As I lined up at the start I thought “why am I doing this?” As I ran the final few miles – which were uphill – I thought “I am never doing this again…” But guess what. By the time I was on my way home (wearing my medal like I’d just won gold at the Olympics) I started to think “Weeeell it wasn’t that hard. Maybe I should do another one to try and improve on my time…”
Gotta love that thinking.
Now the question I’ve been asking myself is: Would I have been able to run a half marathon if I’d still been drinking? I’d like the answer to be no (because that would be much more satisfying and frankly, a better post) but I suspect that I would’ve made it, just. I’ve white-knuckled my way round races before.
Last December, in the middle of the party season, I ran a very hilly 10 mile race. I’d not been drinking the night before but I had drunk a lot in the days leading up to it. In fact I hadn’t done much training at all as I was arrogant enough to think I’d be able to wing it. Look at me. I can drink and still stay fit. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’d not bothered to research the race so the never-ending hills were a surprise. I did manage to cross the finish line but needless to say it was a painful experience.
Yesterday felt different. Yes, it was tough and I was nervous, but I felt quietly confident that I could do it. I had prepared for it. I had done the training, I’d put the work in. I just had to put everything into practice. When I was drinking I always had lots of big ideas (I think I signed up to the half marathon before I quit) but I rarely saw them through to the finish or if I did I was very half hearted about it.
On a slightly different note, a weird thing happened to me on Saturday night. For the first time in ages I had huge wobble about whether I should stay sober.
As the race was in London – and I live in the north – I stayed overnight with an old school friend. We were making dinner when wine came up in conversation and I told her that I’d stopped drinking in April.
So far, no big deal. I’ve told lots of people that I don’t drink anymore and I usually give them a brief but honest explanation. This time I found myself telling big fat lies. I ended up saying I’d quit as part of a running related health kick because I’d started to ‘react badly’ to alcohol. (“React badly”? WTF?! Talk about an understatement) I certainly implied it wasn’t a permanent thing.
Later, as we talked about my birthday plans (next month) I found myself actually believing the lie that I’d told earlier. My friend said: you can’t celebrate your birthday without a drink! Once the race is over the health kick will be too, right? And I found myself thinking the same. It wasn’t just a craving or a fleeting thought – it was a full on “why have I stopped drinking? I can’t remember” type moment. That uncomfortable feeling lasted the rest of the evening and I was relieved to have the race as an excuse to go to bed early. I crawled into bed to read some blogs and try and sort my head out.
I woke up feeling fine and the night before felt like an odd dream. Still, it’s bugging me. It strikes me that the longer you’re sober the easier it is not to drink. But the further you get away from your last drink the harder it is to remember all the downsides.
I think on Saturday night two things happened: firstly I chickened out of telling one of my oldest friends the truth, probably because it would hurt if she reacted badly. Secondly, I got caught up romanticising the idea of going out like a ‘normal’ person. The truth is, drinking with my normie friends was never very satisfying as they never drank nearly enough. They don’t drink to feel numb or sink into oblivion. That’s how I drank. They drink to feel tipsy and silly and to celebrate a special occasion – and I am still a bit jealous that I can’t do that.