Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A day off, and an explanation about why we're doing this

A lot of friends are asking why the hell we're running the Paris Marathon in the first place, so here goes.



I took this picture on my last 'long' run. It was 22nd December. It was nine miles over boggy turf and stony paths, under a typically grey Glasgow sky and passing everything from woods and castle ruins to lochs and old WWII gun batteries. It was raining.

It was also fucking magic. Standing in that field overlooking Glasgow five or six miles in, my head felt totally clear. No worries, no stresses, none of the bollocks that routinely gets me down. The legs felt sore, but the head felt good. 

That feeling - the kind of weird high running can (but often still doesn't) bring after a few miles - is why I signed up for this Paris Marathon nonsense. Right now that feeling also seems painfully far away. I've been ill twice in recent weeks with a virus that really floored me and left me feeling pretty weak. I haven't been running really at all. I miss it (not something I ever thought I'd say) and I know that getting back 'on it' in coming days is going to feel hellish. A potent mix of pre-Christmas boozing and feeding and being ill will definitely have put me back to square one fitness wise, or near enough. 

But tomorrow I'll go and do it and next week it'll be a bit easier, and the week after a bit easier still. I started the whole Paris thing with a sixteen week training plan in mind. Now we're at the '12 weeks to go' mark that's going to have to be scrapped for a shorter, harder slog. 

So, as of tomorrow, the 'comeback' is on: it'll definitely be part-Rocky, part Rab C Nesbitt. It'll also definitely be worth it.


The short version is that 'Andy made me do it' but here's the long version.

I'd tried running a few times in the past but it always involved nipping out for no more than ten minutes, two or three times a year, and pretending to stretch if anyone came wandering past. And then I'd go home and eat and drink and, if the mood took me, smoke tabs. I can't be bothered to get fit I'd think, blowing a square smoke ring (and they said it couldn't be done). Up yours, getting fit. You're boring.

And then, in the Spring of 2013 I started to feel really, really low. To the point where it was making me so insular that I may as well have begun speaking to people through a fucking sock puppet. What I didn't know was that these feelings were the onset of a pretty spectacular bout of depression. What I did know was that I wanted to sort them out.

I finally mumbled all of this to a friend and she suggested I try running, pointing out that it might quieten my head to a level I could cope with. I thought 'well, you would say that wouldn't you. All you fucking talk about is running.' But, psch. I figured I should at least try. 

I went to buy a discounted pair of trainers from a shiny shop in town, which involved flapping up and down a shop floor while a man with two per cent body fat and strip-lit teeth considered my gait. 'Have you run before?' he asked brightly and I said 'yes' as convincingly as a man who tells his doctor he goes home after one pint. A day or so later I was out in a south London park, listening to a phone app tell me I was 'doing great' as my breathing crackled like a crisp bag. But it spoke to me in a pleasant voice, that app. So I kept at it.

Now. In the end, I turned to medication as a brain-salve but that's by the by. My friend was still right: Running took some of my spikier feelings and gave me a way of blunting them. Perhaps most importantly, all of my worries and anxieties were still there (and are still there for the most part) but they were and are quieter after running. Not that I'm a constant scribble of desperation, you understand. I can put on my shoes and head out whenever, now. But if I ever want to run away I can at least run. That's something isn't it.

I spoke to Andy about this new pursuit when he moved in down the road and he said hey pal, I'm running about too. Since then, we've accompanied each other on a prolonged stumble almost every other night - and we both took part in the 2013 Royal Parks Half Marathon (where, on an unseasonably warm October day, we lost each other at about the four mile mark but still managed to finish within 30 seconds of each other. There's something comforting in the fact that we're equally shit isn't there -but I would like to point out that I'm nine years older). We did that run for charity. Feeling you owe it to your generous friends is another thing that keeps you going, I found.

Afterwards, we both agreed we should 'keep at this' - and so that's what we did. I'm glad of it. And then without really thinking about it, we signed up for the Paris Marathon 2014.

It's looming pretty large now, that decision. As is the fact that later in the year, I'll be running the Edinburgh Half Marathon in honour of Emma Louise Page, who died of cancer early in 2013. The friend who goaded me into running in the first place goaded me into that, too. So if you feel sorry for me about all of this goading, you can sponsor me here. I'll stop saying goading now.

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