Sunday was the 4th anniversary of my second date with Joy, when we went to Huddersfield for fruit beer and Mexican food, and so it was nice to spend the anniversary together doing the Abbey Dash.
I still have it in my head that, when I was 18, I ran a 10k in 47 minutes (with Fraser Pike in our school rugby shirts that we had borrowed from school and which we should have already handed back). Unfortunately for us, the 10k route went past the kitchen window of our rugby master's house, and he saw that we were wearing the shirts and asked for them back on the following Monday. I'd like to think that we weren't planning to steal them, but just that we were proud of our school, and of playing rugby for it, and that's why we wore them. In truth, the 47 minutes could be just a fake memory, because there were no timing chips in those days, and all I have is a vague recollection of looking at my watch at the finish and it being less than 50 minutes since we'd set off.
Anyway, I keep thinking that it's possible that my now 50 year old self can still run as fast as my 18 year old self, and each year when I do the Abbey Dash I try. So my ultimate goal is to run it faster than 47 minutes, but I'm working on it in increments, so this year I thought I'd aim for 50 minutes.
In my 3 previous attempts I've done it in 57:42, 51:05 and 51:30. This year I was slightly outside my 50 minute target as I finished in 50:19. But I decided not to be disappointed with that, because I ran as fast as I could on the day. I didn't keep any effort in reserve. I used it all up.
Some people don't care about how fast they run, but for me it's a big motivating factor. And the fact that Parkrun is measured helps to keep me wanting to improve. For a really long time I couldn't run 5K in less than 24 minutes, but then this year I've done it about 15 times. There could be various reasons why I'm running faster this year, but maybe the most important thing is Persistence. I just keep running. And regularly.
I used to run when I was at school, but mostly only when they made us run cross country 3 times a year, and a few other times in the summer each year before the Rugby Season started but I never ran consistently. Entering that 10k in April 1986 with Fraser was very much a one-off.
In 1994 I took up running briefly, but as was predicted by my wife at the time, I soon gave up. Again, I started briefly in 2002, but gave up then too. And until I started Parkrun in 2014 I never ran again. Now it's a really important part of my life.
Last night I got my 100 Parkruns milestone T-shirt in the post. I'm actually up to 143 but they've had a backlog at sending out the T-shirts. I think the fact that I've done 143 suggests it's not just a flash in the pan.
Two years ago the Abbey Dash was on the 2nd anniversary of my mum dying, and it was after moving back to Leeds in 2014 that I started running in the first place, in order to be doing something active in the time that I wasn't stuck inside my mum's house watching gameshows with her. Her lungs and knees were knackered by then, and even walking to the car would leave her out of breath, so every time I run, then and now, I remember to value the fact that I'm able to do it. I'm not sure if Forrest Gump ran for any particular reason, or if he just set off, but for me, I run because I can.
|Lawnswood Garden of Remembrance - Plot H8 180.|
While I was walking round there yesterday, I did feel sad. But I felt happy too. I felt happy that I grew up in the house that I did, where I always felt loved, and where there was always laughter. We were always able to laugh at things, even sometimes awful things. And at each other. It was the best gift I got as a child, that ability to not take setbacks too much to heart. Some people are so earnest about everything all the time, so outraged and offended at the slightest thing. We managed things by not being like that. In all the stories the three of us used to tell each other, we chose to mostly only remember the funny bits. We let the sad parts go.
It's a strange feeling being at the Garden of Remembrance. It almost exists outside Time. I was 50 when I was there yesterday, but I could have been any age. I still felt like the child of my parents. Walking around with a rucksack full of books, I could have still been at school.
The crematorium at Lawnswood, where my parents went to rest, is right next door to the old school playing fields, where I first was made to run cross country. In those days I hated it, but who knew that one day I would do it for fun? When I started running in 2014, it partly grew out of my experience of being indoors for long periods with my mum who couldn't get out much. Her main leisure activities had always been watching TV, going to the pub or going shopping. Getting outside and exercising only happened incidentally while carrying home bags of shopping. I feel lucky that my life isn't like that. That I have so many opportunities that she didn't.
I'm a student now, at Leeds University. I could have gone to Uni when I was 18, but for reasons that made sense at the time, I didn't. So now aged 50 I'm back at the same place in life I could have been then. In terms of Geographical space, I haven't moved very far in 30 odd years. My University is right next door to the school I used to go to. I didn't know what the future held then, in 1986, I guess if I had any idea at all, it was that I wanted to be a success at something. I still want that now.
As for running, I still want to be a success at that too. I don't know if I'll ever beat the mythical time of 47 minutes that my 18 year old self may or may not have run, but even if that time never happened, even if it's a fake memory, it's still good to have something to aim for.