The older you get, sorry i get, the more aware i become that there is a finish line to this race i call my life – it may be a marathon, or even an ultramarathon, but the day will come when i cross the finish line, as many have before me.
The closer you get, sorry i get, to that finish line the more people i know who cross it before me – many have started before me, some long before, but there are always some who started later and who have finished before me, who have passed me out on the route.
The further along the route that you get, sorry i get, the more i realise that a race has so much more meaning than just running, just competing, just finishing – and so it is with life.
All runners will tell you – there is no such thing as an easy race. When you volunteer to help out at a race you will quickly notice that the first finishers put in the same effort, pushing themselves to the limit, as do the stragglers – and so it is with life. The first time i volunteered at a 5k parkrun i had assumed that the first finishers, those super fast, super fit, super runners coasted to their 17 minute uber times. I was wrong, they reached the end exhausted, having given the run their all.
Any runner will tell you that once you pass the halfway mark you are approaching the finish line – the distance ahead is less than the distance behind, though it may take longer as you get tired or, in life’s case, it may just be that you get slower, move slower, think slower. My mother once told me that one of the advantages of becoming older was that everything took longer – so you never had too much time on your hands. You have less to do but it takes longer and expands to fill the day – that may well be a blessing.
I ran my first ever marathon, the Dublin City Marathon, this year, but i was really only fit enough to run a half marathon – and so it proved – the second half took a lot longer and was a lot more painful than the first half – running imitating life.
But just because you are in the second half doesn’t mean you can’t improve on many things – you can run smarter for a start, you can train better, prepare better and most of all you can be less afraid to try new things, you can take things less seriously, have more fun. Maybe, just maybe, the second half might be better, might be your space, the space where you really come into your own – who’s to know until you try.
And don’t be afraid to accept help and advice – helping you may be someone elses moment of karma, their defining moment – don’t deny them that.
One thing you can certainly leave at the halfway mark is your ego – just drop it off. You see that big bin they have just past the water station, there on the right hand side – drop it in there, quietly, don’t make a fuss, just drop it in as you run past. You won’t be needing it from here on in and it only weighs you down, slows you down. Now, more than ever, you need to be running free, unencumbered, light as a feather dancing in the breeze. I always thought it significant that the Latin word for baggage was impedimenta – anything that slows you down and your ego would be pretty high up any list of impedimenta you might wish to compose.
All ego aside, i ran my fastest 5k in over eighteen months the other day. It was a perfect morning for a parkrun, cool, calm and the only problem was i had collected my daughter from a predebs at about two o’clock that morning. When i woke up about eight, i lay there for a little while and had an internal discussion as to whether such a late night was sufficient justification for not running. For some reason, undefined, i decided it wasn’t, donned my shorts, selected a tshirt from my collection of race tops, laced my shoes and headed out. I met a run buddy in Marlay Park and that reminded me of his adage – start fast and see where that gets you – rather contary to the usual running advice about starting slowly so as not to run out of steam. With nothing to lose, except a few seconds off my time, i took his advice and took off like the race was measured in metres rather than kilometres. I got to the 2km mark without running out of steam and settled down a bit then to try and keep an even pace for the rest of the run. At about 2.5km, my run buddy passed me out, running strongly. I knew he could do a sub-25 minute on a good day and it looked like this was going to be a good day. The 4km mark loomed before my body realised that i had conned it and i suffered for the last stretch, finishing in 25 minutes and 19 seconds, my fastest ever parkrun 5k and my first PB since June of 2013. One of my long-term aims is to run a sub-25 minute 5k and suddenly this seemed a possibility – maybe even achievable in 2016.
More evidence, if i needed it, that the second half holds much promise.
Hunter S Thompson has some good advice my friends.
Keep skidding along and enjoy the run