We pause your regular broadcast for a quick rant…

I have a running friend who suggested I change my blogging name to ‘macgirl ranting’ as I have been known to do that from time to time (and, sometimes, much more frequently than that). Today’s post is another one – this time, about ranting itself, oddly enough.

Earlier this year, I put my name in the ballot for the London marathon. I knew this was a phenomenally long shot. To be honest, that was probably part of the appeal. The course itself would be amazing and invoke so many memories of my very happy years living in London but I also liked the fact that it feels like an honour to even get a place. Not in a ‘Boston Qualifier’ type of honour (as, without wheels, there is no way I would ever be fast enough for that) but in a ‘wow, I feel so lucky’ kind of way.

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I didn’t get in. And yes, I was sad but in the same kind of way I am when I buy a ticket in the Lottery – sad to have to put away the dreams I’d fancifully been concocting while playing ‘what if’. I moved on. There are other events I can aim for next year and not have the burden of having to find the spare change required for a return ticket to the UK.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the flood of bitterness that ensued in social media threads for weeks afterwards from others who didn’t get a place. ‘It’s not fair!’ seemed to be the biggest complaint. I haven’t been in the London Marathon offices and checked their methods but my grade of 10 year olds understand how probability works and that ‘random’ means, well, random. It’s not weighted based on whether you’ve run it before or your speed or your postcode or your shoe size or brand. Some people will get picked out of the virtual barrel, many won’t. That whole ‘random’ thing again. You haven’t been picked multiple years in a row? Yeah, that sucks and I’m sorry – why not try again next year? Some were talking of previous years where those unsuccessful 5 times were given an automatic entry however they hadn’t thought of the logistics of administering that – additional time, manpower and cost to an event that really is already big and complicated enough.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it but the big undercurrent of the complaints seemed to be a tone of selfishness – as if the person complaining had some sort of right to get into this event and, by not being picked, was being denied something they were entitled to. There were some people celebrating others getting in which was great however there were also some ‘Oh yeah, congratulations. Great that you got in on your first time when I’ve been waiting x number of years. Enjoy!’ which really annoyed me. Be a kind human. I know how I would have felt if I’d been lucky enough to be picked so am really, really happy for those who get to experience that, regardless of how many times they’ve entered or run it. You ran it before and are running it again this year? Wonderful! Have an amazing time!!

I’ll put my name in the ballot again next year and take my chances, without whingeing about the system. It is what it is and I’m completely fine with that. It would be an absolute dream come true to run it. I never thought I’d even contemplate a marathon so the thought of running that one, in a city I still think of as home actually makes me teary. And that fairytale of knowing my name was randomly chosen out of a field of hundreds of thousands of other hopefuls is actually icing on that particular cake.

Here’s to the real runners

What is a runner? What is the difference between a runner and a ‘real runner’ (which seems, even when said verbally, to always be in inverted commas)? I was left to ponder this again after the weekend with the topic being raised at two events.

Firstly, I attended the Ararat parkrun (great event, read the blog!) where I was fortunate enough to run with a whole range of runners of different experience levels and varying speeds. One fabulous lady who was clearly giving it her all made a comment, after my words of encouragement, that she wasn’t a ‘real runner’. My reply – of course you are, you’re running, aren’t you? What’s not real about that?

And then, in the wake of the London marathon, I was reading Facebook comments on their page as people prepare for the ballot to open for next year’s event. And that phrase came up again, in an exceptionally dispiriting context – people commenting that only ‘real runners’ should be given places to run in the marathon, as opposed to those who might dare to complete the marathon in something less than a ‘reasonable’ time. The implication was that these somehow fake runners shouldn’t be taking up a place that a real runner might want.

So, 2 comments about ‘real runners’, made in two very different contexts yet very closely linked. Thankfully, in my experience, attitudes like those seen commenting on London marathon participation are in the minority however are still hurtful and damaging. It doesn’t matter how proud you are of your achievements or how supportive your friends are – hearing those comments about your speed not being fast enough or you taking the place of some genetically gifted person who ‘clearly’ worked harder than you did hurts and erodes your self confidence.

It took me a long time to see myself as a real runner (no inverted commas needed). Early on, I encountered some comments about my speed or about the fact that I have walk breaks and they took a while to get over. Slowly, I realised that most of these comments were not coming from runners, they were coming from people who didn’t actually get anything about running and, therefore, weren’t qualified to make me feel bad about what I did or how I did it. Since I made the switch to viewing myself as a runner, I either haven’t heard further comments directed my way or they have slipped off my aerodynamic form as I bolt past 🙂 If you run, you’re a runner – it’s that simple. As John Bingham says, there’s no licence and no test and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it for a few weeks or most of your life. Note that I made the switch to how I viewed myself – nothing about my speed or form or frequency of training changed. I just realised that I ran therefore was a runner.

So, to the runner I met at Ararat – you’re a runner and don’t ever doubt it. You pushed it to your limit on Saturday and should be proud of what you did. Disregard anyone’s negative comments if they didn’t also get up for an 8am start on a Saturday morning and push it their hardest.

To those who think I shouldn’t be putting my name in the London Marathon ballot for next year because, if I were lucky enough to get a slot, there’s a very real chance I would take more than what you consider a ‘reasonable time’ – I’m sorry you feel that way. Mostly because I’m sorry you haven’t had the experience of hanging out with runners of all speeds, shapes, sizes and running styles. If you had, you’d realise that we’re actually very similar, speed aside – we both train hard, we both have doubts, we both push ourselves to our personal limits, we both would dearly like to go faster, we both worry about injuries and we both experience an amazing sense of pride when we achieve a long sought after goal. So, if I’m lucky enough to get to be out on that course next year, I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you’ve been able to experience the better side of running and not just the narrow vision you have today.

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