2022 hasn’t really gotten off to the start I had dreamed of.
As of the end of April I have run four events and cancelled five; two of those should have been ultras. You can put it down to fitness, confidence or bad planning but the simple fact of it all is that my plan for the year is not unfurling as I had hoped.
The first ultra of the year, in January, fell to smart thinking. It was suppose to be on the 8th of January but my training at the back end of the year meant I was ready for a 10km maximum not 70km. I emailed late one night about a week from the start and pressing send I felt a shifting in the sand below me.
The next race was suppose to be a 66 miler ultra, a race that I had DNF-ed at a few years back and vowed to return to conquer. Yet as the weeks got nearer and nearer I knew deep down that I simply was not fit enough again. I could finish it, I am stubborn enough, but at what cost? I talked myself out of it long before the starting gun was fired. Come race day I sat alone on the sofa scrolling through feeds of those brave enough to take it on and comfort ate like a hoover inhaling dust. It made me question what I had become as a runner. In years gone by I would have thrown caution to the wind and lined up at the start regardless. Bravery or stupidity would have taken my feet to the finish line. I don’t know if it could be called maturity or something else but there was a new voice in my head whispering; “not yet James, not yet”. So I let the DNS stack upon the DNF.
Something I have not put on any social media or even talk about with friends is that I had a place in Manchester Marathon. It was going to be my attempt at going sub four hours. It is not a race that overly appealed if I am being brutally honest but the speed of the course and my training after dealing with my DNS’s at ultra distances had been good so why not? Then my health decided to turn me into a 80 a day cigarette smoker. It wasn’t Covid, in fact I still don’t know what it is, but I have been struggling with the coughs and splutters from a week before Manchester to right now. I had to stop writing this to go and make a Lemsip to ease my through. A month on and still the breath is robbed from my lungs.
And yet I have now stopped letting the DNS label be stamped upon my running plans. So what has changed? I could say it is a health thing, that I am better and that I am running fitter and healthier than ever but that simple is not true. It is a mental thing. I am back to the old version of me; that I will finish regardless of what challenges my life keeps throwing out in the road ahead. Since Manchester Marathon I have run two marathons in less than a month. They were slow, tougher than I had planned but I bloody loved them. Crossing the finish line of both I felt the switch slowly click over. Mental strength filling the void of doubt that had grown effortlessly in weakness.
I have an A race, a north star, for the year (more on that soon) and as long as the races I have planned don’t interfere with that then I will be on those start lines again. I will never podium, never qualify for Boston or slip on my county’s vest but you know what I will be doing? Running in amazing places with amazing people and taking my time to admire the view. Always forward, forward always.