doing a Ginger Rogers

Today I ran my first ever half marathon. I remember the decision to book it was a treat/dare for myself when I was only a few days sober. At that point the longest I had ever run was 10 miles.

Training for the race has therefore gone pretty much in parallel with the sobriety challenge. Right up to the last month when I hit a training speed-bump in the form of an injury.

So for the last four weeks it became a race for something else: recovery for the injury as well as for the remainder of me. Icing, physio, medication, rest. NOT training when I was longing to go out for a good blast to blow away the cobwebs. All so I could get to the point of getting round in one piece, rather than reaching my much planned and longed for time goal.

A few days ago when it became apparent that I would be fit to run it, I developed a serious fit of the sulks. Far from being the person I had envisioned when I booked the race, I was a good seven pounds heavier, undertrained, and post-injury.

To tackle the weight thing first – I am mentioning it here because it intermittently does upset me. It affects my self-image in ways too pedestrian to tabulate here. We all know this crap. It sucks. I am putting sobriety first still, but am trying not to replace one bad habit with another.

The other aspects are less under my control, and therefore upsetting in a different way. I was muttering to myself one day, “Ok, I am doing the half – but I’m doing it undertrained and injured!” This rang a slightly different bell in my own head. (That is a fucking big switchboard in there, I can tell you. Who knows where all those lines end up?)

“The lyrics to Adam Ant’s ‘Prince Charming’? Connecting you now, caller….”

What my own phrase reminded me of was a quote that always amused me about Ginger Rogers, to the effect that she did everything Fred Astaire did – but she did it backwards and in high heels.

I decided that my slightly ropey physical state was going to be my own personal pair of high heels. I decided to focus less on the disadvantage of not achieving a personal time goal, and more on the whole brilliant thing of being able to take part in this fantastic event which I had been looking forward to for so long.

So, dear reader, I completed the half marathon. I did it in ooh, a good 20 minutes slower than I had been hoping. And I may or may not have popped some ibuprofen at mile 8 when a twinge reared its head. But I completed the whole 13.1 miles. Yay me!

Here are some thoughts from along the way:

Firstly, if you are ever not feeling fit or strong or young enough to run a race – go and look at the people running it. All shapes, sizes, ages, candidates for the Ministry of Silly Runs. You will fit right in, even if you are shaped like a Moomintroll.

Secondly, PEOPLE ARE AMAZING. The competitors, running in the cold and rain, in England, in early March. Many of them fundraising for causes dear to their hearts.

The 30 something man fundraising for a premature babies charity: ‘for babies born too early, too small, or too sick’. Howl. Another man fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support who’d scrawled on the back of his t-shirt in pen, ‘For you, Mum.’ All these people who had taken pain and hurt and problems and instead of turning that energy in on themselves to hurt and constrain and limit, had faced outwards and onwards and bloody made something good come of it.

And the spectators with their home made signs and their clapping and encouraging remarks and cheers of the slowest and last runners had such ridiculous power to urge you on. They reminded me of the sobersphere so much. A stranger’s presence, a word at the right time, a little girl yelling, “Keep GOING!” can make all the difference in the world. I have high-fived every man jack of you today.

Made it. Did it. Not what I thought it would be. Doesn’t matter.

Whether it is running or getting sober, I am doing it, backwards and in high heels if necessary, all the way to 180 days. Just watch me.

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