So much for getting carried away then. So much for getting excited that I might just be able to do this. So much for thinking I could actually run. It’s time for honesty again: I can’t run. Today was supposed to be our 11 mile run. We’d planned the route (Bolton Abbey to Burnsall and back, all along the Wharfe). I was a bit nervous but looking forward to it, looking forward to the route in particular. I like the Wharfe and Burnsall holds childhood memories – probably only from photos actually. I’d done everything right. I’d eaten relatively well yesterday, I’d made sure I was well hydrated and I had a decent if not perfect night’s sleep. I had a porridge pot for breakfast and a mug of hot water as well as some more water throughout the morning. I did 15 minutes of flexibility yoga before we set off. Everything was as it should be. But I can’t do it.
We had agreed to walk to the top of the first slope rather than tiring ourselves on the first run so we did that and then started. I was immediately huffing and puffing. My right leg felt a little sore and stiff but it eased almost immediately. The huffing and puffing didn’t. It was so hard, so unbelievably hard. I got to the strid, must only be half a mile or so and as we started to go up the slope I just burst into tears. No warning, no battle, just a very clear ‘I can’t f-ing do this’. We walked up the hill and started running again at the top. I huffed and puffed my way through a couple of run intervals. I somehow made it past the aqueduct and along a bit of the path we haven’t run before. I might have just about made a mile and a half. Then an overwhelming sense of complete pointlessness set it. I just can’t do it. It’s pointless to try. I’m just going to let everyone down. People like me do not run 11 miles, never mind half marathons and certainly never mind marathons. The realisation was so so clear – I can’t run.
I don’t know what was worse, that realisation, the disappointment in myself or Kath’s obvious disappointment. I just sobbed. Not the sort of adult crying with tears silently running down your face – the almost dignified crying, no the proper sobbing til you’ve got hiccups kind of crying, the kind that makes your ribcage hurt. I didn’t really stop until we were well over half way back to the car. I didn’t ever want to run again. I was so cross at myself for allowing myself to believe I might be able to do this. I should have known. This wasn’t about anything physical. My leg is fine. Physically I can do 9 miles so chances are I could do 11 and I certainly can do the 1-2 miles I’d done so far. But running – or indeed any exercise – isn’t about the physical. Not when you were the fat kid in school that always got picked last, that never once managed to run the cross country course and that never once got the sports badge. This is about 30 years of knowing that you are not able to do it and 30 years of having that knowledge confirmed at every turn – be that through actions or words. This is about the looks from others as you try, those looks that tell you that they don’t think you should be doing what you’re doing, you don’t belong on that path running along as best you can – ‘get back on that sofa with your packet of crisps’.
I have said a few times that running is the hardest thing I have ever done and it is – not necessarily physically. I used to horse ride a lot as a kid, often in the saddle every day and some of my lessons through university were physically really tough – an hour of trot and canter work without a walk break lets you know you have muscles all over the place as well as functioning lungs. My body can do physical exertion, I can push it, I can do mind over matter and push through barriers. I can, excpet not with running. For 30 years, maybe more – when do you start being conscious of these things? – the World has made it very clear to me that I can’t run, people like me can’t run. Today, on that gorgeously stunning path by the Wharfe I forgot that I’ve never cared much about what the Wolrd tells me I can and can’t do and I believed it.
It is impossible to explain to someone who has always been sporty and has always had an underlying level of fitness and who has always enjoyed sport. Kath has helped so much getting this far and she was really trying today – she tried being nice, she tried being tough, she tried being cross, she tried and she kept telling me I can do this. The thing is, I know she is right, physically I obviously can. I know this because all he evidence suggests I can. I’ve done 9 miles. I had something left in the tank at the end of 9 miles so it is more likely than not that I can do 11 miles. I KNOW but I also know that doesn’t mean I can do it. It just means that it is physically possible but when you’re me, physically possible and achievable are still a million miles apart.
So where does that leave me? Well, I want to go to Disney and I want to run the marathon so there’s only one way forward. I get over today and I get back on the road. I have Thursday and Friday off next week so we are going to aim for 11 miles on the Thursday or Friday morning, depending on what else we have on. We’ll try for 45 minutes tomorrow.
To cheer me up and cheer me on Kath bought me a little wood handcarved duck called Paul. He’s our new little mascot and we’re going to take him with us in the car when we go for our long runs. He looks like he’s shouting encouragement or possibly obscenities – either will probably work for me at the moment.