Monday, April 25, 2016

Chariots of Fire

I had a grand blog post bubbling in my head as I started my first Marathon yesterday. It was 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. I was running the Stratford-upon-Avon Marathon with my brother as his 40th birthday present. We were aiming for 4 hours. 400-40-4 seemed to have a beautiful rhythm. One that was meant to be. But it wasn't the real goal. The real goal was time with my brother, and qualification for the Comrades. Until two weeks previously I had always been aiming to run just fast enough to qualify. So 6:30 min per kilometre would get me to the finish line with a little buffer beneath the required 5 hours.

It was both of our first Marathons but my brother has been running plenty of half marathons. He is doing the build up to longer distances properly. 18 months ago I hadn't even run more than 10km. I then got challenged to run a Marathon, and that got bumped up to a challenge to run the Comrades after I had a long chat with John McInroy and got inspired by the Unogwaja story.

Two weeks ago, I ran my first official Half Marathon and I surprised myself on the positive side. I had no idea what sort of time I could run other than from my training runs which were close to the slow qualification time required. A speed at which I could chat. A speed at which I could breathe easily. A speed at which running is comfortable and enjoyable. I had slowly built up distance by long walks and gradually venturing further. No rush. It turned out that with the additional motivation of others on the road, I comfortably ran faster while still breathing properly.

This meant I was pretty confident yesterday. I had upped (downed?) the goal target to 4 hours, while emphasising that qualification was the real aim. But, I would have like to reach the 4 hours. I kept the pace up till around the 20 mile mark. With 10 km to the wheels fell off a little. They didn't fall off so much as slowly, they just refused to turn at the steady pace. My breathing was still fine. My energy was still fine. My legs just started saying, 'Not so much Trev you muppet.'

The last 10km were at closer to 10 minutes per kilometre than the 5:41/km I had been running for 3 hours at. I was still smiling. Mostly. My brother was doing most of the talking though. I am a lucky guy to have someone who enjoyed his birthday gift being helping me qualify. We pushed on and finished with a glorious rendition of Chariots of Fire. My lungs were fine. The exhibitionist in me was still fine. The song choice was fine. It made the slow motion look intentional.

I have a month to go. When that comes, I am going to have 12 hours to finish 89km. If 20km of that is at 10 minutes a kilometre, I need to run the rest at 7:30/km. It will be about preservation. It will be about the Comrades around me. It will be about the race I grew up watching. Not just a run. A story.

I will be part of the Red Love Train. This will be a group running with the members of the Unogwaja team. They will have cycled from Cape Town to the start of the race over the 10 preceding days. Roughly 100 miles a day. All this is not about a cycle and a plod. The team members and the Unogwaja Light Fund aim to release the passion and potential of those who need help to help themselves. To walk with them because people have walked with us. To see them because people have seen us. The focus is on primary school education. 

I write a lot on my blog about Community Building. I have more questions than answers. Like my running, I don't think you wake up one day and decide to head out and run the Comrades. It is a long process. Understanding the obstacles. Slowly chipping away at them. Making sure you enjoy the process. Making sure you breathe properly while doing it. My first marathon didn't go quite as smoothly as I would have liked, but I made it across the finish line.

Time for the next step.

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