mundane adventures in running
Forty is not the time to turn round habits of a life time. My current midlife crisis is reaching a crescendo. I’m forty in a couple of weeks and am something like denial, something like jutting my chin out and being blasé*.
I’m not good at ageing. I’ve grown up fetishising youth and every second older is a second further away from my idealised state. But I know really it’s not true. I know that while I miss youth, I wouldn’t really want to be young again. There’s a satisfaction that now i don’t have to care as much. I feel I can let go of my failures. I let myself be less competitive and find myself happier for the people who are better than me. It used to be that I’d pretend to be non competitive but really it was because I knew I couldn’t compete. It if I never joined the race, there was no way I could lose. Not now; now I genuinely don’t really care that much. Anybody else is welcome to be better than me. I just want to get on with it and do whatever while I still can.
But. I did say about three years ago that I was going to run at least one super long race before I was 40. Something over 42km, preferably substantially over, like 100km.
When I hit 30 i had similar arbitrary goals**. Goals which I never reached. At the end of the day, I didn’t do them, and I didn’t care. It was all fine. This time round it feels like there’s more at stake. I care more about it.
I’ve built it into a bit of a thing. I’ve kept finding reasons to not do it. There’s never been a perfect fixture, a perfect time to do it. I’ve overtrained. I’ve come close, and injuries put me back to square one. I’ve undertrained. I’ve entered races, but work has gotten in the way. I’ve not felt fit enough to do it. The truth is it’s all just excuses. I think I just built it into a thing that I became scared of doing in case I failed. I’ve put it off for three years and found excuses not to, just in case I have to admit to myself that I can’t do it.
It’s my competitiveness that makes me scared… so this puts me in a weird position: to prove that I’m not competitive I have to try doing it, so I know that I’m not just avoiding it because I’m scared of failure. But. As soon as I do it, I’m doing something competitive (even thought the only person I’m competing against is myself). Conflicted. I should just fucking do it.
My birthday is on 14th May. I don’t have much time left. I did a longish run about three weeks ago, and another last week, with a cold and after a long day of work, and it nearly killed me. I’ve been running consistently all year, and occasionally very well (particularly when I stopped drinking for lent… funny that). I think I can do it. It’s weird, not having done a mental amount of training feels strangely good. I’m not as prepared as I have been in the past (when I’ve failed to do this thing) and yet that lack of preparation makes it feel more manageable. I suppose i just don’t have any expectations of myself. It’s not like I’m planning to enter a race, or have a target time, I don’t even have a target mileage (so long as I go over 42km)
So I set the date for Friday week, 6th May. I was then asked to go to a meeting all day, and joked that the only thing I had to reschedule was my midlife crisis. So my guess is that I’ll do it on 7th, family stuff allowing. I’m going to take the train to Shepperton and then run along the Thames for as long as I can***. I think I’ll get to Central London. I might get as far as Greenwich. If I find my legs, I might even make it out to Kent. We’ll see. No pressure, no hassle, no other people.
* I wrote this on the last train home from bristol, and coincidentally this song came on. I’m not nearly as blasé as TY dollar sign, nonetheless the song went straight on my run play list.
** I remember saying when I was 28 that I wanted to learn a martial art. Seriously, wtf? I’m not even that into kung fu movies. I don’t know where it came from. I also wanted to learn another language, and never did. I think I’m going to to the grave without being able to fight or speak French properly.
*** It’s a flat path, it’s familiar but not overdone, it’s really easy to break off at any time, it’s fairly pretty.