Why I run (when I'm not particularly good at it).

I’ve just come home from a 23 km run jog plod. I got up at 4:50am to start, in a bid to beat the horrendous Victorian weather expected this weekend and so I would be finished in time to do regular family stuff. The 23kms took me 2 hours and 34 mins. Anyone familiar with long distance running would probably, and rightfully so, regard that as a pretty slow pace.

I’m no superstar runner. And I’m not new to it either. I have been running since my mid-twenties (I’m now mid-thirties) and have trudged my way through 6 marathons.

I haven’t gotten any faster. I haven’t lost any weight. It’s stupidly cold at this time of year. My toenails feel like they’ve been trodden on by a Clydesdale. There's a good chance I’ll become incontinent before I’m 50 and (if I listen to my mother), I’ll be lame by 60.

AND running actually feels like an incredibly unnatural thing for me to do.

runner old school trackie Genetically, I don’t think I am designed to run. Looking back on my father’s side, I don’t see too many whippet shaped relatives. We carry weight around our midriff, we’re not gifted with gazelle length legs and sitting around drinking, eating and chatting is pretty appealing.

My mother’s side may have contributed to my appeal for athleticism and good health. I have aunties and cousins who are adventurous, health conscious, spiritually in touch and curious about what life has to offer. But my dear old Nan, who lived independently until she was 97, had one foot in the grave for as long as I can remember. My mum tends to shy away from any great physical exertion and is inclined to focus on the negative impact rather than the potential benefit.  So, a degree of cautiousness and preference for rest lurks in my mental make-up.

So I’m not great at running. Doing it consistently over a long period of time hasn’t earned its weight in improvement or in aesthetic benefits. I’m not convinced it’s going to do my long term health any wonders. I have no genetic link to running talent. And if I am truly true to myself, I really don’t  like doing it all that much. It’s hard. It’s hard. Every. Single. Time.

So why the heck do I run?

I’m a bit of a believer in doing things you aren’t naturally destined to do.

We all have our pre-arranged talents – whether that’s being able to swim 100 metres at a pace that qualifies you for the Olympics or being the best drop-stitcher at your local knitting club.  I like to indulge in my natural talents whenever I can (writing, making people laugh, shopping and eating ice cream in record time. These things come pretty easy to me). But when you do things that are not written in your fate-file, it feels kind of amazing. It doesn’t mean you trade in your existing talents; you just beef up your experience account with some loose change.

A friend acquaintance, who by all accounts seems like a natural athlete, once said to me: “Some people just shouldn’t run marathons. They plod over the line and look half dead.” I kept my mouth shut at the time, but was seething on the inside (evidently I still am a lil’ bit).  To me, that is like saying a person who can’t spell well “just shouldn’t” keep a journal.  Or a person with a stutter “just shouldn’t” speak.

Those plodders, those people who struggle, those participants who look a little worse for wear after running/jogging/plodding/walking/crying on the inside/crying on the outside for 42.2kms absolutely should run marathons (if they want to). They should run any damn distance they want to.

They (I) may not look like they are pushing themselves in terms of speed, but they (I) have pushed themselves to put one foot in front of the other for the entire event and every damn training session leading up to it. They (I) are working against the odds. They (I) aren’t just dancing in the parameters of what they’ve naturally been blessed with. They (I) aren’t breaking records – but they (I) are breaking their (my) mould.

When I look at my 2 hours and 34 minutes for 23kms and compare it to someone who could do it in half the time, yeh, I feel a little deflated. And I question why I do it. But then flashing behind the digital numbers of my watch I see my genetic make up, my mental struggle, my physique  and my pain. And then I see what I have done (even though I'm not that good at it).  It feels bloody triumphant.

I’m grateful that I have been given the ability to write well and make people laugh often. I love that with a little time, a lot of money and a decent department store, I can shop like a pro. I’m pleased that I can down a double scoop of English toffee in the time it takes for the next person in line to place their order.

And, even though it takes a fair bit of effort, I can run too.

What do you do that you’re maybe not naturally destined to do?