Why it's okay to be a quitter

paul halford chamonix.jpg

Be sensible when it comes to reaching for your goals, says Trail Running website editor and #Run1000Miles ambassador Paul Halford

We will live in a world where completing is more important than competing.

People gain a huge social media following for conquering great feats of endurance - fast or slow. Those who have completed a marathon - time irrelevant - are viewed as superhuman by some.

Personally I’d rather see those with talent and speed get more of the share of the recognition - but I resign myself to the world we live in.

However, as I ran the Virgin Money London Marathon last month, I realised it’s hard not to get caught up in the same thinking.

After a six-week block of high mileage, I had lined up with a boosted total in my #Run1000Miles challenge - I knew six weeks was not enough and so I would confirm.

From the first mile, I could tell my left leg didn’t feel quite right. As the miles went by, I could tell the left hamstring wasn’t firing on all cylinders. By the time I crossed Tower Bridge, “optimistic goal” had gone, “realistic target” was disappearing and soon “respectable time” would be off the cards too.

By 16 miles it was clear any finishing time would offer neither value nor redemption. I’ve run plenty of marathons before - don’t ask me how many like everyone else does because I don’t know or care. I take no satisfaction from “finishing” a marathon.

“How long does it take to walk 10 miles?” I tried work out. A long time was the answer - although would it take much longer than calling it a day and battling the crowds above and below ground to get back to my baggage at the Mall?

I knew I probably should drop out. If it had been any other marathon than London I would have. I decided to do another mile … and then another mile. But it was still a long way to go.

I tried speed-walking, but that still hurt. So with a combination of run-hobbling and walking I reached Embankment, wondering which of my local running acquaintances would be the next to shout encouragement as they hurtled past. Each time I began running again I’d be cheered by the crowds, which was heartwarming and embarrassing in equal measures.

However, by around 23 miles I knew I had come too far not to finish and so I eventually crossed the line, not pleased with my time but glad that I had the willpower to continue.

In the nineteen days since, I have only run three times, with two gaps of almost a week each. I can still feel the hamstring even when I walk. I run gingerly, believing it could “pop” again at any moment. In June I’ll be in the Lake District and the Austrian Alps and it’ll be a major blow if I’m not able to run.

So was finishing and risking making it worse worth it? Logically, no, although if you put me in the same position again I would probably make the same choices. Common sense may tell us one thing but the desire to reach the end is always strong.

No one wants to be a quitter, but we need to learn that it’s okay to be that sometimes. Finishing is not the be-all and end-all.

It applies equally to training as racing - taking two steps forward and one back is sometimes preferable. Don’t neglect hitting the “pause” button if niggles or injury come along. Take recovery if you’re especially tired. Don’t stick slavishly to a training plan, but react to fatigue and injuries.

It’s not too late to sign up to #Run1000Miles. Click here for details of how to join in for free.