When I was a kid, the only Marathon I was interested in was the chocolate bar now known as Snickers. Having said that, I was a little chubby kid and didn’t like a lot of foods, and peanuts back then were a no go area. I would hate discovering a nut in my chocolate, and couldn’t stand the fact that nanny and grandad only ever had whole nut or fruit and nut… anyway.. I digress before even properly starting…
I did start to run as a kid and remember the first times I went out on a run. I knew I was a little fatty, and I wanted to try and do something about it. (today I measured the distance of the first run I did, it’s just over a mile). I felt very self-conscious. I still do at times when out running now. I kept up running occasionally through college, as a smoker, and in 2006 I used running as a way to give up smoking. I signed up for a marathon, and stopped smoking.
The fact I was doing it for The Alzheimer’s Society was down to my mum having been diagnosed. With Mild Alzheimer’s. That’s how you dealt with it. You say “mild”. Like as if it’s any different than if it was really strong. Or like it was going to just be a little brush with Alzheimer’s and then it’ll go away. Here’s the first instance of the symbolic nature of running. Like you’re running away from something. I think always with running, for me at least, I’ve been running either away from or towards something. Depending on how good I am at applying spin to how I’m feeling at the time it could be to/from a bad marriage, a sick mother, a smaller waistline, health, a new personal best.
This guy’s piece in the Guardian about how he HAS to run marathons is a really good example of how training for a big run can be a decent strategy for good health. It takes a good 4 months, a third of a year, to train properly, so it can be quite habit forming and you’re likely to be still benefiting a good while later.
There’s something most existential about running. Not being able to get your head round something and then going out for a run. The Forrest Gump thing. The doing of an activity for the sake of doing the activity. It helps you to breathe, to concentrate on breathing (much like Yoga). I’ve been able to think about the symbolism of a long run like a marathon. How it’s an achievement in life which might be a suitable enough replacement or substitute for no great achievements in work, love, family etc… How it might be symbolic of an understanding of the longevity of things. “A marathon not a sprint” and all that. It can be very therapeutic.
Recently I joked to a friend that his enthusiasm for running was equal only to the guilt he felt in his personal life. This is classic projection really. My own enthusiasm has diminished the further away from a bad marriage I get, and the closer I move, to a decent set up both at home and at work. I do think the amount of penance in the name of charity x or y does come from a guilt position. It’s a very public display of good-doing.
A friend asked on Facebook last week whether anyone else got all teary when watching the marathon and a few replied yes. I was one of them. Given the stuff I’ve covered above I think it’s hardly surprising. Seeing folks put in so much effort with a picture of “dad” on their backs, or similar is very tear-jerking. For me it’s enough just to see people running.