The fact that I am writing this by the pool during a week’s holiday in Mallorca perhaps answers the question above. Indeed, the fact that I blog about running at all is maybe evidence enough. However, my fear that I may be obsessed about running goes far deeper than this.
As I said, I am on Holiday… “Did you pack this case yourself, Sir?” Of course I did, that’s why it’s two thirds full of carefully selected running clothing in a range of colours (with matching accessories – what?) and a pair of running shoes. “Just one pair of running shoes?” I hear you cry. Well, I was of course wearing the second pair – not to mention the fact that I was carrying additional running kit in my hand luggage – just in case my suitcase was lost during the relatively simple passage across Europe. Not a change of normal clothes. Running kit!
Of course my reading material is all running related, Charlie Spedding’s autobiography, The Perfect Distance (Ovett & Coe’s rivalry) and Phil Hewitt’s The Highs & Lows of a Marathon Addict. The latter of which I finished yesterday. The last chapter was coincidently about his efforts at the Mallorca Marathon.
When I was messaged on Facebook by friend and club mate, Metronome Dave, regarding what he should be doing for recovery post London Marathon, I was able to message back a photograph of the relevant page from Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathon schedule, which I had produced for my own benefit whilst away. Well, to bring the book would surely have been obsessive!
Speaking of Metronome Dave and the London Marathon, I spent the first four hours or so of our first morning in Mallorca glued to the TV and to my phone following the race, more excited about the efforts of Club mates and friends on the excellent race tracker, than the overhyped efforts of Mo Farah on the TV. It was a fabulous morning, followed immediately by my first run of the holiday in glorious weather – weather I judged on its suitability for running, not for sunbathing as most would do in such an environment!
Obsessed? I’m starting to think so…
“He’s just glossing over what happened in Manchester by talking about obsession”.
Wrong, indeed The Greater Manchester Marathon is what fuels my thoughts. After 12 weeks of intense and undoubtedly obsessed training, I failed to break the magic three hour barrier. 3:02:36 was a PB by almost three minutes but not what I hoped for. I had said over dinner the night before, that I would be happy with a PB if all else failed. I believed it, but and it’s a big but, I had trained relentlessly through some of the foulest sunbathing weather imaginable to man to achieve a time beginning with a two, not a three.
The race didn’t go well from the start. Occasionally when I run, I’ll get sore shins, followed by pins and needles in my feet severe enough that I literally can’t feel the contact with the terra firma beneath. I’ve not had it for ages, but on race day it began with the gun and lasted for about the first seven miles. I always feel like I’m working a little bit harder than normal when it happens, and fact or fiction, the early pace felt tougher than expected.
I maintained sub three hour pace until about mile 15 when for no obvious reason my sciatica reared its ugly head and I began to run with a left sided limp. Normally running keeps the sciatica at bay, but apparently not on race day – not on this race day of all race days!
When I saw Mrs pacepusher and JK on mile 16 I wanted to cry. I wanted to stop. All that training for this, my sub three was now highly unlikely and my head had gone. Then friend and club mate Jason (also looking for a first sub-3) came past, trying to encourage me to go with him – I couldn’t and the knife was twisted inside me just a little more.
I had several mantras stored in my head for the latter stages of the race, but with 10 miles to go I began to need them – just to finish. I’d decided I wasn’t going home without a medal, so pushed on as best as I could. ‘Be your own hero’, ‘don’t be a coward’…
Strangely I could still see Jason ahead, and even more strangely he wasn’t getting away from me. I’d found a new rhythm, and although sub three was now unlikely, the three hour pacing group hadn’t come past me yet. I began to dig very deep from about 20 miles, repeating my newest mantra H.O.P.E. with each step… “Hold. On. Pain. Ends. Hold. On…” It helped build and increase my rhythm as the sciatic discomfort began to ease.
Jason got closer. A good friend, I wanted to see him break sub three (almost) as much as I wanted to break it. Then I was right behind him, in my head I had us running the next five-ish miles together. The camaraderie seeing us cross the line together in a determined 2:59:59… as unlikely as it was, Jason then pulled up with cramp, unable to respond to the same rallying cry he’d given me about 5 miles ago. It wasn’t over and I kept working hard, constantly passing people (I passed 41 people in the last 6 miles) whilst frantically working out the sums in my head. I needed seven minute mile pace but I’d slowed to seven thirties.
I started to think that when the three hour pacers caught up, I could join the group and get the job done. But they stampeded through me before I’d even attempted to up my pace – it was gone. I wasn’t getting a sub three.
I remembered what I’d said the night before though, and spurred on by my new target of attaining a PB, I really dug in. With a mile to go, I (relatively speaking) put my foot down. It was the longest mile I have ever run and Old Trafford just wouldn’t get any closer. I passed more runners and kept fighting. The Marathon was going to win today, but not by much!
Finally I reached the finish area and broke into a seven minute mile sprint – with a shout of “all the way to the finish” from JK, I upped it to 6:59 pace! I’m glad I did, the finish photo shows a female runner close behind. Getting chicked on the line may have been the final straw!
I finished, possibly for the first time ever in a marathon, with an almighty fist pump. That, was one hell of a fight!
So why does all this fuel my thoughts on obsession? Well, the first thing I did on Monday morning (even before breakfast) was sign up for the Edinburgh Marathon – only seven weeks later.
Now this was not strictly speaking my idea. Indeed, I thought entries were closed. However, other people it would seem, understand the commitment and yes, obsession that had formed the basis of twelve weeks of training.
After I had passed on mile sixteen, Mrs pacepusher, supportive to the last as she always is (Thank you!) was busy on her phone. Knowing how much I’d put into the race, she was already checking the dates of upcoming marathons, trying to find me a ‘second chance’.
Metronome Dave, back home in Glasgow, had gone a step further, contacting the race organisers at the Edinburgh Marathon regarding ‘Good For Age’ entry. He didn’t contact myself and Jason until he had a ‘plan B’. These are people who understand the hurt, the dedication and yes, the obsessive nature that it takes to train for and run a marathon.
So, it’ll be “Go Team Giffnock North” on 25th May in Edinburgh as the three of us go once again into the ring for a bout with the marathon distance. This time though I think we have the upper hand.
“In the yellow and blue corner, weighing in with a superb 2:49:48 marathon PB. It’s Metrooonooome Daaaaaave!!!”
Not only did he plot this madness, but as the one out of the three of us who managed their first sub three hour marathon recently, he has valiantly vowed to do whatever he can to help get me and Jason a sub three hour time in Edinburgh. What a guy, and the only person I know that’s more obsessed than I am!!
Bring it on!
“I think you should be serious about what you do because this is it. This is the only life you’ve got”
Philip Seymour Hoffman