Dear Future Running Me,
“Do not confuse motion and progress,” or so said Alfred Montapert, “a rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” I have been looking back at my running life, as I reach 5 years of plodding, and realise it has been just that – a bit of a plod. I have been a rocking horse for far too long. Even though the distances have gone up, and the number of races too, I will have completed over 125 in a dozen countries when my 5 years is up, but I do not really feel I have seen the leaps and bounds type of progress I have in others. But that is soon to change. No, really! Well, hopefully. Maybe.
I have 10 opportunities to beat my marathon PB in 2017 and expect that at Barcelona, Brighton and (maybe) London I can do this – all I need to do is run the whole way and walk a little less. I shall deploy the ninja for my 10K PB at Pride but I want to see progress in other ways. I need to run all the way in the marathons and I need to feel ok with them. I need to finish Comrades in the 12 hour cut off and that involves just moving for half a day. I ran Race to the Stones last year, which is 13K further, just to prove myself that I can do it. I did take too long though but it was trail for long sections of it, and Comrades will, fortunately, be on road. Road, road, road, and that is what I want for the rest of the year, other than the unicorniness of Bacchus. I have missed it, running on concrete, feeling a solid surface beneath the 7 ounces of On Cloudracers, rather than sliding around in quagmire in trail shoes.
To quote American favourite Shalane Flanagan, as she gave her reasons for dropping out of Boston, “you don’t take a Ferrari off road.” Well, to be fair I am more of a beige Austin Allegro and I’ve struggled with off road since forever. All RTTK, RTTS, Beachy Head, Cakeathon and Portland Coastal (five of my last 6 marathons) have done is galvanise my bloody mindedness. I refuse to give in, even if last. No DNF for me in 5 years. But what I need (not want) is for the road and cobbles of Barcelona to be good. To be close enough to my PB to feel I can beat it this year with a fair wind and generous lack of elevation.
If not, I am not sure what I will do. I was talking to a dear friend the other week about my Instagram feed and she commented on all the costume races I do. She said she didn’t recognise me anymore. Is that what I have become? Did RTTK and RTTS break the runner in me and replace him with a costumed fool, happier to run/walk any distance in a selfie worthy outfit? If so, was it a conscious change or a natural one? Probably the former, when realising I can’t get around lightning quick I settle for a giant false moustache or chef’s toque blanche. That needs to end. I need to pack the ninja costume, the World War One flying goggles and tutus away and pull on a running vest, and so have cancelled my two Guinness Book of World Records attempts (chef at Brighton 3:56, and ninja at Milton Keynes 5 hours).
I have been as rocking horse for five years, albeit a unicorn horned one, there has been plenty of movement in my running life, but as far as I am concerned, very little progress.
I look at the charts in my race spreadsheet where distance and average pace per month is logged and there is no consistency and, as more of a worrying trend, they show that, whilst I am upping distance overall, my average pace is going the wrong way; further and slower, determined but ultimately unremarkable. Not a proper runner, as I tend to spend too much time walking muddy hills to finish a race that is no longer even a “race” as instead it has become purely a test of endurance.
And so, as I started with him, it seems fitting that I turn to Alfie M to finish this letter to my running self. I think I have lost touch with you, the meagre laurels I have already been awarded hang in the spare room on rusty medal racks and the leaves are already dropping. They need to be rejuvenated with a spray of something miraculous to restart the process, to look at what I want to get out of my running, to set goals, to aspire, to dream of achieving those wonderfully sweet PBs, to see the finish line when I close my eyes and to see it again when I open them in the real world. I do need to pull myself up by my bootstraps; I need to dream, to visualise, to plan, to believe in myself and to act.
I will revisit this in a year’s time and hopefully the rockers will have been removed and I will be running and not just rocking in place.
Be kind to yourself (and by that I mean me)