“April is the cruellest month” quoth T.S. Eliot in 1922. It is now generally acknowledged amongst literary scholars that it was to the London Marathon he was referring (no source material is provided to support this assertion).
Whether you yourself are out there pounding the streets or your social media scrolling is disrupted by fundraising pleas or perhaps you’re just a poor Londoner who ventured into central forgetting what day it is; the marathon refuses to pass by unnoticed.
This year I’ll be joining the throngs of first time marathon runners on 28th April, hoping desperately to survive the 26.2 miles around the capital. For me this is long overdue, I signed up for the marathon in October 2017 but after falling (being tripped) during a netball game and tearing the cartilage in my knee last January, I had to defer.
One thing that has spurred me on in my training; made me get out of bed and on to the treadmill or kept me moving when all I wanted to do was stop, has been remembering the 4 exercise-less months that followed the fall (the very clear contact that didn’t even get called up). I have always been active, if I’d been into playing the Spice Girls as a kid (I was NOT), then I’d have been Sporty Spice. One of my first responses if I find that I’m feeling a bit glum or have been in a bit of a funk for a while is to trace back to when I last exercised and, more often than not, once I get that endorphin hit, everything feels a little bit brighter. Not having that relief was tough for me, almost as tough as losing out on all the carb-loading I’d so vigorously planned for.
But now I’m back at it and I’ve realised it’s not just the endorphins, it’s the idea that every week I set myself goals and I achieve them, or if I don’t, I will next week. Whether it’s just getting out the front door and jogging around the block or it’s setting out on a 16 mile run, the sense of having conquered something is a feeling I don’t think we experience often enough and certainly one we don’t allow ourselves to stay in for long. I’m trying to teach myself to take a second to self-congratulate and recognise my achievements. Sure, I accidentally fist pumped into the confused face of a stranger when I first hit 14 miles and sure I was travelling at a snail’s pace when I got there, but the physical celebration felt so so sweet. I guess it’s why footballers do it so much.
I’ve watched a lot of Queer Eye recently (the whole new series in 2.5 days, and what?) and am actively trying to invest in myself and make time for self-care. I realise that I am “showing up for myself” (Karamo Brown, 2018-19, Queer Eye, Season 1-3, every episode) every time I put my trainers on and more than that, every time I push through a new barrier, things that seemed out of reach, now seem like they might just be possible. And, of course, the greatest act of self-care is the post-run long soak in the bath followed by the largest meal I can muster and a pint of delicious beer, all completely and utterly guilt-free.
I am so grateful to have a body that can carry me and allow me to run and that appreciation is another thing that helps me overcome the wall. As my head dips and my pace slows, I force myself to recognise this privilege and remember what I’m running for. I’m running for Women’s Aid, a charity so desperately important but so terrifyingly threatened by cuts. In reality my discomfort will be fleeting and whilst 5 hours (or so) will feel like a lifetime, this hurdle is a tiny thing to overcome when you look at what the brilliant Women’s Aid achieve and I bet they never get a chance to indulge in some self-congratulation between saving lives every, single, day.
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