No bet­ter time for a new chal­lenge . . .

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Keith Dug­gan:

Don’t feel bad. Ease your­self into it. It’s only the first Satur­day of the New Year. Your heart is pure and your in­ten­tions re­main true and un­sul­lied and this is go­ing to be the year. Im­pos­si­ble is noth­ing. Okay, so you’re a lit­tle be­hind sched­ule. A week has passed since the New Year’s Eve bash when you were telling any­one who’d lis­ten that this was it. Enough’s enough. A new leaf. You were go­ing to “get back at it”. With a vengeance, now.

What “it” was you hadn’t full worked out. Maybe ac­tu­ally use that gym mem­ber­ship more than once a fort­night. Or get back to the in­door soc­cer on a Wed­nes­day night. Those Broad­man bikes in Hal­ford’s looked nifty; you had vi­sions of your­self astride one of those bad boys, knif­ing through ter­tiary roads and at­tack­ing the moun­tain­ous ter­rain, king of all you sur­veyed.

But then you thought about the cru­ci­fy­ing in­dig­nity of cy­cling shorts and the weird shape of those hel­mets and the deathly pale­ness of those lone – and lonely – male cy­clists of in­de­ter­minable age in their torso-hug­ging cy­cling jer­seys that you’d en­counter on all sorts of un­for­giv­ing roads, look­ing parched and fear-stricken as they faced into one of those bas­tard head-winds with a good 40km to go un­til home.

Naw, maybe you’d leave the cy­cling for the golden years when your knees were crocked. For you are still in your prime and need some­thing more dy­namic and brac­ing, some­thing to bring out the rag­ing ath­lete, the beast within. Af­ter all, you still “want” to run a marathon. You’ve al­ways said you’d “love” to run a marathon – maybe in New York.

Now, when you told peo­ple this, it wasn’t the ac­tual run­ning bit you were pic­tur­ing – haul­ing ass across the Queens­boro bridge on the verge of car­diac – as much as NY it­self, the mu­se­ums and the bars. The après run, you had to con­cede, was more of an at­trac­tion that the run.

Noble am­bi­tion

And it was true that when­ever you shared your noble am­bi­tion to join the le­gion of marathon run­ners (who se­cretly look down upon the sec­tion of mankind yet to com­plete their 26 miles with a stride fall­ing some­where be­tween a fast walk and oc­to­ge­nar­ian run) they al­ways came back with that prac­ti­cal and unan­swer­able: “well why don’t you then.”

As it if it is that sim­ple. As if you can sim­ply throw your­self into run­ning 26 miles cold turkey. But over Christ­mas and New Year, you could feel your­self drawn to it; the idea of you as run­ner. You could al­most hear the pound­ing of your shiny new train­ers on muddy roads and your breath­ing hard and that feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion as you knock back the miles.

You’d prob­a­bly be up to the half-marathon by Easter. It was a pleas­ing im­age, com­mit­ting your­self to the great wilder­ness on those pre-dawn morn­ings with ev­ery­thing blue and frozen, hood up and head-phones on, like some of the GAA play­ers in the cin­e­matic tele­vi­sion ad­verts. In truth you were look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge. You were look­ing for­ward to the pain. Mind you, this line of think­ing oc­curred on St Stephen’s night and you’d been leather­ing the brandy.

Still and all, when Jan­uary 1st came around, you were bristling with a sense of pur­pose as you went about get­ting ready for the first run of the year. First run of a few years, in fact.

And it wasn’t ideal that there was a pretty de­li­cious aroma of ba­con and syrup in the kitchen be­cause the oth­ers were muzzy headed and feel­ing in the need of fat and cof­fee while you, you killer, waved away all of­fers of a cooked break­fast and be­gan to con­spic­u­ously munch on a ba­nana. Then you’d be off.

But you gave the out­doors a quick scan and you didn’t like the look of that sky one bit. Black­ish and an­gry and filled with rain. Not that a drop of rain was go­ing to put you off. At the same time, though, it would be noth­ing short of dumb­ness to come down with a bout of pneu­mo­nia that might set your “pro­gramme” back by a cou­ple of months.

Just the one bit of ba­con, so, and whoa, easy on the syrup. You made a wise de­ci­sion – don’t all the ex­perts say rest days are more im­por­tant than train­ing days? You were get­ting the rest day in first. But there was ab­so­lutely zero chance of you go­ing any­where near a drink for a long time. No way. It would be a quiet Jan­uary 1st.

Then the mes­sages came in. On text and on What­sApp. Ul­ster v Mun­ster. Le­in­ster v Con­nacht. A crew gath­er­ing be­fore ev­ery­one headed off. When would you see them all again? Wasn’t this what “the fes­tive sea­son” was all about? None of those bo­zos un­der­stood; they had no in­ten­tion of run­ning a marathon, any­where, ever.

And when you headed out you be­lieved you would be home again as soon as the se­cond game was done. But it turned out to be a bril­liant night. One of the best in years. So good, in fact, it was struck up again on the Tues­day and you were feel­ing a bit ropey on the Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day. What you needed now was a few good early nights be­cause ev­ery­one knows that if you train on a tired body you are do­ing more harm than good. You heard So­nia O’Sul­li­van say­ing that. Or was it LeBron?

So now it’s Satur­day – 51 weeks to go in 2018. The weigh­ing scales are up there in the bath­room, taunt­ing you. And the weird thing is that ever since you be­gan to think about run­ning, you can feel a calf in­jury be­gin­ning to stir – an old in­jury, a legacy from the days when you were a flier.

Be­cause make no mis­take, you had pedi­gree once; you had mi­nor tri­als or you could run the 100m in ten flat or you ran ju­ve­nile against Fion­nu­ala McCor­mack or you once marked a Bro­gan or a McBrearty in a schools match and you gave them noth­ing. Not a sniff. No­body re­mem­bers that. But you do. And you miss that.

Gen­uinely demo­cratic

You know you’ve no ex­cuses that you want to hear any­more. You can’t be­lieve it but the auld Gah is go­ing to be kick­ing off in three weeks’ time. You know that the flood­lights are gen­eral all over Ire­land; that the 32 county teams are burn­ing the lungs off them­selves be­cause this is the only time of year when the whole thing is gen­uinely demo­cratic and they are all at the start­ing line.

Plus, you can’t ig­nore any­more that watch­ing Match of the Day kind of gnaws at you now be­cause you can’t re­mem­ber the last time you kicked a ball for the pure fun of it.

You’re sort of tired of the fact that watch­ing sport and fol­low­ing sport is keep­ing you away from liv­ing sport.

And that feel­ing is strong now: that im­pa­tience to break out of your­self. Who cares what Pep has to say? Let some­one else worry about José’s rant. It’s de­cided; you have re­solved, in fact, that you can’t waste an­other minute and are out the door as soon as you fin­ish read­ing the few lines of this thing to see if this douche-bag col­umn has any­thing of use to tell you . . . and, of course, it doesn’t so you’re al­ready half­way there – on the road, in the pool, on the cross-trainer, on the bike. On the move. And you’re de­lighted. Keep her lit.

Not that a drop of rain was go­ing to put you off. At the same time, though, it would be noth­ing short of dumb­ness to come down with a bout of pneu­mo­nia that might set your ‘pro­gramme’ back by a cou­ple of months

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.