Sunday, 26 April 2009

There are few feelings in life more rewarding than finishing your first marathon. It’s a journey into the unknown, an epic odyssey out of your comfort zone.

Running past the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Westminster’s Parliament buildings and Buckingham Palace, you know there’s never been a more inspiring finish to a run. You wear your limp and aching thighs as a badge of honour. You swear you’ll never do another one.

Then after the pain in your legs dissipates you start to wonder, with a little more training and more discipline with your weight, whether you could have gone faster? Of course you could have.

Your second marathon is still a novelty. You wonder whether you just fluked it first time around. You wonder whether you can go to the well one more time and go one better by going faster. Although you train equally hard, the all-consuming fear of failure, while still there, has diminished somewhat. You swear, this time in expletives, you’ll never do another one.

Then, after finishing two minutes slower than your first marathon, you don’t wonder whether you could have gone faster, you damn well know you could have. You blame the never-ending avenues of New York’s skyscraper-clad Manhattan Island. And you know that despite the beauty of Central Park, once you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all, and you yearn for London’s historically breath-taking finish.

Your third marathon represents an act of bravado, a refusal to submit gracefully to the inevitable call of middle age. You try to train just as hard as you did for your first two marathons but your aging body starts to fly the white flag of surrender.

You know it would be an act of cowardice to pull the pin now but you wonder, in the questioning recesses of your mind, whether you’re up to it one more time.

Even though you justify your entry in the Boston Marathon but telling yourself you’ve paid a fortune to attend the Masters golf at Augusta to see Tiger Woods, that you’re killing two birds with one stone and that this will be the sporting trip of your lifetime, you seriously doubt the wisdom of your ways.

Then you think of your friends on the wrong side of the grass who will never have your opportunity. And you know you’ve made the right decision.


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