Running…A Selfish Sport?
They say running is a selfish sport.I say “they” as it is something I am constantly reminded but never really take on board. I know what kind of a person I am if I miss a run, therefore I think it’s only fair for everyone else that I go running. So I tend to see this obsessive hobby of mine as selfless in a way – after all, it is for the good of human kind.
While out running 250km in the Simpson Desert the last week though, I started to think that maybe it is a little selfish at times.
Any ultra runner can relate to those feelings of deep emotional reflection that seem to accompany the most physically gruelling of times. Those feelings usually lead you to thoughts of family and friends.
I thought of my mother waiting patiently for me to take her shopping while I was out on a “little” 40km morning jog.
I thought back to one hot New Year’s Day in Adelaide where the temperature reached 46 degrees in my home suburb and at 3pm – the hottest time of the day, I decided I just HAD to go for a run. So my dad mapped out my run, worked out how long it would take me and vowed to come pick up my dehydrated (and potentially decomposing) corpse should I not return in time.
I thought back to what a lazy house wife I’ve been this last six months. Almost every Sunday, I have come home after a long run to my boyfriend washing the dishes, hanging out my clothes. He even nicknamed me “Chaos” as he said the only thing I was organised about was my training schedule. It is fair to say I would not have had clean running gear this last six months, or a clean plate to eat of had it not been for my wonderful man. So I guess it is a little selfish.
(being a good house wifey)
This week in the Simpson Desert however, showed me that running is not always selfish.
When I signed up to do this race, I will admit that I just wanted to run in the desert. I don’t have diabetes, I have bipolar. Every time I have run for charity, it has been for mental health research – a somewhat selfish act as this is something I am directly affected by. So when I started trying to fundraise for diabetes I struggled at first. I didn’t have that personal connection which meant I didn’t have a whole lot of motivation.
That all changed when I mentioned the run to a friend at work. The reaction I had gotten from most people when I told them I was going to run through the Simpson Desert was “You’re an idiot.” My friend didn’t say that. He said “I think that’s fantastic. I am a type 1 diabetic and I just think that’s great.”
I remembered a day that this colleague and I were out conducting a work investigation. The “bad guy” was playing dirty tactics and was trying to tire us out with nonsense so that we would forget to ask the right questions. His delay tactics however, meant that my friend had gone for a very long period of time without eating. I guess he didn’t want to appear different to the rest of us, didn’t want to take his mind off the job. When he went grey and passed out, that was my very first experience with diabetes. Me signing up to this race was my very first experience of talking to someone, someone who I had known quite a long time, as to what it was like to actually live with diabetes.
With the help of my very good friend Amy, we organised a kick arse fundraising gig in Adelaide (and one to follow in Melbourne) in which both mine and Amy’s bands played. A bunch of other musos, artists and vegan chefs joined forces to try and raise as much money as we could to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. These activities put me in contact with people who were directly affected by diabetes – either themselves or their kids.
I guess the biggest impact came though when I met Duncan Read. Duncan is a fit, incredible guy who also ran the 250km in the Simpson Desert. Duncan was my tent buddy and soon to become my friend.
Day 3 of the Big Red Run was by far the hardest for me. I had run 2 marathons already and faced a third. My body was aching. I had blisters. I was tired. The last 9km just seemed to go on forever. The finish line took us on a course that veered past the camp. Duncan and his best mate Tom (who was also a resident in Tent 4) cheered me on. They were the first faces I saw running toward that finish line after a day out in the hot desert. Whilst I was slightly pissed that they both looked like they had finished hours ago, I was absolutely chuffed to see and hear them cheer me on.
(Tent 4 Commrades – Duncan, Me and Tom)
Duncan is a type 1 diabetic, but he was seriously kicking arse out in the desert – my arse. Every day he finished ahead of me, but every day – both he and Tom were amongst the first to hug me and congratulate me on the day’s run.
Anyway, I have waffled on for a bit here, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that after speaking to old friends about something we have never talked about, after meeting new people who are directly affected by type 1 diabetes and most certainly, after meeting Duncan Read and hearing him speak at the BRR awards ceremony, I feel like I have a better understanding of diabetes.
I will never know what it feels like to be a diabetic. I cannot fathom what it is like to have to check your blood sugar levels constantly, to have to inject yourself daily, to always be on the ball – always monitoring yourself, never being able to forget, just for one moment that you are, in fact a diabetic. This experience however, has shown me that we all have something going on in our lives – whether it’s diabetes, whether it’s bipolar or something else, but we are not defined by our problems, our demons, our illnesses or diseases. What defines us is the way we choose to overcome these hurdles and the message we choose to spread to the world about what it’s like to live with …diabetes, bipolar…..[insert issue of your choice].
So to all those runners who look at the BRR and see it as a great run, but don’t like the idea of fundraising for something that doesn’t affect you personally, see this as an opportunity to relish in the selflessness of running. You might just learn something about yourself in the process too.
(finishers of the BRR 2013)