I am a bad runner. I feel awful. On Monday I was scheduled to do three miles and all I could manage was one and a half. My shin hurt, I was tired and had no energy whatsoever.
"Why am I doing this?" I asked myself, "everyone is faster than me." And it is true, with my running group I am at the back of the pack (and I'm not the newest runner or carrying the most weight). Note - I did not consider giving up. You can just see some of my perfectionist character coming through. I want to be better. I want to be one of the fast runners. If I do something I am usually used to doing it well.
Is running distance about speed? Do we all have to aspire to be Paula Radcliffe? I'd love to have one tenth of her style and speed. Does not being Paula Radcliffe...or even one of the faster runners at my group make me hate running or even want to stop?
I want to paraphrase and share a story with you now. I read it in 'The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer':
Mark Block was a high school runner. One day he was out driving with a friend, they were checking the route of a run he wanted to do. Suddenly they missed a turn in the road and the car ended up in a ditch. The full details of the crash are a little gory, so I'll spare you them. The result was Mark was dead at the scene, but some paramedics had a go at resusitating him and to their surprise got a pulse. He had head trauma, a broken neck and a partially severed spinal chord. Needless to say his condition in hospital was touch and go for a long time. When he came out of a coma he was paralysed from the neck down and people kept telling him what he couldn't do anymore, they told him he would never walk again and would probably be paralysed from the neck down.
I remember thinking "What have I got to lose?" I turned the energy of fear into the energy of recovery.
Nothing on his body worked, apart from his brain so Mark began to exercise that. He imagined walking, what it felt like and what parts of the body moved. Then he moved his right foot - the nurses told him it was a spasm. Then he worked at sitting up and threw himself into physical therapy. He left hospital using only a stick to help him walk.
Mark's amazing story could have finished there. It doesn't. He went back to university and decided to try and enroll on the 'Marathon Class' at the University of Northern Iowa. The irony was he struggled to walk 20 feet to the door and yet had no doubts over joining a class to prepare him to run 26 miles. The leader of the class was impressed with Mark's attitude and arranged for his goal to be to walk 10k whereas the rest of the class would be running the full 26.2 miles. This goal was soon extended to 13 miles.
On the marathon day Mark was meant to start at the half marathon line, instead he decided to start at mile 11. He started an hour early, but it was not long before the runners began to pass him. During his last few miles even the traffic control and water stands were gone.
It took him 8 hours and 33 minutes to walk fifteen miles. This is the man who was told he would never walk again.
If you want to read about his story in detail I suggest reading the book, it is certainly full of inspiration and tips for a beginner marathoner. And I am going to try and remember his story when I beat myself up for not running 'fast enough' - I am running, isn't that enough?