This week my Twitter friends have been making me think about decisions, in particular how we balance all the things we want to do in lif. We can't do it all, and that's probably just as well, and I realised I had a choice to make.
The other day, Rhona, decided to postpone her ultra marathon until next year, a difficult choice. Rhona is a very committed runner and the person that told me a fact that changed my running life. Lots of running means losing your toenails. I was horrified when I read that.
I know it sounds vain and superficial, but I am very fond of my toenails. One of my favourtite things about summer is wearing sandals and letting my tootsies enjoy the fresh air and a paddle. And the icing on the tootsie cake? Painted toenails. Pretty painted toenails make me smile and make me feel good. I do not want to lose my toenails, not even for running.
Does this make me vain? Superficial? Or worse - does this mean that I am not a real runner? Well for some folk it might well do. Losing your toenails is a bit of a badge of honour and I am at risk of being seen as a flighty sort of thing. Well maybe I am. Painted toe nails are at the frivolous end of the spectrum, but does that mean I shouldn't want to keep them?
I also had a very interesting Twitter conversation about marathons and how some people assume that if you're a runner, you'll run marathons and there's something odd if you don't. All this made me think again about why I was embarking on my marathon. It's no small commitment and does take over your life, so why amd I doing it?
There can be a presumption in running, that the only way is up. It's partly because we like to enourage each other to stretch ourselves, to get better, faster, further, higher. Now I know I am very susceptible to group encouragement and get swept along by enthusiasm. And there's no doubt that my sights and goals have been lifted by the twitterati. I have pushed myself further than I would have ever thought possible because of supportive tweets and tweeps. That has been amazing and I am very grateful to my twitter friends for that.
Stephen sent us a link to his blog on why he's a runner who doesn't run marathon events. A blog he wrote because people kept asking him to run this and that marathon. It's an interesting read - Stephen runs how own race in his own way. I think he makes an excellent case for not doing marathons!
It made me think again about my motivation. There is a fine line between pushing ourselves to be the best we can be, to realise our own inner goals, and pushing ourselves to keep up or to conform to what others think we should do. Maybe because we want to belong, maybe because we really like and admire them and want to be like them.
So, why do I want to run a marathon? Am I going to run a marathon just because other people think that's what runners do and I want to be a proper runner? Am I prepared to put running first? Hmmm.
Well I know well where the impulse comes from. It comes from watching the London Marathon in the 1980s, where I was overcome with admiration and awe. Lots of people run marathons now, but in those days it was only just becoming a mass participation thing and marathon runners were quite rare and exotic creatures.
I wanted to be one of them, and I still do. I want to say when I shuffle off this mortal coil that I ran a marathon. Just one, with a medal I will treasure. I don't want to be a marathon runner, I just want to run a marathon. I know it will be one of the biggest and proudest achievements of my life. I could just run 26.2 miles on my own, but I am going to do an event because I want the whole experience, despite all the rubbish bits.
At the moment, I realised that I can't put running first. I don't want to run loads of marathons. I don't want to run an ultra. I want to run one single marathon. But I will keep running, it 's part of who I am now. I want to run and have a life - time with family and friends, work hard, read, cycle, do Zumba and I want to keep my toenails. That's the balance I want and so I have to compromise. I can't have all that and run marathons.
So I have decided, at least as things are now. One marathon next May. Toenail friendly training. Maybe I'll focus on running in places I want to visit or with tweeps I want to meet. My cousin Katie and I are hoping to do the Edinburgh Half Marathon next April.
Maybe one day I will stop caring about my toenails, and happily run them off. Chances are that by then my life and priorities will be different. On the bright side If a 100 year old man can finish a marathon, I have years ahead of me to change my mind!
Ps I have started doing a two weekly mini blog for TescoDiets have a look if you're interested