and run more than 6 miles – which I have not done for a month (Maidenhead half marathon Sept 2014).
10 miles before Christmas! Let’s go.