I grew up amongst a few monsters. Their names were Carlton Ave, Dawncliffe Road, and Kew Avenue. The fact that Vista avenue was the choice is like a Republican choosing between Trump and Cruz. My excuse is that I moved age 13, but my block of choice was just 1.8km. Just over a mile. I could be done and dusted with any training I was doing before people knew I was gone. I knew that instead of Vista-Trevor-Carlton (loved that I had my own road nearby), I could brave Vista-Hillside-Cotswold-(Kew-)Carlton, but I left that up to my big brothers. You only added Kew if you were nuts. Even cars struggled with the climb. The hilly nature of Westville shrunk my world to about a 5km radius. The beaches of Durban were 14km away and became a rare visit.
Trevs, Trees and Hills
I often tried out for things. I would have been called a 'Try Hard'. I seldom really trained hard. With my body changing so much, I figured maybe I will have become good at something that I wasn't good at the year before. I would sometimes make the reserves of the B team for athletics. By pitching up for practice week after week, someone would fall out and I would get a chance to run in the team. Or jump. Or throw. Whatever team didn't have enough players.
About a year and a half ago, I read 'Born to Run' in which one of the main characters is Scott Jurek. He is like the Lance Armstrong of Ultramarathons without the money, and without the drugs. The interesting thing is that he wasn't ridiculously awesome at short distances. He just enjoyed it, and carried on doing it. His trick was that he didn't do a little less than those who were talented. He did a little more. The theory being that if you want to do well, just carry on running. People slowly drop out.
A friend of mine who is ridiculously spider-like on walls and has ranked highly in both South Africa and the world said he wasn't very good to start. He just carried on. Jurek's best marathon time is 2h38min. That isn't very quick. The world record is 2:02:57. Jurek just carried on running. My friend just carried on climbing.
I don't regard myself as even close to a natural athlete. I have always spent more time on reading and creative pursuits than exercise. I will admit to buying into the western separation of the body and the mind. This can lead to exercise feeling a little like a distraction from work or study. I now believe the opposite. That if you just treat your body as a transportation devise for your head (see Ken Robinson), your head won't work as well. So I am chipping away at the years of sitting at a desk slowly.
Today I ran my first half marathon in Las Vegas. In two weeks time, I will be attempting my first marathon, with my brother, in Stratford-upon-Avon (The Shakespeare Marathon). I really enjoyed seeing the range of people running, and the range of goals. The winner shot home in 1 hour and 10 minutes. More impressive to me are the people still coming home well after Jurek would have finished a marathon. Pushing on after 3 hours. Trying to catch the person in front of them. Just trying to run the next 100 metres before thinking about the following 100 metres. I tried to run while keeping my breathing ok. Feeling comfortable till I got to halfway. I then focused on the runner in front of me... using my breath as my pacemaker. If someone past me, I tried to pass two people. Chip. Chip. Chip.
On the floor after my first half
My goal wasn't competitive. My time would still make me reserve for the B team, waiting for someone to drop out. But by taking on more hills, more Cotswolds, and with the help of my brother, more Kews, whether or not I regarded myself as an athlete at the start is irrelevant. I will be able to run further, with more comfort, and expand my world beyond a 1.8km block.
Take the Kews life presents.