They say that the first stage of recovery is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. And it’s Scott Jurek’s fault.
I’m a thirty-eight year old man, training to complete my first marathon later this year. I’ve always been a runner. Even when I wasn’t running, because life got in the way, I was, in my head at least, still a runner.
As a child, I ran. I ran to the shops. I ran home again. I ran to school. I ran everywhere. I never walked. The thrill of going faster, of getting to where I needed to be in half the time, and just the sheer abandon of running compelled me.
I won races at school, enter local championships and did alright. I’d love to say I was unbeatable, but that just wasn’t the case. I lost as often as I won, shaking hands with those who beat me, and taking the time to learn their names, but I always came back for more.
As I got older, I ran less. College came and went, then my first job, my second. I was in my mid-twenties before I ran again for the sake of it. And it was hard. I failed miserably as I over-reached, thinking that I could just start where I left off years before.
It would be a few more years, close to my thirtieth birthday before I began running again. I read, and I studied. I started small, once around the block. Then a couple of miles. Within a couple of years, I was chasing down 30 minutes for a 10k.
I tore a ham string. I damaged my back (Degenerative Disc Disease). 2012 came, the Olympics arrived (literally) in my back yard. I wondered what could have been.
I ran obsessively, a 10k every morning before work, my times never again reaching that personal best of eight seconds under thirty minutes. I came close, but never close enough. My back got worse. I could barely walk some days. I stopped running altogether.
And then. And then earlier this year, a chiropractor managed to control the pain and damage in my back. After five years, I could walk upright without difficulty. I could sit for more than ten minutes without agony. I could run again.
I could run again.
To celebrate this, I decided I was going to run a marathon. I picked a date, and got training. I studied everything. I studied form and diet. I studied running shoes and t-shirts and fabrics. I began weighing myself religiously, morning and night. And I ran. I ran as far as I could at first, so I knew my limit. It was surprisingly short.
And I trained. I read, and I adapted. I learned to control my breathing, adjusted my gait. I got blisters, and pulls and I hurt.
And I loved it. I was running for the pure joy of it.
And then I bought Scot Jurek’s ‘Eat and Run’.
I devoured the entire book in a weekend and I realised something. I had felt this same yearning, this same something missing throughout my life when I wasn’t running.
When I run, my mind is quiet. There’s just me and the road. Sometimes there’s music, sometimes not. But there are no bills to pay, no meetings to chair, no stress. All that exists is the next step.
And I realised that a marathon is just the beginning. Having had my eyes opened to the idea of running a 100 miles, a feat that seemed impossible just a few months ago, I need to do this.
It’s not that I have something to prove. It that the challenge is there to be done.