My return to marathon fitness on Sunday 15th March 2015 was the result of many hours, plodding the pavements and trails of (mainly) Cheshire with a real commitment to “get back” to the velocity I enjoyed as a younger man.
There is no alternative to just “getting the miles in your legs”.
My last few marathon outings have been disastrous, with finish times in excess of 5 hours 30 minutes and anyone who has run/walked for that long will confirm just what a miserable experience it can be.
The gremlins begin to see their chance:
• maybe you are just “past it” and need to act your age?
• maybe your body is starting to break?
• maybe you should take up origami?
• maybe you drink too much?
• maybe all that Paleo is just bollocks?
….the whispers go on – usually in the most vulnerable moments.
Somehow, we resist all of that negative self-talk and resolve to give it one more go.
There is no doubt that buddying makes a huge difference.
Knowing that Michael Joseph and Marcus Spry would be running with me encouraged me to carry on when the body was tired and the spirit diminished.
So the training miles slowly pile up, morning after morning the alarm clock calls you to unearthly early winter runs in the orange glow of street lights, either blowing clouds of condensation into the frost-laden air with fingers freezing in gloves or soaked in a drizzle that permeates every item of clothing.
Most of the time, training is just the tedium of banging out the miles, no matter how you feel – and most of the time you don’t feel like doing it physically, even though the headspace is invaluable.
Every now and then, there is a combination of physical, emotional and spiritual highs that produce a run to remember – often aided by an inspirational environment – a breathtaking dawn, beautiful countryside or a bold cityscape.
We take those moments and are present in them – they are few.
The reliable highlights of the week are that hot bath on Saturday lunchtime after your long morning training run and the permitted blow out on Saturday evening, knowing that Sunday will be a long sleep and a day without trainers.
I was frightened of Barcelona.
Frightened that my body would give out again and my pace would slow to a painful and depressing walk. That I would have to throw in the towel.
But it just didn’t happen – we kept on running and running, albeit slightly slower towards the finish but secure after 17 miles in the growing elation of knowing that we had those extra miles in us.
Michael was off from the start, as we agreed, hurtling towards an amazing first-timers 04:02 – Marcus and I stayed paired through the whole event and his courage fed my spirit and, I like to think, vice versa.
We crossed the line shoulder to shoulder, punching the air with delight and waving at Annie and Louise, whose whoops we heard even over the crowd on the final straight.
I cried – I always do.
The day was a triumphant experience and will encourage me to do more, to buddy again and, perhaps, to extend a challenge to any reader to join Marcus, Michael and myself in October for The Amsterdam Marathon.
Finally, the title of this post.
The sight of a gentleman in his late middle age, around the 15 mile mark, competing on two crutches with legs that clearly didn’t work, planting the two crutches on the road, swinging his legs forward in parallel, swinging his body forward using his arms, planting his feet and then repeating – 26.2 miles.
Count your blessings and celebrate the human spirit.
If he can do it, so can you.
“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”