Sometimes failure looks like success?
The Great North Run – one of the athletics world’s famous fixtures. And my third race with Mo Farah, my hero, after the London Marathon in April and my first London 10k the year before – my first ever race.
The night before that one I was quailing at the start, thinking ‘Why am I doing this?’ – and then along came Mo, sailing serenely down the track in his sky-blue jacket, privileged solo access, making it look like the easiest thing in the world, and inspiring me with the wonder of it all.
The run-up to the Great North Run was anything but inspiring. 13.1 miles looked daunting a few weeks before – after the marathon, the longest run I managed over the summer was 8.5 miles round Blenheim Park – a glorious run that I really enjoyed while on holiday.
The Great North Run had been oppressing me all summer. I wanted to do it, but every Sunday I’d get that sinking feeling – will I actually manage to do the 6 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles today that I planned? And actually, I never did. All summer long, I failed to do the run I’d set out to do, Sunday after Sunday.
Mo says ‘it’s all mental’, and it’s true. I’ve learned that you run with your heart and mind as much as with your legs and feet. Translating that will to do it into the ability to do it seemed as impossible to me as translating the Bible into Inuit.
So what actually happened at the Great North Run? I started right near the back, among the fluffy chickens, the army guys in full kit, boots and backpacks, the clowns and the man with the fridge on his back. I didn’t start until 40 minutes into the race, when Mo was 10 minutes’ away from finishing. But I was running when he was, so we were in the same race.
55,000 started it, 43,000 finished it, including me. OK, I was 30 minutes off my personal best and Elvis Presley beat me, but I got in just ahead of Mickey Mouse, and 2 hours 10 minutes ahead of the last finisher. I got the medal and I got the T shirt!
So sometimes failure looks like success – or is it the other way round?