When I started running properly a few years ago it was as a reaction to my circumstances. I needed a physical outlet and running became a way for me to deal with my stress and anxiety in a productive way. I didn’t know that it would be the solution it turned out to be; I just felt like I needed to get out of the house and expel the pent up energy and frustration the came from sitting at a desk all day.
As time went on and the distances I ran started to creep up, it was suggested to me that I should set myself a goal of some sort to work towards. I had got to the point where I could run 10-15km after work without too much hassle, so I decided to skip the usual half marathon route (I could pretty much already do that) and aim higher. The act of signing up for the race meant that I was now committed to doing it or failing at doing it, and only one of those was an option.
I started to run three times a week in line with my training schedule, sent to me by a friend and pretty much all I had to go by. There was more information online but at the time I found it to be overwhelming. There was such an abundance of information to wade through, and yet there was nothing that I found particularly useful in the end. What was most useful was the end goal, determination to meet it, and the tenacity to drag myself out and run no matter the mood I was in, the weather outside or the day I had.
It’s easy to get distracted by externalities when trying to achieve any task. Distraction is everywhere and there is no activity on earth that someone won’t try and sell you a product for. Running shoes, shorts, tshirts, socks, hats, belts, water bottles, water backpacks, gel belts, iPhone armbands, GPS watches, heart rate monitors are just some of the stuff that people will say you need. Some of it is important, some of it not so much. I had a pair of old New Balance trainers, some shorts I bought at university, a free app on my phone to track my distance, and not much else. It’s all I needed. It might have been easier with more gear, but more gear wasn’t necessary, that’s the important thing. Once you have the minimum amount of gear you need, you’re ready. Don’t let yourself get distracted from why you wanted to do something in the first place.
I went into the marathon with the vague idea of getting a sub-4hour time. I don’t know where this came from because it didn’t really reflect my training times, but I had heard enough about the sub-4 target to know that it was an achievement to get it. I ran with the 4 hour pace setter for almost the whole race, my hubris carrying me ahead of pace at 30km and my folly being exposed shortly afterwards as I fell behind. Crossing the line at 4:01:58 was disappointing but at the same time not disappointing at all. I never thought I’d run a marathon and I’d managed to cross that off my list within 2 minutes of a very optimistic time. I didn’t feel like I had those two extra minutes in me; I didn;t think I had anything to carry me past 35km. It would have been a shame to think I could have done better; I know that I it as fast as I could. And I know that this was only possible because I set myself the goal in the first place.