âDonât worry about genius and donât worry about not being clever. Trust rather in hard work, perseverance and determination. The best motto for the long march is âDonât grumble. Plug on.â
Love the sea, the ringing beach and the open down. Keep clean, body and mind.â
Sir Frederick Treves in 1903 on the 25 anniversary of the Boyâs Own Paper.
Sometimes there are things to be said for things that were said. I found this next to the bed as I awoke to sea mist and drizzle on the morning of my first ever half marathon. Thatâs thirteen and some miles of running with about five thousand other folk of wildly varying abilities and ages round a, by all accounts, gruelling course that loops over the back of Hastings and eventually throws you back into the town for three miles along the seafront.
Because of the intensity of the personal experience and the simplicity of the actual experience, we all ran around the course, thatâs all, itâs actually quite hard to remember what happened or explain why it was significant.
But there is a real magic in the sound of thousands of pairs of trainers pounding and flopping on a road that is normally filled with speeding cars; there is a beauty in this collective activity, any group with a common purpose, but especially these people, pushing their bodies, raising money for charity, doing something special. No words necessary, although a few exchanged between strangers, each battling with their own will and their own imperfect bodies to finish the course in what they consider to be a respectable time.
I do remember: many people telling me there were no more hills, when there were more hills; a bagpipe band that sounded like bombs; some happy drummers that you wouldnât want for neighbours banging and clapping on their door step; a blind man and his super hero helper joking all the way; being passed and then passing Superman before the finish; the taste of the sea and the joy at the extra oxygen; water up my nose; weaving past too heavy breathers; being distracted by a banana that I didnât want to carry then did want to carry because it stopped me thinking about the running; pain that came and went first in the stomach then the feet then the knees; the rhythm; thinking that it was really not about thinking, a purely physical rather than a cerebral journey; the outsides of pubs with fat men holding pints and cheering; people standing at a bus stop clapping; the bare trees on the bypass; uphill being easier than downhill in a funny way; the finish line so far away for so long; never even contemplating stopping or giving up; perseverance, grace, and determination. Naturally.
But that makes it sound like a pain when it was really a pleasure; that makes it sounds like hard work when really it just was. And thatâs the beauty of it. It just is. I took no pictures because this was about doing not documenting. I did it, for the record, with much help and encouragement from Ms H, in 1hr 53.35.
When my legs stop aching I will, maybe, say more about what, to paraphrase
Murakami, I think about when I think about running.
For now, here are some pictures of Peteâs farm to illustrate the simple rural life.