New year, new me

Yea OK, OK, you’ve heard that before, right?

Everyone and their dog says that, each and every year. Oh look, it’s January. Time to leave the old me behind, move on. Something new. A fresh outlook. New year, new me. And then, within a couple of months, everything’s still the same, nothing’s really changed at all. We’re all still merrily plodding on, doing what we always do and heading towards our impending doom. Lovely stuff.

This year is different though. This year feels different. Let’s begin at what I thought was the end. But was actually the beginning.

On Sunday, April 23rd 2017 I thought I had completed the blog. I achieved my ambition to run the London Marathon, after God-knows-how-many years of trying, and that was that. My running was drifting away from “train your bollocks off for a time target” and heading towards “go for a run to feel a bit better about yourself”. I had nothing left to achieve, so I stopped putting pressure on myself. Running became a pleasure, if you can call it that. I was content. Apart from the little flurry of excitement in Autumn 2018, I didn’t set myself any sort of target for any of my races for nearly four years, going all the way back to the 2016 marathon that finally got me into London. 

Late last year, I received an email that changed everything. Rather than marking the end of my journey, London 2017 was suddenly possibly about to become just the start of it. Let me explain.

So basically, there’s a few other marathons, right? The majors, if you will. The Abbott World Marathon Majors, to give them their full title. London is one. Berlin another. Tokyo a third, and then there’s the three biggies over in the US of A: Boston, Chicago and New York. Six marathons spread throughout the year; complete all six at some point in your lifetime to earn a “star” for each one, and then look, you win a bloody massive medal like the one above.

I need this medal.

I have no idea if it’s remotely possible. This isn’t something that’s going to come easily, if at all. It took me over a decade to get into the one Major in my home country FFS so God knows how long it’ll take to get into any of the others. I’ve already been rejected by the Berlin ballot since I set this challenge, so we’re currently back to square one as it stands with no marathon in sight.

No Major marathon, anyway.

There’s a glimmer of hope. In fact, I realised last week that it was more than just “hope”. I actually had a “slight possibility”. Essentially, due to the way the some of the races, such as Boston, take your age on the day you intend to race, rather than the day you achieved the qualifying time to actually get there, it turns out I fall into a different age bracket for older folk with slower targets and all of a sudden the door is slightly ajar. If I can somehow get back up to a similar pace as I was half a decade ago and run a fast enough “minor” marathon, I might be able to squeeze into one of the major ones.

The goalposts have moved. Everything has changed. My outlook has shifted. New year, new me. A couple of months ago I was patiently waiting to see if I’d got a place at Berlin to earn my second star, and if I somehow got in I was planning on taking it exactly as seriously as I’d taken 95% of my races over the past four years including both marathons at London, i.e. not very. Get a nice pair of chunky comfortable support shoes, plod round the thing, probably mildly hungover, enjoying my day as best I could and then I could tick another one off the old list.

Now, the next marathon needs to be a fast one somewhere, anywhere, to try and qualify for one of the bigguns, and all of a sudden I need to reshape my approach to running completely again. Change everything. Run more. Run faster. Train harder, eat better. Drink less. New year, new me. I’m basically back to looking at advanced training plans, lightweight racing shoes and preparing to write off another six months of my life…why exactly? Oh yea, so I can maybe qualify for the chance to do it all over again somewhere else. USA, Germany or Japan. Ruin a holiday by running 26.2 miles and most likely then being unable to walk for the rest of it. Cool.

So here we are, the start of 2020 and the clock has been reset. The blog lives on (in its new guise) and we move onto the next challenge. Two years ago, I crossed the line in London and vowed “no more marathons”. Now, it’s “five more marathons”, plus the requisite races to try and qualify for them. Is it possible? Yes. Is it doable? Probably not. But it’s going to be a (deeply horrible) blast trying.

Only around 5,000 people on this earth have earned the Six Star medal, which puts it roughly on a par with climbing Mount Everest in terms of human achievement. It’s a bold and ridiculous idea and if I’m being honest I’m not sure it’s actually doable. The ballots are not kind to me, with close to a dozen London rejections now along with a pair from Berlin. What if this happens with every one of the remaining Majors? Boston doesn’t even have a ballot. To put it bluntly: I’m not expecting to complete this challenge any time soon, if at all.

But sod it, let’s have a go eh. I need something to aim for, and subsequently something new to blog about and bore you all shitless with after only curling out a solitary post in the latter half of 2019 despite running four races in September and October. If I’m serious about getting some more of these marathon stars, I can’t just sit back and wait for a ballot entry to swing my way. If I want them, I’ve got to go out there and try and earn them.

It’s all about change now as this grand new ambition begins to swing into view. I’m changing how I train. I’m changing which races I intend to run this year, with old favourites like Standalone and the Liverpool and Manchester halves likely to miss out in 2020. I’m changing from spring marathon to autumn marathon, with all the extra challenges summer training will bring. I’m changing my approach to what I eat and what I drink, what I wear. Everything is off the table. New year, new me.

Actually scratch that, it’s new year, same old me really isn’t it. It had to happen eventually didn’t it: I’m a marathon wanker again.

Featured image © Abbott World Marathon Majors