Give yourself a goal you don’t think you can achieve, and then work at it, until you do.
2 years ago I sat in housekeeping at Run Dem Crew, and listened to the story of Paul Bains getting a sub 3 hour marathon. I tried to comprehend how someone could run sub 7 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles, and couldn’t quite fathom it. The thought of it baffled me.
Over the past 28 months, I’ve seen the gentlemen that I’ve trained with aim higher, work harder, get goals I found impossible to digest at first. But, then these goals found their way into my mind, and on to my bucket list, and although I had ran the female Boston qualifying time, I didn’t think it was right for me to swan off to the streets of America, and not have to put in the work that they had. So I wouldn’t, until I did.
I understand why the women’s qualifier is half an hour slower than that of males. Regardless of time, it’s a marathon, it’s still an amazing achievement, and this isn’t a circumstance or situation that I’m disputing. Ultimately, facts, figures, science and biology come into play and give us a ‘guideline’ of what’s average, what we should aim for. Together with this, whether masked or otherwise, are the sociological, cultural and ultimately personal limitations that we are restrained by as individuals. These sets of ‘reason’ don’t mean that that’s all I, or we, should aim for. When looking at life in general, I’m not prepared to limit myself because of presupposed expectations of my gender, whether these opinions are arguably text book or not.
In training for Berlin this time around I found some structure. I did my research, traded housekeeping on Tuesday evenings for lone nights at the track, felt like a zombie in work, and did what I could amidst the demands of a full time job and life outside of it. I side-lined my chocolate addiction for 2 months, averaged about 55 miles a week running, combined with 50-60 per week on my bike, and, together with the recurrent feelings of a lethargic head, felt like I’d given a lot of myself before I got to Berlin. Although, even so, in my heart of hearts, I still felt that this wasn’t enough, because more can always be done. 3 weeks before race day I sleepily jotted ‘Don’t feel like I have done/ am doing enough’ in my very sporadic diary. Albeit, not the most imaginative sentence I could pull from the air, but even whilst I was doing more than I had previously, I wasn’t able to comprehend what I was aiming for, thus, it was a thought that often found its way into my mind. Reading these feelings back, I think it’s important to push yourself, to feel like you can always do more, but also to find a sense of realist perspective within this, and to ultimately give yourself credit for what you’ve managed to do. Whether that’s managing to get out of bed and run 5k, or clock up a 70 mile week, it’s still a motion of moving forwards, that’s not to be forgotten.
On the morning of the race I found myself in the usual flurry of race bibs as I tried to force my way into a jam packed start area, whilst simultaneously attempting to spot two friends that I was supposed to be running with, Andrew and Joseph. As race mornings go, amidst busy toilet queues and a lack of phone reception, we couldn’t find each other. But we agreed to go for a time, and I came to the conclusion that whether we were in each other’s company or not, that we would each still channel our collective aim. The starting balloons were released and the people in my pen were ushered out. In my head I repeated the word ‘composure’ that my dear friend Manni insisted I stick to the night before, remembered the gold, silver and bronze ‘medals’ I had set, and told myself I would keep to my own pace and reel myself in.
Within the first few miles I came across some Run Pack gents, which in a sea of 40000 people still astounds me. We spent a handful of miles chopping and changing our positions, spurred each other on, and at one point a waffle was offered my way. Flattered as I was, I suppressed my sweet tooth, and resisted. I continued on alone, getting through halfway in 1.30, anticipating the reality that any minute I would a-typically crash and burn, but at the same time feeling strong. Whilst finding your strength is what ultimately you want, in a weird way it was disconcerting in the sense that any strength is usually found within a struggle, and that was what I was anticipating. The further I ran the more I accepted it, and I held on to some focus, thankful that my legs were without the feelings of being pulled through treacle.
It wasn’t until I passed the 3 hour pacer 4 miles from the finish that it dawned on me that a faraway, once impossible, goal that I’d set myself could be achieved. For that last section I felt like a child being chased up the stairs by a sibling, as if at any minute the pacing balloons of doom would catch me, and my game of tick would be up. In knowing that the hub of cheer pack beauties were close I sped up, and was greeted merrily with a few metres of confetti, smiles, a final push, and the negative areas of doubt in my mind to one side. Unsure of the time on the clock ahead I mustered a sprint finish, grimaced over the line, looked down at my watch, and felt an overwhelming urge to bawl like a big happy baby. To be honest, I still don’t believe it, but I got around in 2.59.38 to a position of 83rd woman, and came home to an amount of support I still can’t fathom.
Some people have asked ‘So, what’s the secret?’, and there isn’t one. I guess if you want to progress, whether this is found within your happiness, career, or a racing time, it all takes work, and it takes patience. Life isn’t about being the fastest, but it’s about learning, and it’s about progress, and I’m a strong believer in thinking that we can all do that.
Thank you to the incredible hosts, Kathi and Flo, for the race place, to the continually supportive centre of friends, family and boyfriend that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by, but thank you, particularly, to the ‘elite’ boys of the Run Dem Crew, that don’t limit my capabilities because I’m a girl, they push me because of it. Boston 2017 is now in the diary in permanent marker pen.