18th November 2014
I bought a book at the weekend. In fact I bought two. About running. Nothing spectacular in that, I know, but it was a first for me. I have never bought a book about running before. But there is so much that I don’t know about running, and I can’t rely on Coach Zoey all the time, so I thought maybe it would be useful to do a bit of research of my own. If you’re going to run 89km in one day, you probably should have a bit of a clue.
So I bought Born to Run and Run Fat B!tch Run. You’d have thought I’d bought two boxes of chocolates, the way I opened them up and dived in. Like I was expecting Lindor or Guylain (which happen to be a couple of my favourites, by the way, but by no means my ONLY favourites – the list of chocolate favourites is pretty long).
Born to Run is a beautifully written book, and as probably the world’s slowest reader, it will take me some time to get through that one. I’ll get back to you on that. Run Fat B!tch Run, though was easier going. At least in terms of dipping in and out of.
I liked the idea of a book that takes to task the unfailing faffer and helps the reader “get sh!t done”. Because I am someone that struggles with getting sh!t done sometimes. I am an inveterate faffer. So, a no-nonsense approach might be what I needed to cut out the crap and get to go. Go out the door. Go for a run more often. But a few pages in, I realised that Ruth Field and I share very different ideologies. She wants to take a tough tone. She wants to channel her negative energy into driving herself forward. And that has worked really well for her. She’s qualified as a barrister and run the London Marathon and written a couple of books. She’s certainly got all the hallmarks of success. But her style isn’t going to work for me. From the tone of Ruth Field’s writing, you aren’t given the impression that she’s ever had a moment of self-doubt in her life. Ruth was sporty at school, never really overweight, clearly academic and reading what she’s been able to do in life, it sounds like she’s known some privilege. And whilst I think I’ve had a pretty comfortable upbringing, I am a girl from the local comp, I was always a fatty, I did OK academically (but could have done better) and I was NOT sporty at school. And yes, I am very well acquainted with self-doubt.
Not being sporty is not to say I didn’t enjoy sport. I was most PE teachers’ enigma. This kid that clearly enjoyed sport, but had absolutely no ability. That’s not right, is it? If you’re not athletically gifted, you find PE lessons loathsome. Something to endure; the only moment of elation when the bell rings signalling the end of class.
But that wasn’t me. I actually liked playing hockey. Netball scared the life out of me – or at least the netballers did. But I liked tennis and badminton and squash and swimming and 100m sprints (which weren’t very sprinty) and even hurdles. I had to be careful in javelin, as there was a danger I would spear my own toe, and my friend and I did get b0llocked by a PE teacher once for jogging the 1500m so slowly that the rest of the class were inside getting changed by the time we finished. But on the whole, I don’t have actual bad memories of sports lessons at school. I didn’t get picked for teams. I didn’t win races. I just wasn’t any good. I guess the reason I didn’t mind PE was because it always presented plenty of opportunity for a chat and a doss with my mates. And that’s always a bonus in my book.
My sister, on the other hand, was super sporty. Picked for every team, school sportswoman of the year most years, played for the county (and sought after by neighbouring counties) and even played netball for England universities. She’s won triathlons and sh!t. She has real, actual athletic ability. How can this be? We are sisters. We have sipped from the same biological pool. And she’s younger than me, so I’ve always been aggrieved that I didn’t get first pick of the sporty genes. (But I think there is a part of me that is doggedly convinced that there is some latent talent in me somewhere, just waiting for the torch paper to be lit. If I were just a bit slimmer, trained a bit harder, a year or so younger… I bet you know that mantra).
But I digress.
So there I was, book in hand, waiting to find the secret formula that would make me a more effective runner. To find some insight that I’d been missing. But the only promise was that it was going to be hard and hateful and I had to toughen up, Buttercup, and to stop wanting it to be anything other than nauseatingly hard.
Plus I had to do it all alone.
Now I read this morning on FB (so it’s the truth, right) that many runners tend to avoid joining clubs because we are all convinced that we are going to be the slowest and therefore not good enough. In my case, this is true, though. In Born to Run, Christopher McDougall talks about the Tarahumara, a lost tribe of people with phenomenal running ability. You should know, they are not lost; they have simply relocated to Boganvillia and they are all members of the local Harriers. So, I haven’t joined because I am the slowest and I can’t keep up.
But I have put that book away. I don’t need running to make me hate myself. I can do that all by myself. Running is my escape from the negativity and the worry of all the things: the little inadequacies that plague me. Because after years* (and we are talking years) of trying to be a runner, I finally found an avenue to achievement. I might not be at the front of the pack, but I can be part of the pack. And with some effort (some of which has even been quite enjoyable) and the support of a sisterhood, my Operation Movers, the running club I have joined and where you are NEVER too slow, I can haul my arse round a course and I can taste triumph when I cross the finish line and have the satisfaction of having run a little further, or a little faster or with a new friend. Not faster or further than you. But further or faster than the voice of negativity told me I was capable of.
And I think that’s sometimes enough for me: it’s certainly enough of me for one post!
What makes you want to run? The nagging voice of negativity? Or something more hopeful?
*we can chat about that another time – because I’m ALWAYS up for a chat 🙂