Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Diane works her magic again

MORE than a week has passed since the devastating disappointment of my marathon debut in Rotterdam. And it’s been a time of soul-searching and reflection.
It has been time well spent.
I needed to process what had happened and what was to happen next. I had already decided only minutes after failing to finish what was to happen immediately after. I knew there and then I had to find another marathon quickly to prove I could do the distance and to honour my commitment to the many generous people who had supported the Running With Diane appeal for the cancer support charity Breast Cancer Care.
So in less than five weeks, I take on the Liverpool marathon and it is hoped that the first part of this journey will come to its conclusion round the streets where I grew up instead of Plan A which was to do it round the streets of Rotterdam where Diane spent her childhood.
I still feel disappointed, still feel like I blew it on the day it mattered most. But that is because of the reason I was running it and the reason why I was running it in Rotterdam.
I knew it would be an emotional day. But I expected that emotion to be elation, not despair.
Back at the hotel, as I gazed out at Diane's beloved Rotterdam, I also made another promise – to her mainly. I will return next April to tackle it again - and every year until I conquer it. And every year after that, if truth be told, because this weekend will become an annual tribute to the woman who still guides me every step of the way despite losing her to breast cancer in February last year.
It will be a kind of pilgrimage, I guess. And when my legs won’t carry me round anymore, I shall go just to 

watch, to be a part of it, to cheer on the runners – including the ones who, like me now, will be trying to achieve what they never dreamed possible.
As I had predicted, Diane was with me every step of the 20 miles I was allowed to run. And she was with me afterwards helping to console me.
As were my friends. The messages of support I got from my fellow Burnden Roadrunners, relatives, friends and work colleagues were staggering. I felt I didn’t deserve such kindness at the time, but they convinced me otherwise. I couldn’t have got this far without their support and encouragement. And they still have their work cut out to get over that finish line at the Pier Head!
The first thing Diane told me as I sloped back to the start/finish area in Rotterdam, head bowed and feeling defeated, was that no-one said it would be easy. Nothing worth having is ever easy.
That’s why when I do eventually conquer Rotterdam, it will mean so much more.
People have reminded me where I was a year ago and how far I have come. That’s true, but the problem is I can’t let myself look back to a year ago until I have finished my first marathon. I will not shrug my shoulders and say I have done my best. I will not accept that I have come as far as I can. I will not let myself come up short. I have loads more to achieve. More adventures.
Hopefully, the streets of Liverpool will now be where I will finally reach the finish line. Then, and only then, will I look back and see how far I’ve come.
I will never pause and pat myself on the back while I am still short of where I want to be. Diane knows that, although she’s as bemused as I am where this mean streak in me has suddenly appeared from.
Wherever I was a year ago doesn’t alter the fact that I wasn’t where I wanted to be that Sunday in Rotterdam.
Don’t get me wrong. I am now grateful for what happened in Rotterdam. I perhaps needed to be reminded that I had come a long way, but still have a long way to go. It reminded me that it’s a journey that will go on for many years.
I had a magical weekend in the company of some wonderful friends and I saw loads more of this fantastic city than I did on my first visit at the beginning of the year. The crowds were awesome, the occasion was wonderful and I took away far more happy memories than that one sad one.
I have learned a lot from this. A lot about running. And a lot about myself. I know now this wasn’t failure. It was just another twist in the story. It was the marathon gods telling me I wasn't yet ready to earn that finish line elation.
Hopefully, they will smile on me in Liverpool.
I have emerged stronger from this setback. I am more focused, more determined and, most importantly, wiser. I feel a better runner for it. And, most importantly, it has given me fresh goals in life.
And it has made me a better person because I know more about myself now than I did when I lined up with the other 13,500 runners at the start line.
Diane has worked her magic again.

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