The Inspiration That Comes From Self-Loathing

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IMG_2806It is time to continue this journey. The time to complete the last three runs has been far, far longer than I had anticipated, with great delays in between. A satisfying experience? Not really. In fact, not at all.

Let me rephrase that: it is time to continue the journey or to give it up.

My good friend gave me some good counsel earlier tis year. She said “look, all of this ambition is admirable, but you are not getting any younger. You can’t just wait forever. You really have to do it or give it up.” It wasn’t an ultimatum, it was good advice from a friend who cared.

And so I began. There have been plenty of mistakes along the way. Too many to mention. Stumbling forward in spite of myself, not really running in any heroic sense.

I avoided media earlier on because I knew deep down how pathetically inadequate my efforts were. I was hardly in a position to start, but at the same time had too much to lose by throwing my hands up and walking away. Besides, that is not my style.

And so I stumbled through this journey. Along the way a couple of friends unfriended me on Facebook over really petty stuff. Surprisingly, that took its toll as well. Was I just some misguided idiot?

And so I am now at that point, having been delayed in Seoul since my last run by almost a month now, and that run in Seoul taking place one month after I arrived. That is totally crazy.

This journey has always been ambitious. I never really appreciated how wildly ambitious it was at first. Would I have started if I knew this was going to be the trouble I would encounter? Hard to say.

The reality is that in the process of doing something, it changes you because of the fresh perspective you gain. Once changed, you can’t go back to how you were before. You see the world through fresh eyes, even if other people don’t.

In the midst of this, my brother died. Aren’t there more important things for me to be doing? Shouldn’t I play it safe? Return home to be with the family?

Besides which, how will I sustain this journey? Getting to Glasgow (my next city) is manageable, but flying home from New York (the final city) is well outside of my reach at the moment.

A friend asked me recently, how on earth did running have anything to do with child survival? Wouldn’t it just be better to raise money, or go any do some volunteer work somewhere, or just hold a gathering and talk about it? Why go to all this trouble?

It does remind me of the joke about the Irish swimmer who wanted to cross the English Channel. He made it two-thirds of the journey, and was so exhausted, he turned around and went back to where he bagan. It sounds like a stupid joke, but it actually makes sense. It is easier to stick with what you know than to go into unchartered waters.

Right now. I am about to dive back into those unchartered waters. It would be easier to go back to my brother’s funeral, but I really believe he would have wanted me to persevere. It was one of the things he admired in me.

What’s more is that my family are now almost expecting me to continue. My eulogy is prepared, and will be read by my sister. I think if I returned now, it would almost be a let-down, as much as everyone would be pleased to see me. It has the added benefit of giving people something to focus on in the post-funeral slump I would imagine too.

All of this at a time when an incredible event has rocked Sydney to the core. The strangest image just came across my Facebook feed. It was a friend taking a selfie in Martin Place with a steely look of resolve and some words about how sad we are all about the incident in Martin Place. Of course, he is right, but it is misplaced community spirit. We don’t need to wait for times of the worst to bring out the best in us.

And that is why I run. In my pathetically unfit, near broke, condition with no certainty of making it to the next city, let alone the end of the next lonely journey of 24km. I do it because I can, and we should. We should act now, today, and do what we can with what we have.

As I answered my friend, the running is important because more than just painting a narrative, I am seeing this journey afresh. I don’t mean this journey I am taking now, but the journey which you are all invited to participate in next year when we look to address this issue of child survival across a rolling series of Design Forum that stretch through the year.

Will we find answers? I don’t know, but none of us will know if we don’t try.

What I do know is that the investment in time has already paid off in terms of giving me fresh eyes to give this effort impact. That is a huge journey ahead next year, and I will be relying on all of the resourcefulness and guile that comes from this quest I am undertaking now, clumsily stumbling in the right direction, slowly but making progress.

The worst thing to do would be to wait until conditions are perfect because they never will be. Go now!


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