Monday, 27 May 2013

Marathon Running, Time and the Small Matter of the Meaning of Life

On Sunday I ran the Edinburgh Marathon. It was my fourth marathon in less than a year and came just five weeks after the last marathon I ran - the London Marathon.

In truth I ran it because I was disappointed with the way I had run the London Marathon. In the London Marathon I had run far too fast at the beginning and had faded at the end. As one friend put it; “I went off like a hare and finished like a tortoise”. My thinking behind registering for the Edinburgh marathon just a month later was if you fall off a horse the best thing you can do is get back on it. I knew I could run far faster than I had run the London marathon and all I needed was another opportunity to prove it. Well that was the idea at least.

I ran a far more intelligent race at Edinburgh starting slowly and increasing my speed as I went. But I still slowed down over the last eight miles and my final time was even slower than my London marathon by 40 seconds.

Time gives marathon running meaning.

I finished the Edinburgh marathon in 3 hours, 14 minutes and 31 seconds. But it is the 40 seconds which make the difference between this being a worse marathon than the previous one. It is 3 minutes and 35 seconds which stopped it being my best marathon ever and I had four minutes of solace for it not being my worst ever marathon time.

Regardless how good you are as a runner; whether it is your first marathon or you are an elite Kenyan marathon athlete; time counts. The first time novice runner sometimes just say it’s just about finishing the marathon but that is not true. Almost anybody can complete 26.2 miles but not everyone can complete it in eight hours (normally the cut off time for most modern marathon races to be completed). Implicit in the novice’s idea of “just wanting to finish the marathon” is a sense of time.

But as well as looking at the seconds, minutes and hours maybe I should be looking at the weeks and years.

It was foolhardy to think I could run a personal best (PB) just five weeks after running a really tough marathon in London which really took it out of my body. But at 42 years old I don’t know how many PB’s I have left in me which is why I was desperate to run again, also at 42 my body also takes a longer time to recover. Like it or not marathon running reminds me that I am human and like all living things subject to decay and death - regardless how much I am often in denial about this.

The sense of meaning that time gives the marathon just brings into sharp focus how time gives all life meaning.

From my age in decades to the seconds I am trying to shave off my best marathon time. I think about my life in important moments that are too small to be captured even by seconds and years that just seem to slip through my fingers and I don’t even know where they went.

The Edinburgh marathon taught me an important lesson.

After the London marathon I thought I could just effortlessly erase my London marathon experience and supplant it with a faster better Edinburgh marathon time and experience. Instead I realise that marathons are such large events in anybody’s life and on anybody’s body that you can’t just pretend they didn’t happen.

Important events in our lives are the real measurement of time in our lives.

Marathon running is great because they take time and we are forced to live with their consequences for months and sometimes years - whether we like it or not.

I want to get a faster a better PB but what will make that PB amazing when I finally get it is that it took me time to achieve.

(The picture today is of my four marathon medals)

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