The last person to coin the phrase ‘this is it’ was, I believe, Michael Jackson? However, my intention is not to bribe a doctor to administer me with fatal doses of hospital grade anesthetic. My intention is only to run the London Marathon…next Sunday. Gulp!!
I have done most of my training runs (knee permitting) with a woman called Nathalie. We break up the run by talking…mostly about pain (mental, physical, emotional), pressure points, event logistics, fund raising, self-doubt, hydration, clothing, weather, trains, celebrations yada yada yada. We’re both running for charities that have impacted our family lives. So, in terms of big deals, we share a bigness!
Yesterday’s run, however, was a day of referring to all the above and then getting, dare I say, a little bit excited.
The ‘journey’ of training for the marathon makes you ‘dizzy’. I genuinely thought I could run a sub-4 hour marathon for about…hmmm…two weeks? It was a temporary belief. I had found my calling! A balding forty-something marathon man. My middle years spent taking on ever more extreme endurance as my face became a gristled grid of windburned wire.
What a numbnut!?
The reality of marathon training is that it is super tough. There are reasons why I haven’t bought a pair of real trainers for the past 20 years. There are reasons why I have been getting progressively heavier over the past decade. There are reasons why I used to bunk-off PE at school. There are reasons why my knee nearly fell off during training! Innate, genetic, immutable reasons!
My training plan sort of went out the window due to knee issues. I have ground through the final weeks with a combo of cycling, funny exercises and some running. My plan for the race is really one of hope that the knee holds up – but as the start line approaches, it’s a good hope, not a prayer. Thankfully, the remedial work on my bum (glute) has helped some and, luckily, the advice of ‘not running very fast’ is one I am more than happy with.
The trouble with such a physically demanding event is that you get immersed in the ‘performance’ and lose sight of the motivation for signing up. My family couldn’t give a fig what time I run the marathon. Olive doesn’t even know what time is? The RLSB just want me to get round and (ahem) enjoy it, raising money on the way. None of my fellow runners are concerned for my time. It’s just me, then?
We live in a world that is judged on performance and that seems to creep into your skin, even in fun running.
Kids that are visually impaired know a lot about performance. As an infant, the performance is, in Olive’s case anyway, a series of trips to GOSH to be observed and evaluated against a set of benchmarks for VI children. This is a very benign yet important process. We get an idea of where she is at and what she can see. We also get some perspective on where her development is against sited and VI children on an objective scale. I think it also gives the team at GOSH some sense of red flags to watch for as well. If her motor skills, speech etc are delayed any more than is to be expected as a result of her blurry world, they may need to look for other cues as to what’s up.
I’m sure there will be times between now and Olive being a grown-up where her ‘performance’ is evaluated in more subjective ways. It’s hard not to judge people that sit outside the physical, emotional or intellectual norm. Humans don’t do outliers very well. There’s probably some sort of Darwinian imperative that ‘forces’ us down this track. For most of us though, it’s to do with a lack of familiarity and plain old bad habits leading us down often faulty roads of judgement against a person’s character and capabilities.
Olive, thankfully, swims at the shallow end of adversity with her condition. She has some sight. It’s improving. Her development is good. Her attitude is enchanting! But, she’s still going to run the gauntlet of feeling excluded, vulnerable, ‘out there’ in the big wide world at some point. Maybe no more than any other kid. Maybe less? But as the work of the RLSB keenly points out, the need for VI children to be supported in infancy, through the school years, through adolescence, and be given all the chances possible to realise their potential is crucial.
If children are given the right preparation for life, they thrive. VI children benefit from some of that preparation being tailored to them – peer groups, skills development, training, confidence building – even the simple mantra of living life without limits – they are all guiding hands to give VI kids a fair start. With that, the ‘performance’ measures that life places on all of us, stand a better chance of being met. In some case, exceeded. On others, completely smashed to pieces!
And that’s why I’m running the London Marathon 2014 for the RLSB. I signed up because this worthy charity has helped my daughter and family, because I have met so many other children that benefit from its work and because the notion of running a long way motivates people to give me money to do so! My marathon is not a tick box event for the middle-aged professional. It’s not a passion to test my limits. It’s a commitment to my Olive and an investment in all the great people at this remarkable organisation.
You can help me on this big ole run by donating here.
That really is it.