Redefining “normal”

I refuse to feel sorry for myself.

I admit sitting out the last 4 weeks, not able to run because of this mind bogglingly trivial foot injury has been frustrating but it has also made me come to realise a few home truths.  The first thing is that it has reminded me how much I enjoy simply going out for a run and seeing so many people out running in the summer sun brings this home.  I have set goals this year to do things like running a marathon in a personal best time, continent spanning distances in a month and parkruns at time distorting speeds but the real thing I miss is that simple pleasure.

The insight was given to me by my good friend Louise Thompson who has gone through in injury terms, much more and I give her full credit here.  What she said was that she had found “a new normal” meaning that it doesn’t really matter that we can’t do the things we used to do when we were younger, fitter and more resilient, so long as we enjoy ourselves.  Being a runner is a lifestyle choice, something we do for health, fitness and being around positive, like-minded people as well at getting to go out and enjoying that “runners high”.  You don’t have to run faster or longer than anyone else just so long as you can do your thing to the best of your ability.

Finally, last week I met an individual who’s journey is inspiring and the same time puts my trivial struggles into perspective. You can read Kirsty Shepherd’s story on the parkrun blog but suffice to say after meeting Kirsty and reading her blog, I refuse to feel sorry for myself.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

The fastest man in the world?

A colleague of mine (or rather, a man who works for the same company as I), Fraser Corsan, is an interesting man.   You may have heard of wing suits or seen them on TV, specially modified with triangles of fabric sewn between each arm and the body as well as between the legs.  It means that if you jump out of an aircraft wearing one, you don’t drop like a stone but rather are able to glide by spreading your arms and legs.  Granted, a parachute is still required to save you from a deadly appointment with the ground but it must be the closest thing to flying like Superman that exists in real life.  When Fraser took up wing-suiting, there was only a total of around 15 people word-wide doing it and now, with over 1,300 wing-suit jumps to his name, he is among the most experienced wing-suit flyers in the world.  The term “legend” is sometimes rather liberally applied to inspiring individuals but it certainly applies to Fraser.

So, one day he and a collection of supporters decided to engage on an audacious  project to raise money for the services charity. SSAFA by attempting to beat no less than 4 world records.  The 4 Project Cirrus goals were: The highest altitude jumped in a wing-suit (37,265ft), the longest flight time in a wing-suit (9 minutes 6 seconds), the highest speed flown in a wing-suit (234mph) and the furthest distance flown in a wing-suit (19.01 miles).

The training and planning was meticulous and you couldn’t fault the preparation.  What you can’t plan for of course is the weather and on the week when all the years of planning came together, no one could have predicted how unfavourable it would be.  It was clear to the team before any planes took off that there was no way Fraser could even be flown to a sufficient height to be able to have a realistic chance of beating any of the records.  The team put a brave and positive face on things, but you could tell their bitter disappointment.

I am unlikely to ever be the fastest man at anything but I have goals like us all.  In my blog “Old men will dream dreams” back in November 2016 I set some ambitious targets for 2017.  Now as we approach half way through 2017, things have not gone my way.  There has been flu, colds, a foot corn, a sprained ankle and now a new foot injury that I thought would take a few days to heal and now, I’ve been out for three weeks.  As far as running training is concerned, I have never really been able to get started. I was planning a 200 mile month in June and in total, I think I have managed around 2.

It would be tempting to start re-doubling training efforts and doing extra mileage to try and reach my goal of 1,500 mies in the year.   I can still train for my Marathon in October but the whole PB goal was based on a 6-month build-up.  I could beat myself up at not being able to achieve these things but having to sit-out the last couple of weeks has made me realise something really important.

When I volunteered as the official photographer at Temple Newsam parkrun a few weeks ago, I saw hundreds of people enjoying turning out on a wet summers morning to do a parkrun.  They were all having a great time of it (even if painful) but it didn’t honestly matter if they were finishing in 18 minutes or 48 minutes.   It just brought home to me how much I actually enjoy going out for a run and this, regardless of how fast.  Being injured, I can appreciate what a gift being able to run is and how all the goal setting and striving for personal bests is secondary to that.

I have decided that dropping 2017 goals is not going to make me miserable.  All of the reasons that have stopped me running are nothing to do with training or fitness and that I couldn’t do anything about them.  I will not take down these goals because I still strive to achieve them some time but, they are not the be-all and end-all because being able to do what I love is more important.

As a final act in the saga of Fraser Corsan’s record attempts, closer examination of the flight records reveals that after all, on one of his jumps Fraser reached a maximum speed of 249mph which exceeds the world record by 15 miles per hour.  Fastest man in the world?  Usain Bolt, eat your heart out!  As for me?  I still may be able to reach some of my goals this year but if not, Que Sera, Sera.

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18