A Christmas Reflection – by Patrick Long

In the words of John Lennon “and so this is Christmas, and what have you done”. This is a time of year where we might take a moment to reflect on what we have done in the recent past and we might also look with hope to the future setting ourselves some goals for the coming year. If you are a runner you may be looking ahead to new challenges and new times and distances that you would like to conquer.

Looking back over my last 7 years I have gone from unhealthy, bloated, overweight, middle aged, couch potato schmuck to vice president of this wonderful running club. This year, just short of my 57th birthday I ran my first ever marathon in a time I can be proud of. If you had told me 7 years ago that I would achieve this in 2017 I probably would have laughed so hard in your face that I may have sprayed you with tiny chunks of doughnut, soggy potato chips, traces of a Big Mac and miscellaneous fragments of whatever other toxic sludge I might have been shovelling into my face back in those days. Yet here I am. But in all fairness to the fat Elvis version of me there is no way on God’s green earth that I could have achieved what I have achieved this year without my running club. Not that I have miraculously become an elite runner by any stretch. (I think I may have gotten the vice president gig only because of my charisma, rapier wit, drop dead good looks and humility but certainly not for my running ability. But kids, that’s all a story for another day). No, I’m just your Joe Average recreational runner. Nevertheless the transformation is something for me to be proud of.

During my marathon journey this year this club was with me every step of the way from the first training run right up to the finish line. It started with dedicated club coach Shena who wrote my program and stood shoulder to shoulder with me for the 18 weeks of preparation, even coming out with us one day in torrential rain for a 30k training run. Her advice along the way sometimes seemed counter intuitive yet, as history showed me, was invariably was always right. Some mornings I was just too tired to get up out of bed but knowing I had made arrangements to meet with some running buddies I got up anyway. I may have cussed and sworn but I still got out of bed and went running. I very much doubt that I would have been so consistent without this club keeping me accountable. And then there was a host of our most elite runners who unexpectedly overwhelmed me in the days leading into the race
with messages and phone calls offering encouragement and some final tips from their wealth of experience as distance runners. It was touching that each of them could be bothered to take the time for someone who is so, well, average as me. Then on race day there were my fellow club members seeing me off at the starting line and then again gathered in one voice yelling out for me at the 31k mark just as things were starting to get really hard (and they were there again, of course, near the finish line willing me home). But it was at my darkest hour around the 37k mark when coach Shena and my bestest running buddy Carole unexpectedly glided in either side of me like two angel fighter planes coming to see a “shot to pieces” world war two bomber, flying only on a wing and a prayer, get safely home across the English channel. They spoke soothing words and kept me on pace until the finish line was in view.

These moments of comradery are something that stay with you. These are the moments in life that money can’t buy. Only having gone through this process can one fully appreciate the value of a good running club. This is something to consider especially if you are someone with ambitious running goals for the coming year. But don’t just take my word for it. Here is an article I recently found on the internet that struck a chord with me. It extols the virtues of a good running group and it concurs with everything that I have found out for myself through personal experience. It may be something for the lone runner to consider before launching into the 2018 running season.