I have just returned from a run and my goodness I wore short sleeves. Desperate times, I know. I believe this means that summer is officially ending, and autumn is officially falling. For the most part I’m a warm weather runner, I like the feel of the sun on my back as I pound the pavements and prefer the persistent warmth of the afterglow of a summer run compared to the stiff, chilly starts that will accompany many opening miles over the next few months.
Yet, this morning was a pleasure.
The sun was up, and the sky was clear, but it was not hot. A stiff breeze seemed to follow me around my loop, but it was never a deterrent. Fresh air filled my lungs, and now I’m finished I can’t wait to go out again. It is a nice reminder that running is a hobby. It is a choice. It is, although some people may refuse to believe it, actually quite fun. For the last month or so I’ve been fighting this persistent niggle in my hip, but as it slowly dissipates I’m enjoying my running once again, and as that is coinciding with the change in seasons I must say that for once I’m quite excited about changing my wardrobe to match the shift in temperature that comes with the close of the year.
As I say, running is a hobby. It is a pleasure, a joy, but it is admittedly difficult and demanding enough to be deemed a lifestyle choice.
But there are always degrees.
An Olympian, for instance, must commit themselves far more deeply than I will ever have to. Although that requires sacrifices, there are obvious benefits as well.
Let’s take Mr Michael Johnson for instance. He is a 13 times Olympic and World Championship Gold Medal winner. He is one of the best to have ever competed. He is also not immune to the human condition, to fallibility, to illness, despite our best attempts to raise athletes and celebrities into this god-like sphere of invincibility, and last year Johnson suffered a stroke. After a high intensity workout Johnson felt some unfamiliar discomfort involving disorientation and numbness and made the wise decision to seek medical assistance. He was diagnosed with having suffered a mini stroke, and although long term damage was avoided his co-ordination was affected.
However, Johnson recently shared a side by side video comparing his physical therapy after the stroke, with another of him training with a lateral ladder, demonstrating an immense improvement in both co-ordination and speed.
Alongside the video he wrote: ‘A year ago today I was unable to walk having suffered a stroke. Thanks to the mindset learned as an Olympian, 2 months later I was back running.’
Now, most of us simply aren’t Michael Johnson. Most professional athletes aren’t even Michael Johnson. He exists in those upper echelons of athleticism which are so rarely breached. Think Usain Bolt. Think Carl Lewis. In terms of those still competing we can look to Mo Farah, Tirunesh Dibaba, Eliud Kipchoge, but that’s three out of how many athletes on the professional circuit?
Still, despite the eons which are between us and athletes like Johnson, there is something to be taken away by the everyman from his attitude. It would have been easy enough to decide that a stroke would mark the end of Johnson athletic engagement, but as I have already mentioned today running is a hobby, fitness is a choice, and both are a privilege. Not everyone is able to enjoy running the way many of us do due to physical and sometimes mental limitations beyond their control, but for those of us who can our limits are defined by ourselves.
Johnson did not let a stroke set those limits for him. He loves running, loves training, and so he set himself to getting back to a place where he could keep on going. No matter what level we run at, there will be down turns, hard moments, injuries. It is up to us to decide how those moments define us. Do we let them get us down? Or do we fight back and get back in the game? We might not be able to match Johnson on the track (even now when he is 51), but we can certainly try and match his attitude.
Patagonia International Marathon
A good attitude is going to be vital for the international crowd of runners competing in Chile for the Patagonia International Marathon this weekend. This one probably isn’t going to be one you can just pop along for, but by all accounts it is one of the most stunning running events in the world. In their own words:
‘The big marathons have you nestled in an urban environment with impressive towers of concrete and glass. In Patagonia, we do not have large buildings here, our towers are of granite and ice, and rise over 2,500m above the race course…
We invite you to live a different experience:
Come feel the power of nature!‘
Well I’m sold. Might have to give this years a miss, but who knows, one day…