Sacrifice the gift
October 22, 2023

Sacrifice the gift

“To give anything less than your best , is to sacrifice the gift.”

Thank you Steve Prefontain for saying those words, words that came to me on the morning of Saturday 14th October, just 12 hours after I had put pen to paper in my black book under the title of “Amsterdam Marathon.”

Words on that page such as “how about it?”, “What would it look like?”, “How could it feel?” as I sat and reflected on what I wanted to achieve on Sunday morning in Amsterdam where I would be running another marathon.

Perhaps I had purposely or accidentally completely reverse engineered the process for this marathon. Here I was less than 48 hours out from it trying to map out what I wanted to do in it, what I wanted to give to it and what I wanted to take from it. An exercise that for many (and for me in the past) takes place before the training and preparation process even beings. Where I was sat and what I was doing was unique, a first for me.

I pondered if other things in life had distracted me and if so why, was that a good thing, was that where my energy was supposed to be. I thought about my mum who’s house I was sat in and in turn my dad and the journey we have been on with mum’s illness. I could not help but think about Holly and this incredible feeling of love and gratitude toward her for the support and love she continues to give me. It was a wild moment as I progressed down the page writing how on Sunday I would push my body and mind the hardest that I could, if only for these three special people in my life. It was raw, it was emotional, it hurt, but it was relief.

I am sure this was not the race report that you came to read. Ha. Maybe this is also why it has taken a week to write it.

Journaling at night is a double edge sword, it can be the best sleeping tablet or send you into an absolute spin. That Friday night it was the former and as Prefontaines words came to my mind unprompted on Saturday morning, my race plan was absolutely crystal clear. I would give my very best and lets see what happens.

I thought in limited spurts about my training and my life leading into the race. I had to. I was realistic. I knew where I was in shape and I also knew which parts of me were not in shape. Neither bothered me. Equanimity maybe. It will be what it will be. I will go, I will run, something will happen mindset. I smiled. Why wouldn’t I?

Mid Saturday afternoon I got a message from Tom. “Plan of action tomorrow.?” I did not need to think about an answer “I’m pretty sure Prefontaine was right. To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. Let’s give it a crack shall we!” as he replied “Epic. Go Well mate.”

In reflection and the way my body and mind still feel a week on I guess I could have or should have been nervous in some way. I was about to give it a bloody big crack which would of course have some fall out. But that did not even enter my mind. I spent the afternoon shooting the breeze with Simon, talking about life and running, same really huh! No real surprise I slept like I normally do, perfectly. Maybe I do not have enough emotion to get nervous, it is not something that has ever bothered me, I get excited, maybe it is the same.

Of course I can not sit here and pretend to be the most relaxed human on earth, my brain needs programming so it can program my body, I had to input some data as we approached the start line, so I told it 4:15-20 pace, stay tall, feel your toes, foot drop, shoulders down, smile, drive the ground, be elastic, the race will arrive, welcome it. Another huge smile as we rolled under the starting arch and made our way through the narrow and damp opening few kilometers.

Running through cities even when the roads are closed has never really turned me on that much, meh. Not surprisingly when the race hit an open canal and I could see it was an out and back that would eat up over 10km of the route I felt light, happy and free. Then as the wind started to pick up and splatters of hail bounced off my legs I knew I was having the time of my life. Crossing through 21.1km at 1 hour 30 I remember thinking to myself “this is alright.” The next 10km was one of the most beautiful 10km I have run in my life I think. I have absolutely no clue where I was, or what I saw, it is almost a blank, but I have these feelings that remain of absolute peace and effortless motion. Those that think that running is boring please relax!

When Holly asked me after the race how it was, I tried to explain the feeling of lactate pouring out of my eyes. I can almost feel it now, it was like a special headache that consumed me and possibly thankfully detracted my attention from my legs which step by step as I passed the 35km mark felt less like mine and for sure less like the way I wanted them to feel. I smiled to myself as I remembered my first marathon in 2010, the state I got myself in and the energy Roy gave me with a few KM to go. It was almost like he was giving me the same energy today, ironically 10 years after his passing. In 2010 I was fighting, today I was at peace. The mix of agony and peace I still have not yet processed.

My dropping pace bothered me little as my effort remained. You can get upset that you feel like you are pushing 10 times harder to hold a pace 15 seconds per KM slower or you can accept it and keep the effort as high, do not sacrifice the gift. In this state every 100m seems like a kilometer but everything is a weird type of beautiful. There is noise but in parts it was like I was behind double glazing and it was all blocked out, my eyes could see peoples lips moving but there was silence where I was, until a moment where someone would read my name from my bib out loud and it would shock me back into the bustling lined streets of Amsterdam. Quite surreal.

3:05 for the slightly longer course that my watch measured but training peaks tells me 3:03:43 and rates it as a personal best. My best in Amsterdam was simply not good enough for where I want my running to be at. It is not so much the ring of sub 3 that excites me or the invisible badge that it brings, I am motivated by something deeper than that. In 2018 I ran my 30 back to back marathons for 3 reasons and one of them is the exploration of human potential. I absolutely believe I have the ability and therefore potential to run under 3 hours. Whilst I always appreciate the positive feedback from people I still find it very hard to accept praise when it is not earned. Is that my inability to access emotions that I should? Maybe. But for now I am ok with it as it is.

I am proud of my “effort” in Amsterdam, truth be told it is the most pain I have been in at the end of any of my (too many to count anymore) marathons and it remains 1 week on in various forms. I am proud as I did as I intended to do delivering the best I could on that day. But we must continue to build the layer cake, I see more potential than I am releasing and until I arrive there I will continue this incredible journey in this incredible sport and life!

Of course……we go again.