This above all: to thine own self be true (Shakespeare; Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3, 78-82)
A lot of people ask me directly or indirectly why I run – in particular, why I want to run an ultra marathon.
In the end it comes down to how I feel about myself. Yes, I am trying to raise much-needed funds for Wildlife Victoria, who do amazing work, and rely solely on private donations to fund their work (thank you to all who have supported WV through donations via my Everyday Hero fundraising page – it is greatly appreciated). However, this is also a justification – something allowing me to run a distance that some people can’t comprehend riding at times let alone running.
So why do I want to:
- put my body through the pain it inevitably goes through
- place time pressures on my personal commitments outside running and
- spend a fortune on running gear and masseur/osteo appointments (!!)
for one moment on one day in August?
Because in the end running is something that makes me feel good about myself. Actually, any intense sporting activity does – boxing, MMA, Zuu to name some others.
But running is different. Running is my personal time.
I do not compete with anyone else or share that space with anyone else. It is all me and whatever is going on in my head and heart. It is where I often toss around ideas, hear and conceive poetry, come up with a new angle on a work problem, write a draft of a section of my masters thesis, and sit with the silence that comes with the footfall and my breathing. I feel good about myself at the end of a run, regardless of how quickly I did it or how long it was.
It is the time in the day when I am most true to myself.
In Hamlet, Polonius is not really trying to give Laertes some tree-hugging new-age advice (which is how this line is often interpreted). The more Elizabethan interpretation sits more with not doing things that wound your self-image. So he was telling Laertes to ‘look after number one’ (as my grandmother used to say).
When I was a child my grandfather gave me the book ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ by George Samuel Clason. The essence of the book is that when you get paid, you should pay yourself first above all others, and, from memory, that the payment should be 10% of the salary received. Looking back as an adult I see this as more of a metaphor for the investment we make in ourselves, whether that be through education, career advancement, personal challenges, or whatever helps us to grow.
Running is a personal investment in me.
Seeking to stretch myself in that area by aiming for an ultra is akin to someone taking a short course in a new subject area or looking for a new job with only 75% of the job criteria in place.
I believe I can do it and will stay true to myself.