India has always been near the top of my ‘bucket list’ of countries that I want to visit. Therefore, imagine my excitement when the opportunity to race this year’s Delhi half marathon presented itself. Not only would it allow me to run through the streets of a wonderfully unique city but with the main group going off at 61.45 pace, it would provide the chance to run a relatively fast half marathon time. As I embarked on the long haul flight to Delhi, I was in optimistic mood.
Training started back in mid-September following a short break from the summer exploits. Toeing the line is one of the most enjoyable things about running. My coach, Andy, however takes a different approach in his coaching. Races must have a purpose with something to be gained from competing. They are fitted into the schedule only when I am ready to race. When I am ready to perform. For these few months, we both agreed that I would race more frequently. With no pressure, racing would be for the sole purpose of enjoyment.
Training has been progressing smoothly over the past two months. Having raced six times in eight weeks, my weekly training routine has been little more than racing, recovering and then preparing to go again. Life is spent travelling from hotel to hotel, my suitcase permanently filled. Having such raw data to track my improvement, I knew that I was coming in to the Delhi half on the upslope of a curve back to fitness. Each race was better than the last and I felt ready to push on to that next level.
With the race beginning at 6.40am, it was to be an early start on race day. As the starting gun went off, I strode out, beside the shoulder of the great, recent Olympic marathon champion, Eliud Kipchoge. Settling into my pace and hoping to tick off the miles, I quickly realised that everything was not going to plan. By the third mile, I was drifting back from the paced group. While the legs and body felt strong, the lungs were not on the same page. I was having difficulty taking deep breaths and my nostrils were filled with the smell of smoky fumes. As I struggled round the course, it was apparent that it was not to be my day. Finishing in a distant 64.42, I knew that it would be a long journey home.
Later that evening, during the half marathon closing ceremony, Eliud Kipchoge was invited up on to the stage. He was asked what advice he had for those runners seeking to improve. His answer struck a cord with me. ‘Keep pushing’, he answered. ‘Do not accept where you are at now but rather look towards where you want to be and work out a plan to get there.’ To me, running is the pursuit of unattainable perfection. Despite knowing that I will need to settle for less than perfect, it is in the trying that I find happiness through running. Often, I talk about achieving my potential and running a time that reflects my potential. In reality, however, my ‘potential’ is simply the point where I am happy to accept that less than perfection is the only sensible option. I am not yet at that point in my training or my life, nor do I intend to be for several years to come. For now, the drive is still on.
On the flight home, I watched the film ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, a Robin Williams classic that I had never seen before. It is a film to stir up the thinker inside each viewer and I highly recommend it to anyone who has forgotten what their dream in life might be. Having watched the film, the thought prominent in my mind is the old saying, Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Let no chance go unwanted and no opportunity lie wasted. In the Delhi race, I found little more than disappointment. This weekend at the Irish cross country trials, I have an opportunity to quickly get back on track. I am now mentally ready to stop racing for fun and get back into solid training. With 2017 just around the corner, it is time for the hard work to begin again. As Robin Williams states, ‘We are all little more than fodder for worms.’ Carpe Diem. Live for today.