James Kelly’s Marathon Blog

Lent Term’s first installment of JAMES KELLY’s marathon blog

James Kelly London Marathon marathon

It’s been a long time since we last spoke, and a lot of things have changed.

Rage Against the Machine have become relevant again – well, momentarily at least – the country’s finally dug itself out of the “Big Freeze”, the world’s leaders agreed a comprehensive strategy for tackling climate change, 3D cinema has revolutionised the way we see movies and…wait, those last two things didn’t happen?  And neither did we learn the date of the General Election?  And Ant and Dec won the award for Best Presenters yet again?  Did anything change?

Well, yes, actually.  The calendar turned over to 2010, the marathon grew another month closer, and I went to a meeting.  There was a small crowd assembled to hear my confession.  “Hello everyone, I’m James and I have a problem.  I first noticed it on New Year’s Eve, 2009 when I had a quiet and early night so as to avoid compromising training the next day.”  Me and I nodded knowingly.  Myself seemed to be asleep.  It’s those morning runs, you know.

Okay, perhaps I’ve over-dramatised my obsession with training, but there’s no doubt that the marathon engenders a near-obsessive desire to pound the pavement, meander through the mud and trawl the trails.  It’s a vicious cycle, really.  Part of the obsession arises out of fear; the distance is long, the run will demand ever ounce of physical and mental energy, and the mathematics of what must be done…well, let’s just say that I’d rather try to prove Stokes’ Theorem than contemplate the maths of the marathon.  (There’s one for all you Mathmos out there!)  And the more you train, the worse it gets: we could pretend that the other part embraces the feeling of physical and mental freedom and purity that running provides.  But we all know it’s the endorphins.

Me and I were pretty sympathetic, and it seemed that they too were suffering under the burden of scorned pub invitations, early nights and light meals in the name of training.  Myself was a bit more phlegmatic about it all, though.  He likes to think he’s done it all before, and, awakening from his slumber, he reminded us to keep in mind the main reason for running the marathon in the first place.  “What, to beat First Elvis?” Me asked?  If looks could kill…  “No, it’s about the enjoyment of it; the challenge of developing discipline, strength and self-awareness, the memories of training days when everything clicked, the brilliant atmosphere on race day and the complete euphoria upon finishing.  Have fun with it.”

And you know what, he’s right.  The reason we do the training is to enjoy the race – whether that enjoyment comes from running a particular time, beating a particular competitor, or just finishing in the first place.  So why drive ourselves to misery by obsessing over the training?  Sure, there will be mornings when we need to use all of our motivational tricks to get out there.  The race won’t be any fun if you’re not fit.  But life needn’t be whipped repeatedly by the marathon.  It’s okay to have a bit of balance, to have a bit of a social life.  And, God forbid, to do a bit of academic work.  If you can’t enjoy life, you can’t enjoy training and you won’t enjoy the race.  I think that’s what Myself was saying.  I couldn’t confirm it, though, because he fell asleep again.  Lazy git.

The running itself is mostly a pleasure.  It’s certainly more fun than proving Stokes’ Theorem.  But if you see me at the cinema or the pub or out about town over the next few weeks, please don’t phone David Attenborough to report the sighting of an endangered species.  Help me to follow Myself’s advice.

Though if you’ve got somewhere to be, don’t ask me about marathon training…