Friday, 22 January 2016

Bring it.

#RunningForRukai
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MaxineNapal26.2

There is not a snowball's chance in hell I could have even attempted to run a marathon when I was 21. When I was 21, although I'd been a dancer and was still physically strong, I was mentally brittle. I had no steel. I was too afraid to pursue a professional dance career and resorted to teaching. An honorable craft but not my original plan. I was treading water, and not particularly well.

But hey, I was invincible, life was all mine, there was promise and opportunity and tomorrow was a blank canvas. There was certainty and familiarity and surety and calm. There was walk away if it's too hard and there's always tomorrow.

But I was rubber. Pudding. MDF.

I spent so many years without a single goal to see me through the day. Other than those for work of course, those are always present, those which ask 'what did you do to earn that crust today? Why should we pay you? (and it ain't cos of your gleaming white smile, Sunny Jane)'.  Those kinds of goals are there and our hand is forced to draft them, our elbows forced to graft them. But in the absence of those goals for The Man, what do we pursue? When do we seek for ourselves? And what do those of the couch potato and tavern-with-a-beer-soaked-floor persuasion reach for when there is nothing but that blank canvas and a silent apartment at day's end?

I managed to eke out a college degree but around it, for so many years I had no goals. Not a one. I despair when I consider how many years I wasted. (More than I was actually in despair during those years.)

Enter 2012.
A single longed-for pregnancy so hoped for, yet made so miserable, having been tarred and feathered with 'risk'.
Beautiful son born with a condition that made doctors discard his possibility, to my great fury.
Dad diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I was burning.

I was spinning. And still I maniacally spun those plates, yet I circled faster then they ever could. There was nothing I could do about any of these things yet I had to do something. Or risk them all launching away and shattering against the wall.

In March 2013 Dad left us for whatever lies beyond this life and within two weeks I'd signed up for a 5k charity run, to honor his memory. Because I had to do something. And I had to do that something so badly that within three short days I decided that 5k was only 3 miles and goddamnit I was a tougher nut than that, must do more. I had to suffer. He suffered, so I had to suffer. I changed it to 10k. I hadn't run in over 20 years, that last slog forced upon me by some drill sergeant-esque gym teacher and her chrome whistle, but I was going to run. And sure enough, I trained my ass off and raised lots of cash for charity and I ran. My lungs were screaming and my legs in agony on the day but damn it if I didn't stop. I felt Dad running with me. I crossed that first finish line and cried myself clean of water. I toasted Dad with a Corona, then cried that out too.

And when it was all said and done, the first thing I did was look up my next race. I kept running. I kept running because I suddenly had something to reach for. I had a goal that was just for me. It was bliss.

Fast forward to today - three half marathons, maybe a dozen 10ks and hundreds of training miles later. Umpteen injuries later. Plan A now turned to plan QQQ because it all changes, everything changes, like the leaves and our shoes and the color of our hair to steely grey it all changes. And here I train for the big kahuna. That mythical distance called 'Marathon'. 26.2 miles. Like Sir Edmund, because it's there. Because so much more.

Because...everything.

And I'll be damned if I no longer feel like the Great Pretender. I feel like a runner. I may take the odd walk break but I am a runner. You can no longer pry my feet from the road when they want and are fit enough to be on it. This is my spiritual bliss. This is my soul's freedom. This is my mind's challenge, and my heart's nurturing, and my 'me time' and my 'just getting out sightseeing in the woods on the weekend'. People who don't run want me to shut the hell up about it. People who run just nod and say 'mmm hmmm, dig those new Asics. Wicked negative splits. How's your heel? Did you get out this weekend?'

Today I'm out on another shortie tempo run, in training for that first marathon. And would you believe this 5k was approaching the utopia of 'a breeze'. Imagine this, imagine me, to run 3 miles and barely break a sweat the first two. I was waiting to fall apart and then suddenly I'd gone 2-1/2 miles and I was circling the last corner for the home stretch. And only just feeling the burn. And I wasn't exactly plodding along.

This is not even in my realm of possibility, right?
This can't happen, right?
Surely I'm not capable of this level of fitness, surely I can't have got this far this fast.

Right?

Hang on.
Hang right the hell on.
There is no such thing as 'never'.
There is only I am. I can. I will.

And it's occurred to me that I learned this ridiculously important lesson from my son. Me, no longer 21 - that water under the bridge says this girl's no girl. This girl's 44. Twice twenty-one and a bit on top, like a shiny maraschino cherry.

That water under the bridge that carves canyons out of striated rainbow-colored rock.
That water that strokes and soothes away obstructions with time and reason and patience and knowledge and understanding.
And will.
And fortitude.

That water under the bridge full of confidence I gained from time with my son.
From showing him the way and then taking his lead.
I learned patience beyond imagination.
I learned how to dig mental strength out of an empty vessel on an impossibly difficult day.
I learned when to run and when to walk because sometimes you need to catch your breath before you can run faster. And you do run faster.

I learned how to tug on a hat and waterproofs and go chugging through the rain because the rain washes clean the worry and the fear and the negativity. The rain cleanses the earth and clears the way ahead from impurity. That rain we splash through and laugh and revel in. The watery chill that wakes us from our drone-like slumber.

My mind and I have a much greater mutual understanding these days.

I could not have run 26.2 miles in my dreams when I was 21 because I was pudding. Because at that time, I did not have most of what I have today.

With age comes loftier goals that dig into our chests and clasp our hearts, every belligerent sunrise challenging and tempting us to be better than we were yesterday. We stand taller and shield our eyes from the glare and say 'bring it. You just go on and bring it.'

With age comes purpose. Shape-shifting purpose. Without a roadmap purpose. 'Because I can' purpose. 'I don't give a rat's ass what you think about it' purpose.

I am.
I can.
I will.

For Rukai. For Dad. For me. I will.

Today is Tomorrow.
Today I am strong.
Bring it.

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