1lb gain; 31lb total; 9lb in 2014.
I have just returned from supporting at this years Virgin London marathon. The running club had four runners this year. For two of them it would be their first marathon. Just under 9 months after they joined our beginners group as complete novices.
I was in London supporting under the banner of the Children’s Trust. A charity we have worked closely with over the last six years. Happily I was able to see, Lisa and Liz two or three times, and they both did brilliantly, finishing in just under six hours.
Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone about what constitutes ‘good’. The conversation was specifically to do with running and the theme has kind of followed me around all week.
The concept of ‘good’ is a difficult one to define. Indeed, the two of us found it difficult as we discussed what it actually meant. So, what does constitute ‘good’ when we talk about exercise and performance. And why is it important?
Being defined as a ‘runner’ is a label that apparently comes with a lot of weight. We consistently see lots of people whose first words uttered as the walk through the shop door is that they are not runners (despite running regularly). This used to baffle me immensely, but after further questioning, it turns out most avoid the label because they think they are not ‘good’ at it (AKA fast enough).
So, good it appears, seems to be all about ‘perception’. And the perception of ‘good’ appears to be all about speed. But speed only appears to be relevant when we start to compare; either ourselves with others or indeed others against others. So for example, Mo Farah, (5000m and 10000m double Olympic and World champion) was deemed to be a failure today because he finished eighth overall in a time of 2:08:21. The Guardian headline screams ‘Debutant at distance fails in attempt to break British record’ although Farah never stated that was his target. But do you know what, 2:08 for a debut performance for a 10,000m specialist sounds like a bloody good performance to me.
Yet despite being over an hour slower than Mo, Alan was officially deemed ‘good for age’ after his Brighton marathon performance last week. His 3:16:08 was under the 3:20:00 required for the ‘good for age’ qualification time set by the London Marathon board.
And, according to the organiser of the Chester Marathon, anyone who was expected to finish a marathon in over six hours was deemed to be not good enough to enter their race at all. A spokesman was quoted on Facebook this week saying ‘if you cannot finish in under 6 hours you should not be doing a marathon’. Not good news for 1000’s of marathoners who finished London (and raising thousands of pounds for good causes in the process) in over six hours today.
I started to run marathons because most people admired the medal and not the time. But according to the Chester man, since quite of few of my finish times are over six hours, I shouldn’t have bothered. Since in his eyes, my time wasn’t good enough.
And what about if we move away from marathons and consider other distances?
A friend has only just built up the courage to enter a female only 5 mile race targeted at beginners because she feels she is too slow. Yet, in the same race last year, a runner said to me that we are winners because are off the couch and participating in the race.
In the Knacker Cracker this year, I was awarded join first placed lady with Pauline and also finished last in a time that made Alan’s heart sink into his boots. He would have much preferred us not to go with the ‘brave’ option because we were so slow.
One of my most inspirational runners is J. Who has a parkrun PB 47.17 and finished the Ashtead 10k in 1:47:00. She is inspirational because she trains consistently, and has done so for the last three or so years. And because she was brave enough to keep coming back to the running club even when she found week 1 a struggle.
Running has always been an individual sport. And I honestly believe, despite the naysayers and the critics and the judgemental people we occasionally cross paths with, the only way to truly measure good, is to compare your performances with yourself and no one else. And thank goodness for that. For if I compared myself consistently to Alan I would never, ever bother to get off the couch.
So, well done to all of you who have ever come last in a race or finished a marathon in over six hours or indeed 8th overall at your first attempt, or struggled with week 1 of the beginners group but were brave enough to come back and carry on. Because, at least, compared to your former selves or the alternative (sat on the couch) you are good. And I sincerely applaud you.
I’m busting a gut at the moment to just complete an Ironman. In 11 weeks time, even if I have the performance of my life, I’m going to be fairly close to the cut off. Not good in many peoples eyes, but good enough for me. And do you know what, that’s all that counts.