In 4 sleeps I have to run the furthest I have ever run in my whole life.
It’s (only) a half marathon; and I say ‘only’ because I know there are people doing incomprehensibly physically and mentally challenging things every day. And to be honest I wish they’d stop because I shouldn’t feel like I need to call my challenge ‘only’ 13 miles. Pack it in, you lot; you’re making the rest of us look bad.
Anyway. Despite the fact I’m quite bendy, and can get through a fairly challenging 2 hour yoga practice with only a small amount of whimpering and a bit of swearing, it turns out that does not make one immediately able to run for the same length of time.
Me. I know now.
Training has not been fun. I’m feeling woefully underprepared. (But I do now own some new running socks, a new running belt/water bottle combo, and have ordered some fake sunflowers to attach to my running attire, all of which totally makes up for missing those few training runs.)
What I have found particularly interesting (although not really surprising) is that it’s my mind that gives me trouble way before my body does. I’ve barely left the house and the voice in my head is telling me how tight my calves are, how much my knees hurt, that the burning in my lungs is really bad, and that soiling myself/rupturing an artery/annihilating a hamstring is inevitable, so I should probably stop now.
In the world of yoga we have a term which is ‘tapas’. Sadly, in this case, it does not refer to delicious small plates of Spanish delicacies. Tapas literally means heat, fire or discipline. It relates to the transformative nature of an experience that pushes you through your comfort zone and brings your mind up against its own perceived limits. It is the metaphorical fire that burns off all the stuff which has held you back, so that you can evolve into an even better version of yourself.
Spoiler alert – when you’re incorporating tapas into your life it probably isn’t going to be the most fun time. But if you can get through it then you’ll emerge, like a phoenix from the flames, transformed, stronger….and possibly a bit sweatier.
So when I’ve been pounding the pavements over the last few months, and particularly when I’ve had to up the mileage and deal with an even louder voice in my head, I’ve been trying to channel the tapas. When stuff gets uncomfortable, instead of trying to ignore it and shut it down (because it just gets louder) I’ve been trying to embrace it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some sort of masochist but if I can realise that every minute or mile that I push on through, I’m burning off more of the crap that has been weighing me down and holding me back – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Some days it has been all about the fear of setting up my own business, whilst other days I’m fighting through the pain of missing my Dad and coming to terms with his death. Then there are the other times when it’s a mixture of being unkind to my body for the last 23 years, facing up to the fact that I probably won’t have kids, re-playing every dysfunctional relationship I’ve ever had, remembering every time I feel like I’ve failed at something, and getting my head around the fact that I’m 40 this year.
I did warn you that tampering with tapas isn’t fun. It’s a cornucopia of unpleasant surprises as something ‘new’ comes up to bite you in the Gluteus Maximus. But with every sweaty, angry, sore, really-feckin-annoying step I take, and every time I decide to keep going instead of stopping, I burn a little bit more of one of them off.
I’m still not filled with delight at the thought of 13 miles on Sunday; it’s something I never thought I’d do and am still not sure if I can. It’s still going to be the longest distance I’ve run with my body, but more than that – it might just be the furthest I’ve come in my head. And I’m on fire, baby!
I’m running the London Parks Half Marathon in aid of The Macular Society - Macular Degeneration didn't kill my Dad (a dodgy ticker did that) but it stripped away so much of the person he was, that it stole his life away in cruel, brutal, increments. The more sight he lost, the smaller his life became. I don't want anyone to die like that. So please, if you can donate a bit of dosh to make every painful sweary step a bit more bearable I'd be ever so grateful.... www.justgiving.com/fundraising/13milesforthewoo