I remember back in April 2013, thinking, Why? why do I continue to do this when it clearly isnt fun? That was in the Limerick Marathon, my second and to date, my last marathon outing. It was just after half way, the course was about to take us out of the city and into the Limerick countryside and as far away from the finish, my support and my hotel as I could get.
My planned 4:15 target was out the window and I had already started a run/walk strategy. Why do we put ourselves through this? Sure didn’t the first lad to run 26miles, Pheidippides, drop down and die just after he delivered his message? Was that not a big sign to the second person who undertook the task, to reconsider very carefully what he was about to do?!
It wasn’t the first time I wracked my brain to figure this out either, one day after a 20mile LSR with a friend in preparation for Dublin 2012 I was sitting down having a well deserved treat outside Teddys, the long famous Ice Cream parlour in Dun Laoghaire, and I looked across Dublin Bay, far into the distance towards Clontarf and thought, “I just ran from here to there and back, it took more than 3hrs and it was supposed to be fun’ what a nutter!
Last weekend was the 10th edition of IronMan UK, it took place in Bolton. This is a tough race, not just the distance, but the course is widely seen as a tough one too. I was following two participants (via twitter, I’m not a stalker) who took part. Both had widely differing results on the day, Laura Fountain (follow her on @lazygirlrunning) didn’t finish and Zoe Forman (@zoeforman) did, and their post race social media activity shows the elation and disappointment that goes with their results. But on looking back, both really did complete the journey, does it really matter if theres a medal for everyone at the end? If you’ve completed all the training but just not got as far as the finish line have you ‘really’ done any less than someone who crossed the finish?
Theres a line of thought that says we have to do something to get something, that something has to have a meaning or significance. Does running, training or exercise have a value in itself or does its value lie elsewhere? The answer to that is different for each and every person that pulls on their runners and heads out the door for 1mile, 5miles or 20miles. It doesn’t matter. For some its the medal or t-shirt at the end, for some its just the challenge of getting out the door, for others it is a means to an end for physical or mental health but for everyone, nothing would happen if we didn’t start.
The reason we do it, is because we can. No matter how far off the finish seems or if it is taking you longer to get there that you originally thought, no matter, just don’t give up. We’re not delivering news of a great battle like our Grecian friend, there are no life or death decisions relying on our pace, our hydration strategy, how many laps of the park we run or our chip times. No, we make the choice to start and keep going because we want to test ourselves beyond what we have done before.
We could of course chose not to, but would that be right?