An article I once read by Guardian author Tim Lott has been jangling around in my head a lot lately. The crux of it is, you’re more likely to be simply content in your life without children, but you experience much higher highs and lower lows as a parent, and so you can’t really choose one over the other.
I can’t comment on the original claim (though I am childless and pretty much happy as a clam), but the idea definitely resonates – it makes me think of my marathon training. When I’m just running normally, with no particular goal in mind, if I were to grade my runs on a scale of 0-10, they’d generally fall into the 6-8 score. Sometimes my legs feel a bit tired, and sometimes it all falls into place and I feel wonderful. It’s simply a source of entertainment and contentment.
I’m currently 5 weeks from my second marathon, and have experienced blazes of joy, alongside crushing self-doubt and despair. My best runs can be transcendental, a total 11 off the scale happy and wonderful, while my worst send me crashing down to 0. Sometimes the two can even happen on one run. (As you may remember from my marathon race report…)
Last week while on holiday, I did a 17 miler along Poole seafront, into Bournemouth. The weather was seemingly perfect – weak sun, interspersed with tiny bits of drizzle to keep me cool. I was proud to be out on my big run and had some fantastic playlists to keep me company. For 9 miles I felt wonderful, I was aglow, until I reached Boscombe Pier and it was time to turn around – straight into a wall of wind. Of course I’d felt great – the wind had been in my back for 90 minutes and I hadn’t realised!
The next 7 miles were challenging, fighting against the wind. By mile 14, my breathing was jagged and I let out a little sob or two. WHY am I marathon training? I hate this. I sat on a garden wall, my face all twisted in frustration and disappointment with myself. Who did I think I was? Why bother? A stranger in a car actually stopped and asked me if I was okay.
Then, a mile from being done, like clouds skittering over a blue sky – sunshine was back, literally and figuratively. I felt joy at being finished, pride in my longest run this year, and relief that I had been more capable than I knew. I suppose I’d be content doing 10Ks and running with my lovely running group – but marathon runners aren’t content with content. There’s something that needs a bit more.
Besides, it’ll all be worth it in 5 weeks, right?
Would you ever run a marathon? What have been some of your best and worst training experiences?