The mind of the long distance runner

I’m going to London tomorrow to watch the marathon, in support of a friend who is running it for the first time.  She came for a cup of tea and a flapjack this week, and I tried very hard but probably failed to put into words what a marathon is like.

Possibly I’m not the best person to explain. I such have strong associations of London and other distance running with Juliette.  Before she died, living with her illness seemed like a marathon. “Just a little bit further,” we told ourselves. “Keep going, we’re nearly there, the pain won’t last forever.”  I didn’t know it was a race we’d all lose in the end.

Steph and I took up running at different times after Juliette died, both entering different half marathons a few months after we pulled on running shoes for the first time.  I don’t think we run for the same reasons, however.  Steph is naturally competitive and good at sport, although he never used to run.  He said once that if pain and tiredness creep up on him he makes himself think about what Juliette went through, and that makes him go on.  For me it’s more about running away from the pain, squeezing out out thoughts with training schedules. And I fear there’s a bit of self-flagellation for still being here, when my little girl can’t be.  Perhaps for both of us, long distance running is a way to test the endurance we must surely have to survive the death of one of our children. 

I haven’t been running much lately.  My psychiatrist spotted the glint in my eye when I talked about it and suggested I ease up for a while, but I will run another marathon.  Not this year.  It seems fair to let my brain recover and I want to be fully fit, mentally.  I’ll be entering the ballot for London 2012 just as soon as it opens, though.

I’m posting some pictures of my family, if only to show we aren’t always steeped in misery.

Happy holiday days for Elodie and Celeste

Steph, Pierre and a serious Raphi

3 thoughts on “The mind of the long distance runner

  1. Yes, I am the least competitive, least sporty person I know, but I can see how the endurance metaphor works at all levels… It reminds me of the poem, If:If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they have gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you. Except the Will which says to them; Hold on!I didn't realise you needed to enter a lottery to run a marathon – I suppose it's obvious you would have to!

  2. Petra, thank you. xSusan, great lines. That's my father's favourite poem and very apt for marathon running. Training is largely about getting your brain to ignore the the body's cries of, "STOP, FFS!!"

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