Month +26: Patience

Earlier this month I had to make a tough decision. It was something I didn’t want to do and something I was afraid of doing. I was scared of letting myself, my club, and everyone I knew down. But deep down I knew it had to be done. I bowed to my fate and withdrew my entry to the 2022 London Marathon. And as I did, a weight lifted, and I drew a sigh of relief.

London 2014 was, and still is, the highlight of my running career to date. Nothing can describe the combination of the sights and sounds, the wonder, and marvel of running through the closed streets of the capital city with thirty thousand other similarly minded individuals. There are bigger events, and tougher races, but nothing I have experienced before or since can match London for its’ unique blend of community, tradition, nostalgia, and outright spectacle. It was an event that I will never forget and was content to participate in just the once. And if by some freak stroke of luck I were to be offered the chance once more, I simply HAD to be ready. And I just wasn’t.

Twenty-six months on from day-zero, and I’m still not sure what to make of this body of mine. It still feels unpredictable and strangely unfamiliar, like driving someone else’s car. The set of commands I spent forty years feeding in and getting the same old predictable results no longer work. I ask for ‘drive’, and the wipers come on! I am now learning a whole new set of commands, along with the parameters within which they will work – often getting them wrong. I no longer simply get tired – my energy falls off a cliff. And in my newly found desire to take life head-on, I’m particularly bad at spotting the cliff edge approaching. I spend my days either determined to take on the world or looking for an excuse to go to bed.

These last few months I have found training incredibly difficult. I tend to run in the evenings, but I often find that I lack the energy at the end of the day. Even if I haven’t been at work, my body has a way of letting me know when it’s had enough. I enjoy running with my club-mates but find that anything above 7 miles or so takes real determination, and can finish me off for a couple of days. That’s about 19 miles short of my marathon goal. Every time I finished a run and thought about it, I felt miserable. Once I realised what it was that was weighing me down, it was an easy decision to make. It was getting to this point that was the hard part.

The old version of me would have denied this reality and stubbornly powered on. Had I done that, I would have hated it. I want to run this race and run it well, and to hate it would have been too high a price to pay. I haven’t withdrawn completely; I intend run in 2023, my entry is simply deferred. To me, this race is important. It will be my quiet tribute to the family of people at the NHS who have cared for me all these years, and without whom, I wouldn’t be here; It will be my shout-out to my friends and family who stuck by my side through the most hopeless of days, and a salute to my anonymous donor and their family. A symbol to them that their loss has not been in vain. I owe them this much, and as perverse as it may sound, not doing the marathon this year was the best thing I could do to honour their memory.

Over the winter I will do my best to train within my limits and to be ready in 2023, and in putting my needs and welfare first, I learnt a valuable lesson: never feel guilty about doing what’s best for you. It takes courage to make the right decision, especially if it doesn’t feel good. Never worry about disappointing others so that you can look after of yourself. You are the priority. It’s important to be able to say no to opportunities, even if you technically ‘could’ do them, for no other reason than to care for yourself and not wanting to feel like crap. Patience is the ability to accept disappointment and delay without getting upset or acting out of turn, and in doing so, we get to enjoy life along the way. And that’s what it’s all about after all.



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