Welcome to the Dark Side
I would love to title this piece “My road to Comrades” or some other inspirational running title. If inspirational marathon motivation is what you are after, you are not going to get it here. Probably never.
To start off did I mention that running is hard and it hurts? It hurts in all places. And it seems kind of stupid doesn’t it. I mean running. To where? From what? The functionality in the very verb made sense for our ancestors. Fleeing from toothy beasts or chasing down the Sunday roast, but we are in the age of Uber eats for crying out loud. There is simply no need.
Running is undoubtedly for insane people and I now proudly wear that badge. I even have a license number to prove that I am part of the crazy club. Oh and I am about to run 56km ( say that slowly- fifty six kilometers) on Table Mountain and other parts of Cape Town. The 2 Oceans Ultra Marathon. They call it….”The world’s most beautiful marathon”. Can you hear the laughter? It is nervous laughter and a bit of an excited cackle but yes I am doing that. The beautiful marathon thing. And it feels great. Let me tell you how I got to a point in my life, where I am writing a blog on running a stupidly long distance.
After a few years of running 10kms and 21kms I decided I would like to do more, do better. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am by no means one of those people. The over achieving kind I mean. I am a good time girl. I like wine and dancing and sometimes singing karaoke (depends on the amount of wine). But who am I kidding? I have kids; and wine and dancing go with kids about as well as pins in eyes. And besides, I would like to give my children somebody that they can look up to. Be proud of. I needed a new kind of good time, where I could blow off some steam and feel good about myself. Jeez, I am sure that’s why they invented Crossfit; 1 hour of lifting (bruh) and go home. I chose running, many hours in the hot sun and have I mentioned chafe? There is a whole story on chafe believe me. But back to doing better…..
My friend, a runner, but the for-real kind, told me casually at a kids party that she had this amazing coach and that he had changed her running. I was intrigued. I liked the idea of having some structure and guidance. But this is the thing about running. It is the idea. The idea of you running down the road, the wind in your face, your cute lumo pink Nikes pounding the tar as you check your Garmin to see how far you have gone and that you are still alive. Sounds dreamy doesn’t it? The real world of running is quite different. It’s gutsy and sweaty and sore. It’s long and testing. It’s also oddly addictive. That sense of accomplishment is, I think, the catnip that gets us all. When you do something new, better. When you feel and see yourself doing speeds and distances you would never have imagined. I would never have known this feeling had I not made that phone call to let’s call him “coach”.
In 7 short months I have gone from really nothing more than an urban runner, (this I believe is a term given to a person who runs short distances in the very trendiest of gear) to a marathon runner. Can I get a hoooo-Rah!? It’s a wonderful feeling. Not to run a marathon. That is tough and very painful, but afterwards to look at all that hard work that went into it and there is a tangible result. And believe me when I say tangible I mean you can feel it every time you walk down the stairs. Its not without its other dark moments. Did you know that you actually run with your brain? Not just your brain telling your legs to go forward but your psychological brain. The brain that makes the call between “I can” and the dreaded “I can’t!”
I am 2 weeks away from running the furthest distance that I have ever run. And what do you know, my brain has stopped working. Along with a crummy hamstring injury, I feel like I need to book a room at Tara. For those of you who don’t know, Tara is a well know mental institution. The problem is my running brain has started to malfunction. Panic has set in. Honestly this week I could have set my running shoes on fire and watched them burn while I drank a bottle of whiskey. You know like a female version of Jason Statham. Fortunately since the shoes are new and I really cant stomach the taste of whiskey neat, the shoes survived. But I have entered what I now call “the dark side” of running. And trust me it is not the cool ”dark side” that you are thinking of from Star Wars. I would drink tea with Darth Vader before joining the running dark side.
Apart from the room at Tara I had pretty much given up and decided that, that was it for me. After a very tough 21km run on Sunday where I barely felt like I could scrape together the 21km’s and having a full out sob on my husbands shoulder on the side of a major road, I had given up. I was sore, and I could not see the wood from the trees. I would certainly not be doing 56kms in 2 weeks. To most people this sounds like an easy situation to fix. No problem, there is always next year. I could always just run the 21km at Oceans. Yes that was it I would run the 21km and next year I would tackle this again. *eye roll* any runner will understand that this feels like a massive failure.
I went to see my physio this morning and cried again. I have cried a decent amount in 2 days. And finally somebody reminded me of what exactly it is I am trying to do. And there was absolutely no way that I was going to fly to Cape Town on the Easter weekend to run 21km. No Ma’am. I was GOING to run the worlds most beautiful marathon, I was going to eat an ice cream on Chapmans peak and I was going to damn well finish what I started. (she is also a runner and you can sort of see how the nutty is a common thread).
There you have it. Sometimes all you need is a little reminder of what you set out to do and how you would feel if you didn’t do it. I will leave you with this; “Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent”
By: Tarryn Ostrom