Search

Coming to terms with the selfishness of long, long, long distance running...



An off-the-cuff comment from my previous partner, expressing how excluded he felt in the face of my decision to embark on this epic run from Perth to Adelaide and the toll of all the planning and training required, left me a little lopsided the other day. Particularly as, when I did in fact decide that I would run from Perth to Adelaide, I was left reeling when I realised he didn't support it as much as I had anticipated / expected; because he was scared for my wellbeing.


BUT his comment was fair. There is a thread here that I have not quite untangled around the inherent selfishness of this sort of venture - the idea that friends and family, colleagues and strangers will not only help carry the burden but do so without grumble and in full support - no matter how scared they feel about the impact, or how bothersome the interruption to normal life might be - without having been asked beforehand or consulted.

Running like this, at least for me, is not collaborative, until it is, or needs to be.


Maybe, maybe, there is even a personality type that can commit to great big long distance running, or the like - people who are single-minded and possibly more than a little stubborn, less than collaborative and just a bit non-conformist, and able to ignore the cost.


For example...


Cliff Young, the Australian potato farmer who won the annual 543.7-mile (875 kilometre) endurance course from Sydney to Melbourne in 1983 'Cliff was crowned the winner, and the world cheered with him. But when he was handed the $10,000 prize money, Cliff was shocked. He hadn’t realised there was any prize money involved. Instead of pocketing his winnings and heading back to the farm, Cliff decided to give away his prize – sharing it among his fellow runners, much to their delight.'...read more here.

Or.....Marshall Ulrich, who ran across America at 57 years old 'IN FALL 2008, MARSHALL ULRICH COMPLETED the mind-bending and body-breaking equivalent of 117 back-to-back marathons as he ran an average of more than 400 miles a week, and climbed 84,430 feet, in temperatures ranging from below freezing to the upper 90s. He crossed 3,063.2 miles and 12 states on foot from California to New York.' ...read more here.

Or.....Emma Timmis, who completed an 89 day run (3,974 K) across Africa in 2014 'That was it. I had run all the way across Africa, from west to east. Three months of running in the heat and humidity. The flood of emotion I expected never came. I just felt empty. Everything I had spent the last year working towards was over. What a journey. Time to rest my feet.'...read more here.

Or even (new sport)....Alex Honnold, American rock climber best known for his free solo ascents of big walls, in particular his free soloing of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park in 2017, who despite the abject fear of his loved ones, and a cancelled sponsorship in response to the risk involved in his passion, continues to do what he does...read more about Free Solo here.


Just to be really clear that I am NOT in any way aligning my efforts to those listed above - merely showcasing other single-minded individuals out to do something a little, or a lot, crazy.


So, what is the impact:

Financial:

Money spent on running, and Pup and Girl, - shoes / gear / devices & gym memberships, physiotherapy / massage / podiatrists, without assigning any social or cultural value, is money that could be spent on other things. Holidays, travel, garden-stuff, more indoor plants, a better car...etc.

Which isn't to say anyone in my family or circle is going without - bills, mortgage and groceries; always done, even little extras !

Running is definitely on the cheaper end of the 'fitness /activities' cost scale with some fairly obvious candidates resting at the top - motor-racing / sailing / polo / equestrian / skiing - and team sports somewhere in the middle. BUT...

I'll need a couple months off from work (library and yoga teaching), I will need support - crew, vehicles, sponsorship - the financial cost is real and mostly mine to carry.

Time:

The sheer number of hours I spend out on the road / footpath / trails on any given week is already high - October = > 89 hours - and steadily creeping up, up, up.

This is time that I am not using to achieve anything else (in theory, but my brain is busy !) - it is time away from my family / work / other life. It is a time commitment that impacts others.


Emotional:

Being invested in doing something so single-minded leaves little room to take onboard other peoples concerns, even valid ones.

Running balances me - that is a win - training drains me - this is not a win.

Already introverted, a bit shy, quite stubborn, and 'sensitive' means that a bad training session leaves me winded emotionally - a great run has me soaring. It is a bit of a rollercoaster.


Relationships:

A previous write up here, touched briefly on the difficulty of finding a romantic partner while training for this great big run..in reality, I wouldn't date me either (though possibly not only because of the imposition of all the training).

In 2019 Sarah Lavendar Smith wrote an article for 'Trail Runner' called 'Is running a threat to your relationship?'. In which she stated: 'If you love both your partner and your running, it behooves you to spot running-related red flags in your relationship and work with your partner to mediate the conflict. Otherwise, you could be running toward a breakup or stuck in the rut of an unsatisfying relationship.'...great advice, surely!

Other relationships are also at risk - I'm time poor, sometimes emotionally drained, constantly aware of bedtime and routines, eating specific foods but only when it suits me...none of this is especially 'social' or 'friendly', and doesn't make for being a fabulous friend or ally.


Physical:

My feet are disgusting, but otherwise the training and running have little negative physical impact - the occasional 'runners gut' aside.

The great big run / event will tell a different story - lessons learned from the run to Melbourne highlight that a minimum expectation should include:

-blisters

-chaffing

-sunburn

-athletes foot

-nausea / vomiting

-calorie deficit sickness

-urinary tract infections

-bleeding (from anywhere)

-missed mensuration

-changes in taste and thirst

-shin splints

-muscle strain / tears

-aches and pains

-change in liver and kidney function (temporary)

-dehydration

-stress fractures

-skin irritation / rash

-constipation and diarrhoea

-dizziness / fainting

...and probably more than a few moments of roadside crying.

To make peace with my conscious, I practice some mitigations while out running that help me to feel like a 'good citizen',


I...

- get up at 4.30 am to train while the other people in my life sleep, soon to be 4.00 am with the arrival of the warmer weather


- stop at traffic lights and intersections to stay out of the way of vehicles (makes sense right...but I have seen a lot of runners over the years dodge and weave through traffic in hot pursuit of a Personal Best) - and let drivers know that I am aware that I don't have special ownership of the roadways


- If safe to do so, I collect debris off the road to keep cyclists / drivers / motorcyclists / pedestrians safe


- relocate muddled bugs, beetles, snails and butterflies from footpaths to nearby gardens


- always step out of the way of other footpath users - with or without the hounds. If a dog is one of the fellow footpath users we move to the other side of the road -without the hounds I slow to a walk so as not to startle any four legged friends


- pick up knocked over rubbish bins


- sing out cheery good mornings to all and sundry, including animals (foxes, birds, cats)


- and obviously (I hope) I stop to check in / chatter / giggle / commiserate with vulnerable people I find along the way


..which brings me nicely to the WHY...


I have spent a great deal of time recently musing on 'love' - perhaps this is a whole other write up for another day, as this is already a long read...BUT in brief;


I am aware of my failings to communicate love in overt ways - if you've ever received a book (or dozen), unsolicited reading recommendations, plants or flowers or pebbles, long rambling communications, or absurdly short replies, the chances are that you are deeply imbedded into my heart and I adore you, but all sorts of fear and trauma stifle my ability to express that in healthy functional ways...working on it, I promise.


I am also aware that the same fear and trauma is seemingly absent when I have a short time, maybe even only one shot, to express (with sincerity) how much I care for a fellow human in front of me - sleeping rough / doing it tough / expressing trauma. The English language fails us when it come to describing the sheer range and varying depth of emotion all cloaked as 'love', at least colloquially. There is a sensation of blankness that washes over me, my own ego, wants and needs deleted, and replaced with a deep sense of compassion, and desire to reflect the others worth, no matter what brought them to this moment.


Every story, smile, giggle, tear shed, moment of anguish, touch, absurd conversation shared with a person experiencing homelessness takes up space inside me, and that is why I HAVE TO do this run, and why it will never be enough, regardless of the cost.


Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible... Dalai Lama

xxxx










-







81 views0 comments