I threw caution to the winds this weekend and decided to live dangerously – you see on Saturday it was the 3rd Anniversary of the start of the Marlay Park parkrun – that was a 5k i really didn’t want to miss – while on Sunday the Debra Wicklow Mountains Challenge in Glendalough was scheduled and i’d signed up for the 10k – two races in two days – that’s living dangerously for me.
Saturday was a beautiful morning, a great crowd, a festive atmosphere and i came in at 27 minutes 18 seconds thus not breaking my New Year’s Resolution was 27:32 would be my slowest 5k time of the year. It felt good – a subsequent photograph uploaded of me showed me smiling – usually those photographs show me grimacing and looking like i am in a lot of pain – my threshold is particularly low!
Sunday though, that was going to be the test. We drove back to Glendalough – i couldn’t believe that i was running there two weekends in a row. My decision to drop out of the 12k and just run the 6k the previous weekend seemed to have paid off as i was feeling good. It was a tough decision at the time – i hate taking the easy options in life. My indecision was captured by a strategically placed photographer as i discussed the pros and cons of 12 vs 6 with one of the stewards.
So here i was, a week later, again taking the easy option but this time it was a 10k vs a 20k. Regular readers will know that i’ve only run 10k three times before and never in the mountains so this was going to be a bit of a challenge.
Time for a bit of self-reliance. I had just finished reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘SELF-RELIANCE and other Essays’ – time to put his principles into practice.
One of his famous quotes is “Always do what you are afraid to do” – that’s a good place to start if you are feeling a bit nervous or maybe even a bit afraid. Emerson was a strong believer in self-reliance and individual expression. Everything i read about him suggested that i would enjoy his essays. But i found it tough going, very tough going. Bit like a 10k in the mountains really.
I expected the language to be a bit dated, his Essays were written in the mid 1800’s but i didn’t expect not to be able to understand what he was on about some of the time, actually most of the time. I read and reread some of his sentences but still couldn’t understand the details of what he was discussing. In the end, i came away with a broad understanding of his ideals but no understanding of the details underpinning them.
Bit like me running a 10k, i presumed i could but i hadn’t trained properly, at all really since i had been sick – i was depending on depths of strength and determination within me – hoping that it was there but not having any real proof of it. I know Mr Emerson would be proud of me.
The route was promising, a long flat start along the river and the lower lake at Glendalough before heading up into the mountains, then a steep descent to another river valley and back to the hotel at Glendalough – that marked roughly the half way point. I reckoned the flat start would let me warm up properly unlike last week when we went straight into an incline. And so it was.
And it was so beautiful it would take your breath away – if you had any breath after running a km or two.
One of the Emersons Essays is termed ‘Friendship’ and in it he says “Happy is the house that shelters a friend”, and defines a friend according to two basic principles, Truth, “A friend is a person with whom i may be sincere. Before him i may think aloud”, and Tenderness – perhaps a rather more surprising choice.
Which brings me to the main reason i, and about 700 other hardy souls, were in the Wicklow Mountains on Sunday morning, we were fundraising for DEBRA – a charity who supports those suffering from EB. We were offering our friendship and support for people who we have not met but who we feel for and admire. We could not but be aware that any pain and suffering we might experience during our Challenge would be nothing to that faced up to by those suffering from EB. And if our suffering could, in any tiny way, contribute to alleviating any of their pain, then that would be our greatest pleasure. There are many reasons for running – to celebrate that we can for those of us who are so blessed and to do so in honour of those who can’t – are two of my favourites.
We offered our friendship and our efforts and in return we were offered comradeship and beauty – i think we received more than we gave.
Emerging from the grounds of the Glendalough Hotel with a bottle of water in one hand and a fistful of jelly babies in the other, i spotted one of my trail running heroes, Juju Jay of Blood Sweat and Running, a Glendalough based trail running group trained by Juju. We had never met but i followed him on facebook and twitter and admired his running feats. Meeting him was just the boost i needed to face into a serious climb and the second half of the 10k. Soon i’d reached the top – the same place we had turned around at the previous week – so i knew it was downhill all the way to the endpoint where tea and scones awaited.
Running downhill – what a glorious experience.
One hour and 18 minutes after the start, i crossed the endline to loads of clapping and smiles and a medal.
What a great crowd. I stayed a while and then headed off for a cuppa. Happy i’d been able to dig deep and finish in good form.
I’m not sure if Emerson ever articulated it but self-reliance is important mainly as providing the basis for friendship, for love and tenderness. We all have to dig deep sometimes but it is of most value when we do it for the benefit of others.
Be yourself, you are love and tenderness, dig deep and find it.
Emerson tells us, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Honour friendship my friends