Marathon Runner – A Personal Journey

Marathon Runner – A Personal Journey

It seems our favourite Aussie is a tad disappointed with the way certain media have chosen to pillory Paula Radcliffe’s Athens’ agony saying they do not understand the personal journey taken by Marathon runners toward achieving their goals.

Marathon Runner – A Personal Journey
After reading certain media coverage of Paula Radcliffe’s heartbreaking exit from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Marathon there is no doubt in my mind that the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is alive and well. Forgotten are the numerous successes over the years. Forgotten is the pride and joy we all felt when she came home victorious – sometimes against the odds. Forgotten is the hope of a ‘Nation of further glory in Athens. Instead, like the ‘Tall Poppy” she has become she is being swiftly cut down in certain quarters and cast aside as a failure.

How despicable the behaviour of those who now pillory such a fine athlete. She owes us nothing. We owe her much. At least we owe her the time and solitude to contemplate before explaining to us the reason or reasons why it all went pear shaped – given she needs to explain anything in the first place. And believe you me she will be soul searching long and hard, even desperately, to come to terms with it all and if I’m any judge in these matters Paula Radcliffe will not be making excuses or laying blame elsewhere. Like all consummate athletes she will look only to herself for the answers.

Paula Radcliffe’s pain will linger in her psyche until the day she dies. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting a brick to London Bridge that right now she is still screaming inside at the personal despair of it all. But I’ve a feeling she will bounce back and very soon we’ll all be smiling once again.

Although I cannot count the same successes and glory as Paula Radcliffe I can understand how she must be feeling right now. All her lonely hours treading over track, cross country and road courses plus the personal and social sacrifices made have been found wanting on the most important of all stages – the Olympic Games. Even more gut wrenching for Paula is that this Marathon was held on and around the very ancient sites that gave birth to the modern day foot race.

Look folks, I’ve finished a Marathon race in good shape vowing and declaring never again to go through the agony of it all. I’ve staggered across a Marathon finish line vowing and declaring never again to go through the agony of it all. I’ve picked up an injury early in a Marathon race and kept on running until the pain was excruciating that when I eventually limped across the finish line I vowed and declared no more, never again. And like Paula Radcliffe I’ve pulled up 2 to 3 miles short of a Marathon finish line unable to go on. My mind was saying I could do it. But my the body was declaring it was no longer up for it and in my ignominy I vowed and declared never again to subject myself to the agony of it all.

But I did return for one more Marathon – again and again.

Folks, it was akin to ‘mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun’ and if I had my time over I would do it all again. Yes, all those lonely hours of training, the joys, the heartaches, the pain, the ignominy, the hopes of glory and the friendships forged are wrapped up in one big beautiful memoir to treasure always.

In the madness of it all we would never call ourselves or each other failures or quitters for not making the finish line. Nor did we look for excuses external to our own performances, or blame others for what might have been. We alone understood these matters because it would happen to all of us at one time or another. Nor were outsiders allowed to criticise our lack of success. We could offer constructive criticism to each other. But not those who had not been there, done that.

Unlike the modern approach to athletics my training regime did not include special diets, access to government funded sports facilities and/or sports psychologists. There were no specialist coaches in the sprints, middle and long distances. Nor was there any form of commercial sponsorship with kitting out packages. Back then we were very much on our own with the only support available being our enjoyment and camaraderie through ‘Club membership and the sharing with each other of whatever knowledge we had in the sport.

My Coach belonged to the same Amateur Athletic Club. Did I say Coach? He was also my boss because we both worked for General Motors’ at the time. It goes without saying that being both my Coach and boss had distinctive advantages for training schedules.

Whether hail, rain or shine – and unless injured – I would train every day except Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. My daily schedule was split three ways: early morning 10 mile cross country runs; sprints at lunchtime – minimum 10 x 100 yards; and roadwork at night – minimum 10 miles. Yes, it was as basic as that. But it did the trick for me. Anyway, there was never a chance I would make the Olympic Games.

However, Paula Radcliffe did make the Olympics. She saw the horizon beckoning. But she never made it. This writer understands her pain because I’ve been there, done that. For me it doesn’t matter that the Marathon is run locally, nationally, internationally or at the Olympic Games because to have done so much, gone so far and to get so near only to fall short of your prized goal is heart wrenching agony. Of that there is no doubt.

Only those who have been there, done that know it. I know it. Paula knows it. Perhaps you know it too.

See you later…

Barry Edge
Western Australia
August 29, 2004

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