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30 weeks

September 12, 2009

I’ve settled on my next target, and probably the biggest running challenge I’ll have for 2010 – the Paris Marathon on 11 April 2010. A relatively flat, scenic course through the French capital in spring with 35,000 other runners sounds special enough to break in my marathon-running career.

It sounds bizarre, but you want your first marathon to be special. There are loads of 26.2-mile races run in the UK each year, and certainly many closer to home (including the over-subscribed Abingdon Marathon), but I wanted something that gave me a reasonable chance of meeting my time goals and a remarkable atmosphere. Paris looks like it ticks all those boxes – and, besides, it’s a good opportunity to visit the family in France.

The other key thing is that as a sizeable running event – both in terms of being my first race over this distance, and in terms of the prestige of the Paris Marathon – it’s something I feel I can do for charity without feeling somewhat cheap. For example, I’m running the Race for Life 10km at Blenheim at the end of this week, but I’m not raising any money for charity… While I acknowledge that this completely goes against the spirit of the event, I genuinely don’t feel like I could plausibly ask people for money in return for me running a 10km – it doesn’t involve anywhere near enough suffering on my part. Similarly, having run a half marathon for pleasure, I think the charity boat has similarly sailed on that distance. Which leaves me with one obvious contender remaining…

I’ve not yet decided which charity to run for, but I guess I’m going to need to get that pinned down by the end of the year to give me a good stab at fundraising. The likely candidates so far are Asthma UK, Sobell House or Helen and Douglas House, but I’m still researching so others will be added to the list. I’d like to find a charity where the money would make a measurable difference – think ‘£10 will buy…’ – but maybe that’s something that can be done with a bit of canny marketing.

On a different (but related) note I’m reading the rather excellent What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. It’s a quite philosophical look at Murakami’s relationship with distance running and its parallels with his career as a novelist. I’ve found myself empathising with the feelings, thoughts and motivations that he describes; perhaps these are universal themes for amateur runners.

And finally, I’ve had two runs this week with the Abingdon Amblers, a sociable group of runners based at Tilsey Park, which includes some really rather good runners. The session on Thursday (circuit training) was my first time running on a track for about 13 years. It felt good to do a few laps at sunset, stretching out my legs as I gathered pace and feeling the bounce of the forgiving surface. I’m going to try a few more weeks before making any decisions, but I think it’s likely that I’ll start racing in a yellow vest soon.

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