The Mundane Marathoner
There have been plenty of times in my life when I haven’t felt as if I fitted in. The occasion that springs to mind most is the time I got coerced into running a cross-country race when I was about nine. “The only reason I’m asking you,” the team coach had said “Is because Rosie dropped out and we just need someone to make up the numbers, really. Don’t worry — no one expects you to do well.”
I imagine, for any other (functional) child, those words would have been a get-out-of-jail-free card. But not for me. Oh no.
My Mum and Dad were thrilled for me; their daughter was finally showing an interest in sport, was starting to show signs of actually being related to them, and it was exciting for them. They eagerly found me some too-big second-hand running kit and loaded me up on carbs for weeks before the race in the hopes I might suddenly defy all expectations and reveal an amazing hidden talent for long distance running. (Their hopes were in vain, of course).
Meanwhile, I was plotting my tactics. I’d been to one lunchtime training session and had got round all of one lap of the field before collapsing in a sweaty, wheezing heap. The other four members of the team breezed by me another three times before returning for the warm-down barely red in the face. One or two them suggested I let someone else have a go, but by then I was steeped in too far.
I knew I had to screw my courage to the sticking place and not fail.
So as I lined my foot up against the start line on that rainy day in November, the coach’s words echoing around my head…
I had only one thought of my own.
When the announcer called “Go!” the friendly cross-country competition quickly became a bloodbath.
My elbow connected with the girl behind me’s face and she stumbled back clutching her nose as I streaked ahead. The three kids on my team were ‘pacing themselves’ like coach had said, but I knew better and overtook them.
I pelted it.
For quite a while, I felt superb. I was miles ahead of everyone else, running on fresh grass in my new trainers and feeling pretty proud of myself.
“This’ll show them!” I thought “Just wait til I beat them ALL. Then we’ll see who’s not expected to do well!”
The thought of succeeding against all odds (and I have to say, there were quite a few) was so tantalising that I found myself running harder.
Obviously, being the unfit, untrained lump I was, this strategy didn’t work out quite as I’d hoped. Before long, my lungs were doing that familiar burning thing and my legs started to feel like they were no longer attached.
All I could do was desperately keep running, but I could tell I was slowing. About ten other children had overtaken me; one of them a team member.
The burning in my lungs got steadily worse but I persisted. I refused to lose to the people who’d said they “didn’t expect me to do well”.
I refused to bow down to them.
So I kept running.
Unfortunately, by the time I made it over the finish line, I wasn’t quite the daughter my parents had eagerly brought to the field that morning. What met them when they came and found me was very different. No one was even sure it was human.
In summary, that wasn’t the greatest success of my life. But it wasn’t even the last time I did it. After that loss, I was motivated only further to humiliate myself by entering the 1800m race on sports day (and coming 20th out of 24), and entering the high jump despite only being 5"1 (and a half)…
It’s no surprise really, that blogging feels the same way for me.
I was so pumped as I clicked ‘Publish’ after writing my first post. Finally, I’d managed to do the unimaginable and had actually found something to write about — not only that, but I’d got the guts together to post it online where the world can see it.
At that point, I hadn’t read around Medium.com yet… and I think if I had, I wouldn’t have posted a single letter.
Reading some of the things I feel like a small child in awe of their favourite hero. (Mine was Simba from the Lion King, by the way.) All I can see as I scroll through is these incredibly illustrated, beautifully constructed pieces of satire, and all of them are about something ‘worthy’. Most of them are actually funny too.
And there’s not a single fashion blog.
I can’t help wondering what I’ve got myself into. Once again, I feel like I’m steeped in too far and that I will simply have to screw my courage to the sticking-place and not fail.
I’m not some kind of teenage writing genius, nor am I a great artist. I just type the words as they come into my head in a very word-puke sort of style, and use Paint to add some humour afterwards.
It feels like being the new kid at school… and not only that, but the additional needs kid who is sent to sit at the back with the safety scissors and glitter glue while the other kids solve linear programming inequalities on the smartboard.
Whether my first post was that cross-country race of seven years ago all over again, I don’t know, but I do know that this time maybe I didn’t collapse in a wheezing, sweaty heap on the finish line. So perhaps I should keep trying, see where I end up. For once I’m actually enjoying the sensation of running.
And with that in mind, I’ll be back again soon.
Lots of love,