On the whole, I tend to think of myself as a fairly even-tempered person. Well - that's not entirely true. I tend to veer moor towards one or the other extreme but still - I tend to operate within a band of emotion which is, by and large, moderate. Acceptable, I think. However, from time to time I get totally and completely riled. Utterly.
Over the course of this summer this has happened more often than before. For reasons I shall not bore you with I have recently come in for a larger than usual share of personal criticism. Thankfully not from my husband (or even my children..) but nonetheless. And let me say this upfront - I'm not terribly good at taking criticism. Much better at giving than taking it. However, I am trying to be grown-up about it and to stay calm (serenity now, serenity now). I'm taking it away and trying to work out whether it is true and fair criticism and, if so, if there is anything I can or should do about it. Again I won't bore with what I have been told are my various faults (highlights are that I am, apparently, not terrible sociable, and I am, apparently, occasionally bad-tempered). All fairly subjective criticisms as well, I realise, and I do not take all of it on board.
But then, yesterday, another missile was lobbed at me. Apparently - "and another thing" - I am addicted to running. It's wearing me out and affecting my life and that of those around me negatively. I blame it on the papers: 2 weeks ago this article appeared in the Telegraph and various other papers and since then lots of people have quoted the contents to me. I've tended to just make light of it, and haven't really gone into it. But last night it did rile me.
And why does it irritate me? Well, firstly, I guess, because I don't think it's true. I imagine the research quoted in the article is scientifically accurate, but I don't think that I exercise excessively. Marathon training is intense, but I know plenty of other "normal" people who do it, and many who exercise a great deal more than I do. I don't suffer from anorexia athletica (jeez have you seen me lately?). And when I don't run - like a week ago, when I had to take 5 days off - I did not display "symptoms like those seen in addicts: trembling, writhing, teeth chattering, and drooping eyelids". Good lord.
But what I really don't think is true is that my running affects a) my family and b) my life negatively. I polled the only person who matters in this respect, Adam (my kids would love it if I devoted every waking moment to them so I'm not going to check in with them) and he confirmed that, and I quote "your running does not affect my life negatively in any way and I am very proud of your achievements". I make a considerable effort to ensure that my running rarely takes place at a time when it could affect my family - 80% of it takes place before 8am.
So the final topic to stew on - does it affect my life negatively? The criticiser claimed that I was "always tired" as a result of my running. I'm not. Yes - when I run a 20 miler at 6am I am no longer fresh as a daisy by 9pm. But believe me, it's the rest of my life (2 kids, house, a pile of responsibilities) that tires me out. I have always woken early and gone to bed early (I have just checked and confirmed this with my mother, source of most truths) and this fits in with my running. Thinking things through I would say that the only thing that is sacrificed for my running is watching TV and frequent late night revelling. Without a hint of sanctimoniousness and with, indeed some regret, I don't watch any TV. I tend to use my evenings to catch up on things in my life - friends, books, washing, tidying, etc. I miss the series I would like to watch. But - it's not a big regret. And as for frequent late night revelling - I never was able to keep up with the big kids for very long and, occasionally, I can still bust out a great party night. All the more enjoyable for being a bit more rare...
Fundamentally I am upset by this criticism because I love running and what it has done for my life and I am upset to think that something that makes me so happy could be considered such a bad thing by others. It has not only helped me lose weight that I had carried for over 10 years. It has not only toned me and strengthened me. But it has also served as an enormously healthy way of dealing with stress and tension. It continues to give me an enormous sense of achievement, every day. And it has given me friends and social networks - running buddies near and far - and goals to work towards. The gains, in short, have been enormous.
What are your thoughts? How does your family feel about the time you devote to running? Do you feel you miss out on things because of it?
Ok. Rant over.
Finally - it's taper time. 3 weeks till Berlin. The knee is getting better - Jonathan said it was a typical fell runner's injury (hardcore, but still undesirable) and is working on loosening the quads and minimising the swelling. I feel fairly confident that Jonathan, and time and taper, will get my knee healed before Berlin. I've been icing after runs, and only felt my knee slightly in the last (downhill) miles of yesterday's 20 miler. Nonetheless, I got her in in 2:53 which gives me confidence for the big race in 3 weeks. Hope everyone's running is going well. I am YEARS behind on commenting on your blogs but intend to catch up next week!