I recently had that thought put to the test. I had previously thought that I had really wanted something, only to then look at things differently and consider changing my mind and accept a different result – but when the chance to achieve a dream was being taken from me right before my eyes I had to make a decision there and then. What exactly did I actually want? Did I want it as much as I thought I did?
Let us go back about 12 months.
My partner and I entered the ballot for the Berlin Marathon. She absolutely loves Berlin, and I’d had a long-standing knee issue that had stopped me from running so I thought it would be something that would make me push harder to find out the cause of the problem and get it sorted out. She got into the ballot and I did not.
The thing that she did not know at this point was that I had planned that we would do the race together and toward the end, as we approached the Brandenburg Gate I would propose. Not getting a ballot place meant that temporarily this was not going to happen. Down, but not out, I looked at getting a place running for charity. Some wanted more money than I knew I could hope to raise. I have done marathons before, so it’s not a new challenge that people would be interested in. The last charity I looked at was Shelter, who wanted an amount I could manage to raise. They had a spot for me, and I was grateful for that. (www.justgiving.com/vixxthompson)
So then began the long process toward regaining my fitness and trying to sort out my knee and leg issues. I could cross-train quite successfully, but as soon as I started trying to run, the discomfort and pain would return, so I asked a couple of friends to help me with resolving this issue. I am qualified in sports massage therapy and rehabilitation techniques, so going to the doctor was not really possible in the short term, as I would only be sent for physiotherapy in the first instance which I could do for myself. I could walk OK, and I could manage to work with no problem. I didn’t actually wish to see a doctor until I had exhausted my own rehab options. If there was still a problem after trying rehab then I would go to see my GP.
I had a suspicion as to what was wrong due to where I could feel the most pain and discomfort, and this was confirmed when I had it looked at and it was found that my kneecap was off-centre due to tight musculature on the outside and weak musculature on the inside of my leg. Thus began a long process of massage, trigger-point therapy and rehabilitation exercises alongside cross-training. Down, but not out, and getting stronger.
Over time I managed to start doing some small amounts of running, but not particularly fast. I had other things to look at too such as arranging a ring. My partner had arranged the hotel, and we arranged the flights, but I needed to find a ring (not easy when your partner doesn’t wear jewellery), and get it to Berlin without her finding it, or getting a hint of the situation. Airport security loves to pull me aside for a frisk or a bag check (8 times in my last 4 trips to Europe), and I was concerned that they’d be looking through my bag, pulling out the box with the ring in it, and the missus looking over my shoulder, going “What’s that?”
There’s a way around everything though if you want to look hard enough.
A friend of mine works for a well renowned jewellers, and he helped me to get the ring and kept it for me until as close to the trip as he could, so that there was less chance of it being found by anyone. I entrusted a few friends with giving an opinion on the ring and with keeping things secret – which helped me immensely! Thanks guys! I tried to plan this out so that the less people who knew, the more chance of this being a total surprise. In my head I had it all planned out so that it could be a day for her to remember.
However, on the day things became markedly different. I’d had a cold come out a couple of days before, but luckily it had stayed as a head cold and did not go onto my chest. The sneezes and sniffles had disappeared by race morning, and we had prepared in the best way that we could. We had planned to run together, and we got to the Start Line together. The race was on. Although mentally it wasn’t.
Getting to the start line of a marathon is tough. It takes a lot of planning and preparation, and training and getting the right nutrition. But if you get up in the wrong frame of mind on the day, it can still go wrong. My head said it didn’t want to do this. I was worried about the cut-off. I was concerned about the knee being untested at this distance. I was frightened I would be forced to stop because of it. Doubt had entered my mind right at the last minute.
Down, but not out. Keep one foot in front of the other until you’re sure of where you want to go.
So many things started to go wrong that I was fighting the odds right from the start line. After 1km I could quite easily have stopped and gone home. I didn’t feel comfortable with my running pattern, and it was already starting to shape up to be a hot day. At 3km the sweat running down my face was mixing with the sunscreen that I had been made to put on and my eyes were burning. At 8km I had a mini mental-meltdown, and at 13km my stomach was rumbling! With 29km to go at this point that was a bad sign. Luckily the water stations also had bananas and apple slices, and whilst I am not a fruit fan (love veggies though!), I took some banana to shut my stomach up, which did the trick.
I was spending every footstep reminding myself why I was doing this. I was raising money for people who needed a roof over their heads, who needed support from people when there was no-one else to help. I was lucky enough to be able to afford to fly to Berlin and stay in a hotel to take part in the race. I was thinking that I am lucky that I have a roof over my head every night, and I should be grateful that I have the opportunity to take part in such a huge race to be able to try and help other people who might need it.
However, soon after this came the defining moment of the race – THE moment where it was time to decide just how much this race mattered to me, and just how much I wanted to finish it. Down, and very nearly out.
As we passed the halfway point, we were a little slower than I would have liked, although we had been informed that the cut-off point for finishing was later than we had previously been told. We were just starting to pick up the pace when I heard a noise behind us. Approaching were two coaches. I turned round and pointed to them, and said “Those must be the elite athletes, they’ve run it, won it and are going back to the hotel.”
Only, it wasn’t. The buses pulled up behind us and a man got out and told us to get in. I realised to my horror that it was actually the sweeper bus, for those who are not moving quickly enough to finish the race in the allotted time. I moved away slightly, my partner arguing with the man that we could still finish in the time allowed. “You must move onto the pavement then,” he said as he moved on to other people around us. We moved as fast as we could, but the bus and its convoy soon overtook us, and started to move slowly into the distance. Heads down, we just kept putting one foot in front of the other. About a kilometre or so later, we bumped into some race marshalls that were all heading their separate ways. One looked at my race number with confusion, and barked something at me in German. I can usually understand German if spoken slowly so my confused look must have been especially fetching that day as he then spoke in English.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“Carrying on with the race.”
“No. No, no. The sweeper bus is gone. You must stop.”
My other half steps in. “Why? We were told we could carry on along the pavement.”
“It’s not safe. The roads are re-opening. You must stop.”
The choice was made in seconds – possibly before I had even had a chance to properly think it through. IF I thought it through. Suddenly we were running, sprinting as if our lives depended on it. We were dodging people on the pavements, weaving in and out of spectators who thought that the race was past them. We had to periodically stop and catch our breath, but we kept pushing. Suddenly I saw the 25km marker in front, and they hadn’t yet removed the timing mats. The rules before the race stated that if one of these mats were missed by a runner, then that person would be disqualified. We had to get over that mat, but there was fencing up, and the drinks tables were being dismantled before our eyes. But there was a gap ahead! A small gap, but enough to squeeze through to get over that mat. It beeped as I went over, and then I heard it beep for the missus and I knew that we weren’t out yet.
We still had to try and get ahead of the sweeper buses though, which were still ahead of us, although they were getting closer now. As we approached them, I ran on the opposite side to the door – just in case they tried to make us get on them again. Luckily, the chap was too busy trying to persuade other people to get on to notice us advancing.
WE WERE BACK IN THE GAME!
From that point on, every single person we passed was another person between us and that bus. I firmly believed that we could do this now, but we still had work to do. We teamed up with other people at times to push through at an acceptable pace. Sometimes they went on, and other times we went on, but we were all avoiding being called to the bus in our own way. My leg was getting stiff now, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t deal with and the pain wasn’t getting any worse. I took fluid at every aid station, having finished my bottle miles beforehand and ditching it in the gutter somewhere. Gels were taken regularly to make sure I didn’t run out of fuel, even though they were making me feel sick – I HAD to finish now. I knew I wanted this, and I wanted to carry off my plan exactly as I had thought it through in the days before the race. As we hit 40km and the final timing mate before the finish, I knew we were safe from the bus. We continued forward.
As we turned the corner and the Brandenburg Gate came into view, I realised that this was what the whole race had led us to. We were still together, and I could feel the ring box in my pocket telling me it was time. We passed some cheerleaders and made our way onto the cobbles, with the area still busy with spectators. I unzipped my pocket and took the box into my hand.
I told my partner that I had something for her, that had travelled with me today and that it was time for her to have it now, but that there was a question for her first. I told her that we’d done all of this race together, and that we’d met because of a marathon, but that I didn’t want to finish this one unless she would be my fiancée.
I didn’t get down on one knee. I was frightened that I wouldn’t get back up.
Luckily she said Yes.
Marathons are often used as euphemisms for various trials of life, and over the course of one, things can change quite rapidly. It’s rare that everything stays the same but it’s about handling the changes that occur whilst you undergo the distance. It can see the best and the worst of you – just like life. Whether you are quick or slow, you’ll go the same distance. Some people take longer to reach their destination than others.
The thing is that people want things enough to go for them. If it matters enough, then whatever you want to do in life CAN happen. It may take longer, or there might be diversions in the way, but if it matters enough then these things can be overcome. You will learn more about yourself than you thought, and will be a true test of time and patience, but if it is worth it to you, then it is worth sticking with.
After all, nothing truly worthwhile in life just drops into your lap, does it?
What do you really want?
How do you intend to achieve it?
Let me know if I can help.
Have a great day,
©2015 Vixx Thompson/Kinetic Lifestyle. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.