In just over two months time I will run a marathon for the first time. I’m not remotely ready, either mentally or physically. I am not where I should be. That sounds familiar. I don’t think I say it often, I don’t think I think it often, not any more, but I feel like I hear it. The feeling of not being where we should be is rife among us, and it’s a thief. It robs us of imagination. Shoves us into a thought box of dwelling on what we don’t want to be, instead of asking for what we do. At the heart of every should is an underlying message of a parallel path that we are meant for but may have veered from. No. Now. This. This road. This run. This second. Don’t conform to the shoulds. At least not without questioning them.
My shoulds had started to mount up softly until they had made their own hill for me to run up: I’m heavier than I should be for my skeleton to stay happy. I train three times a week, should be five. What I do do makes me hungry, so I eat, and whilst I am probably the fittest I’ve been in years, I’m also the fattest.
Part of me is enjoying bucking the ‘runner bean’ archetype. Truth is I’d love to be smaller. At the moment I’m being vegan before 6pm. It gives one gas. Girls shouldn’t smell like this.
Should. Shouldn’t. Should. Shouldn’t.
Lots of kind people have sponsored me. We’ve raised hundreds for Macmillan. I’ve been through three pairs of trainers. I’ve ran hundreds of miles across Yorkshire, Tyneside, Carmarthenshire, Barcelona, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Gran Canaria and Seaham. The glamour. Pounding concrete and grass underfoot with stars overhead, oceans next door, dodging dogshit, uphill, downhill. I’ve sprained my ankle quite badly (it’s still bulbous), displaced my pelvis, locked myself out of the house twice – both times after a ten miler, covered in my own salt, calling my landlady for help – and now I don’t remember why I said I would do it in the first place.
Instead of becoming more obsessed about attaining a particular time, I’ve reached the stage of I Don’t Care. I’ll walk it all if I have to, all 26.1 miles. I’m doing it because I’ve said I will, because people have given money to a good cause, but mostly because I want to. Even if it takes me seven hours and costs me my friendship with my knees.
‘Winning’ is finishing. Wobbles and all. Balls to Shoulds.