You know what I’ve always hated? When people think little people/dwarves are funny. Why that fuck would they be funny? Unless they’re funny like Richard Pryor or Joan Rivers or something. But funny just because they’re a different size? I guess it’s nice though because even before I worked in…
My training has been haphazard at best lately, with motivation ebbing and the elusive runners high MIA.
I’ve dabbled in a few other sports to try to change things up and have had fun, but can’t remember the last time I felt like I’d truly given myself away to sport - that feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment, where performance can take a back seat to the simple feeling of having nothing left to give. I like that feeling - where chewing my food seems beyond possible, and where sleep sets in on the sofa.
Due to allergies, hilly geography, fear and mostly laziness, I haven’t actually run outside. The comfort of indoor running, where a machine does your pacing, where you can switch off and be lost inside your head because there is little danger of obstacle when running on the spot, had been comfortable.
The routine was broken on Sunday when I challenged a 10km race in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. With 5000 other runners, we awaited the start on a glorious warm morning in an idyllic setting. But what should have been a fun challenge suddenly took on too much meaning for me - I could feel my heart racing just standing at the start line for 20 minutes before the race started - I felt out of my depth, like I was standing on the edge of eventual disappointment or failure, letting myself and some mythical fanbase down. Yet I was alone - it’s a solitary challenge so where this pressure came from was both curious and unnecessary, yet real and palatable. Well, it would have been palatable if I had any moisture in my mouth.
The starter pistol sounded and we all took off. With a speed which surprised me, people were flying by me in what seemed an impossible rate. I couldn’t possibly be so slow - I kick ass on the treadmill! I could feel a panic set in, and the pre-race nauseousness was not subsiding - I was expecting the jelly muscles to be replaced with my strong legs, but that never came. Instead I felt lost, with no idea what was to come. All the control I crave, cherish and sometime hold on too fiercely to in my life was gone - I had no idea how far I had run or how far I had to go - I could just as easily have been 1 km in, or 8. I had no idea if we were going to veer left or right, and this complete lack of familiarity suddenly took a vice like grip on me. There was no “roll with the punches” option - the punches were coming thick and fast and I didn’t want to face them. My mental game left me probably when I parked my car prior to the race, but I only noticed about 2kms in and then it was game over. I started to walk due to a cramp no doubt brought on by stress. I walked for what probably was 20 seconds, but each one was filled with heavy disappointment in myself, so they felt like hours. A game of he said/she said wagered in my mind between the crushing feeling of self-doubt, and my desire to prove to myself that my training had not been in vain. I stopped probably about 10 times, if not more. I had no idea of time or distance as I had no watch so any attempt at self consolation or motivation was impossible - my hope of a 51 min time was clearly lost.
In the end, I finished in 53 mins, which shows how bad my pacing was - when I wad running, I was clearly over my 11.8 km/h pace I wanted, as I had at least 4-5 mins of rest.
When I finished, I had a moment of feeling proud that I didn’t actually give up, and was happy that my time wasn’t as disastrous as I had somehow convinced myself it would be.
The silver lining came later though - an intense thigh burn with every movement for the following two days - the pain is my accomplishment, and the actual high I was chasing.
And the lessons have been learned - I need to relax more and bring my usual optimistic disposition to these events - there is no fan base, just me, and if the only person I’m disappointing is myself, I owe it to myself to not do that. It could be that I’ve got a higher idea of what I’m capable of than the actual truth, some youthful ambition that my body can’t achieve to which my mind is unwilling to acquiesce, so maybe I need to reset expectations of myself. Perhaps it’s acknowledging my own limitations that is the hard thing to understand - the sky is the limit, but maybe my limit is the tree top. The good news is that I like the tree tops :) I’m not being defeatist, not even realist. I’m just aware now that the actual joy I am seeking is different to the one I thought.
One of the more interestingly challenging decisions as a parent is what to name your child. A name can form a personality, a character… a name conjures up an image before you lay eyes on someone, right or wrong… I remember thinking I couldn’t give them too wacky a name because who could take them seriously in the business world when they grew up if they were called “Cheerio”…
Today, in the “business world”, I got up at 4:30, Eurostar to London, train out to Reading, meeting from 9:30 - 5:30 in overheated room, train back into London, now on Eurostar back to Paris, ETA home time of just after midnight.
Wish I’d named them something silly after all - spare them from this “glamourous” life…
Whenever I watch sports or athletes, I often think to their coaches and wonder how complicated a job that really is. “OK, what you want to do it run faster”… “Next time, try to get the ball in the net, that’s would be good”… “See that guy there - swim faster than him. Great, thanks”.
I also get a borderline pathetic enjoyment out of making observations like “you know, it would have been a better idea if he had actually scored that goal instead of missing like that…”
I feel that at a professional level, these things should be obvious or easy, but of course that would defeat the purpose of competition. Unlike art (where I find a smugness in awards shows for TV, music, cinema, for example), the competitive nature of athletes is actually an amazing triumph of the human spirit, and a naturally dramatic cinema, even if you don’t like the actual sport. The emotion in their gestures and expressions, the intense highs and extreme lows - these are tough for the athletes but it makes you appreciate that the coach needs to mitigate this chasm and find a way to recapture that intensity every day. This is true in both victory and defeat - finding that drive to return to battle every day, with yesterday’s lessons learned. The perfect partner in crime who is there to support and push you through the darkest winters but also the sunniest skies…
Now, anyone willing to be my coach - drive me through the highs and lows of every day?
I used to twirl my wedding rings around my finger, playing with them as a nervous habit or tick - I guess a portable comfort blanket which would settle me. The wedding rings have now been removed, and like some phantom limb, I reach for them occasionally.
I’ve been wanting to get a new tattoo for years - I toy with many ideas, most of which come back to a white tattoo on the inside of my wrist - something I can refer to but isn’t overtly flashy, my own little wink to myself, not really visible unless I share it. But now I think of it more as a replacement blankey for those random times when some form of comfort or familiarity is needed.
Lately, the script I picture is turning towards the journey of life - the fun, the mania, the insane ride to be savoured or missed.
A week ago, I treated myself to new running shoes - I had waited for the sales to start (in France, they are controlled - we are now in the winter sales period (mid January to mid February), so I indulged). However, it seemed to usher in a period of doubt in my running. Whereas in my old trainers I was doing 10kms comfortably, I struggled to reach that milestone until today in the new shoes. They are bouncy, but seem heavy… the grip is probably something to be grateful for, but I feel it’s slowing me down. This is probably all in my head, but I guess it’s easy to blame something, rather than myself, on my current struggles.
I’ve also been pointing my tired finger at some bruising I have down my right side after I fell off my bike the day after I bought the new shoes - I managed to fall over while stationary but couldn’t get my MTB shoes out of the pedal. I landed on the only fallen tree in the forest, and the result if a saucer-sized bruise on my right thigh, as well as bruises down the shin.
But part of me wonders if it’s my weak mental game working against me - my original optimism is subsiding and my old uncertainty is replacing it. Conditions will never be perfect, the playlist will never match the needs of the moment, so I need to find that fortitude. anyone have it for sale? I’m struggling.
What seemed like frivolity and actual possibility is starting to settle into reality in a way that both daunting and exhilarating. I have signed up for the NYC Marathon in November - that’s a mere 9.5 months away. I’m a stubborn pregnancy away from hell… However, it’s given me a purpose to my gym slogs, as well as an excuse to visit my friend Anne (although, no excuse was necessary).
It’s winter now, so my training is mostly indoors at the moment, in the comfort of a nice gym with way too many good looking people to be normal. My daily 11am runs have me meeting up with a motley crew of others on a same daily routine, who have come to embrace my ritual of opening a window and letting me run it out for 45 mins.
So I will update this blog regularly as I chase this runner’s high and get more and more into my training. I will chronicle the ups and downs of my challenge, giving you an insight into a Canadian-living-in-Paris attempting to run farther than I want to drive. Hopefully, it will be a journey we can all enjoy.