Saturday, 28 February 2009
Posted by Sarah Pellew
Tomorrow I am running in a race. I signed up for a 10k race, but I think I am going to have to opt for the 5k. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be taking part in running races I would have looked at you as if you needed the men in white coats to take you away. I was heading down the road of plump, dull motherhood at a steady pace, with no self confidence and no ambition.
Then, one day, I stopped and had a look at my life and started to think about what I wanted to achieve. A friend was talking about walking in the Moon Walk - a 26 .2 mile walk, starting at midnight, around London. As I listened to her I began to think that maybe I could do it too. I signed up and started to train. 5 months later I crossed the Finish line, barely able to walk, but I had done it. Yet I did not feel as if I had done myself justice. I still felt a failure.
I signed up for the next year and the next year. And I started to run. There was no plan, it just happened. One minute I was out power walking, training for the next Moon Walk, the next I was jogging. I started to jog more and more and entered some races - first a 5 k that I walked and then the next year I came back and ran it. Little by little my confidence grew and the distances grew. All the time I considered myself a failure... too slow, too fat.
When I signed up for my first half marathon I felt physically sick. The day arrived and I have never felt so afraid. But I did it. 2 hours and 45 minutes in the hot summer sun and the Half Marathon medal was mine. Somewhere in the back of my head a little voice started to whisper " London Marathon, London Marathon" I didn't tell anyone, but I started to apply. It took 6 years, but I got in. All that time I kept running, sometimes faster than others, mostly slow, mostly alone.
So, last year, April, I ran the London Marathon. It took me a long time, nearly 7 hours. I felt sick along the way and had to go into pubs for the loo. The middle 10 miles were awful.I just thought of now... if I can get through this minute, I am closer to the end. But when I hit mile 20 I began to believe. It slowly dawned on me that I was going to make it. I began to overtake people, drawn as if by an invisible chord, pulling me to the Finish. At about 23 miles I felt a blister that ran across the ball of my foot pop and hot liquid soaked my sock, but I kept going.
The finish of the Marathon is past Buckingham Palace and down the Mall. When I got to that point my heart was filled with joy... I saw my Man and my boys on the corner and I have a picture of myself looking at them saying " I'm going to do it!!!"I sprinted down the Mall as fast as I could and crossed the line feeling a million dollars. I didn't feel tired, but elated.
But do you know what? It still wasn't enough. I felt embarrassed at the time it took me. I felt a failure. It has taken me a long time to recover from that race and as I approach tomorrow, unsure if I will be able to make even 5k, I have been thinking.
Because, as I cleaned my house this afternoon and thought about whether I should run tomorrow, I began to realise what I have achieved. Yes, I have failed to run as fast as Paula Radcliffe, or as fast as my friends, yes I am always the one at the back, followed only by sympathetic applause... but I am there. I have got off my backside and followed my dream and when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how fast you are, how slim you are... what matters is having the guts to be the one at the back, or the middle, having the guts to run alone week after week with no reward other than the satisfaction that you got out there.
I am not a failure. I am strong because it is hard to do and not always a joy. I am a success because I dared to try and am not afraid to fail. And tomorrow, as I run through the Finish, I will know that very few of the other people there will have done what I have done. And really it doesn't matter about any of them. What matters is me and I am ok.