Whenever I am asked to recite a running anecdote I have a vast bucket of mental yarns to dip into. We all have great wee stories that can get a reaction ranging from belly laughs to boaking and everything in between.
One of my favourites is from a tortuous Edinburgh Marathon from god knows what year. Probably around 2006, I reckon. It was one of those roasting hot days we get in Scotland every decade or so. You know the kind when the heat shimmers on the ground ahead of you like a desert floor, the kind that means there’s no need to put the heating on and Cow Poo alley on the West Highland Way actually dries out. That kind. That warm.
I was running this marathon with my now brother-in-law Gordon and a good buddy from Wales called Simon. We had designs on a sub-4 hour. This was back in what I call my lackadaisical-loping days. A time when I thought that 80 miles a month was training like an Olympian.
The heat had risen over the morning to boil us like the proverbial frogs. Our pace was waning. The half was covered in 1:56 or thereabouts but soon we started moonwalking, and by 18 miles it was obvious sub-4 was a pipe dream. Instead of facing into the reality of the fact that we were undertrained, under-prepped and over-stupid, we blamed the heat for our travails.
We were having a walking pow-wow, all analysing our Casios. It was PG (pre-Garmin) so mental gymnastics were required. At this an older runner, I estimate in his 60s, came breezing past. He was moving as if on a hoverboard, just brushing the ground with light and gentle strokes.
“Time is irrelevant today, boys…”
And with these five words our world was turned inside out. We went from obsessive amateur mathematicians to runners enjoying the experience. This was Simon and Gordon’s first marathons. Why not excel in the glory of undertaking a task very few can accomplish instead of wallowing in the disappointment of an arbitrarily chosen set of hours and minutes and seconds? We started to have a laugh. Especially so when Gordon went down with cramp as if shot by a sniper. Imagine a grown man screaming like a 6-year old girl, “Aargh! Cramp!” as he fell into a hedge, then “go on without me!” he cried. We didn’t. Nor did we get hung up on the time that cost us as a group but instead took joy in the fact we were hanging together. Simon and I had our lows too. In the end we crossed the line hand-in-hand, sharing a memory and moment that will last. I have no idea what time we did but I always smile when I think of that particular marathon.
In the end, we had a much better day once the watches stopped leading our emotions. And, I guess that’s my key point today. Sometimes running with no relevance, even in races, can been the best fillip your ambitions can get. Obsession can be debilitating if you don’t relax every once in a while.
This is the 2nd in a series of weekly blogs I will be doing on running hints and tips. Last week’s is here. I’d love to hear from you if it was useful, or sparked a thought or was downright miserable and you just want to tell me it was garbage. Get in touch and feel free to share!