Why so Serious?

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” – Alice in Wonderland

I shaved my head the other week. I haven’t converted to Buddhism or decided to join a football firm.

No, I’m just going bald.

Alas, the flowing locks are no more. I will never again experience the joy & beauty of flicking my hair in a carefree manner after dismounting my trusty steed, nor will I jump out of the shower with such fervour, headbanging just to feel those luscious locks licking at the side of my face. I don’t miss hair. I don’t have a horse either.

What’s going on on the top of my head has about as much relevance to anything as the races I ran this year have to each other. They were all different, running long & slow, running short & fast, running to a pace, running long & trying to run fast…What I wanted to achieve changed a ridiculous amount too. I started the year wanting to run a Sub-24hr 100 miler but have finished it trying to PB marathons & 10ks.

Stace says I’m a bit of a magpie, “Ooooh, look it’s so bright & sparkly” (Sub 24 100 miler) so I achieve that in Gosford & immediately I’m all “I’ve never noticed the delightful sheen that emmanates from achieving sub 3.15 in the marathon”. I just missed this final fleck of shininess by running 3.19 at Dublin but nonetheless it was still a PB.


What the flip is a PB & what makes me happy about it?

Well, y’see since Dublin, I’ve been doing a bit of reflecting. At the start of the year, if you told me I would be running a 3.19 marathon, I would have told you 2 things –

1. I am an off-road runner dahling, roads are so unbecoming.

2. Woohoo! I’m so awesomely fast!

But after actually running it, I do not agree with either of my make believe conceited statements that I didn’t make. Yes, there has been improvement which I’m chuffed with & roads are good to run fast on, I’ll give them that. I still don’t like them. But the crux of all of this is that PBs don’t matter. Well, not to me anyway. Not really.

Even my nosehairs hurt...
This is how I do ‘happy’…

When I crossed the line at Gosford, I was so happy. But not really with my time. I was happy that everyone that mattered to me was there. I was happy that I got to run with my friends. I was happy that wee Joel got a voice for the day. But times? Meh.

It’s probably not fair to base the whole chasing of PBs and their merits on that day in particular though as it was never to be about that anyway. So ok, I’ll move on to Dublin, a good race, had a few IT band issues which cost me maybe 2 minutes but I crossed the line & felt awesome. For about 10 seconds.

My thoughts turned immediately to breaking 3.10. I know I have this in me but if I do it, is it worth these 10 seconds of awesome? Now, I’m not saying it’s not. It’s such a great feeling to look back on your year & to have performed above the level you have set for yourself but for me personally, I know that I am just going to continue to do this. I’m going to set goals & try my best to reach them and hopefully as a result get my 10 seconds of awesomeness again. And so, the process will begin again.

Everyone needs goals in their running if they are to maintain that hunger, but the achieving of the goals doesn’t have to be the reason to run. An example to how my mindset has changed as the year has went on is told in my Alarm Clock Message on my phone. I get up every Saturday at 5.30am & cover between 14 – 20 miles. This is not always easy.

My message up until July was this “Gosford 100 – You must run like the billyo!”

After July it changed to “Causeway – Run ye boy ye”

But now it says this – “Run. Evan thinks you’re Awesome”

Sprint Finish at the Causeway…Apologies about the boobs.

I think that sort of sums up what I mean about PB’s not mattering. We chase them & chase them, but the people that matter think we’re awesome anyway. Running a 3 hour marathon or 100 miles in 20 hours isn’t going to make you any better a human being to them.

There’s been an emptiness to this PB thing. I was saying to Stace that I think it’s probably the nature of the beast that you just always want to improve once you get a taste of success. But as I’ve said, I don’t think I’ll ever actually be wholly satisfied by a time.

And so to take this away from being a generic mind emptying that could apply to anyone, I’ve discovered that it’s approval that I want. Approval from my Da.

I want my Dad to see these crazy distances that I run, I want him to see me improving as I slash minutes off my times. I want him to say “Paul, you are awesome”. I want him to be proud of me. I want him to give me a massive hug at the finish line. I want him to crew me on a multi-day ultra. He’d have loved that.

Alas, this is not to be. And I’m certainly not sitting here feeling sorry for myself. Ronnie Nesbitt gave me so much in life, he gave me his all while he was here and in a big way, still spurs me on today. I am who I am today in large part because of him. But jakers, he’s missing the craic. He’d have been a very proud Granda.

So, has this all come out as a confusing mess? I don’t know. But this is what happens when I release my thoughts. Now get back in my pretties, you’re embarrassing me.

This last year has been amazing, From Gosford to the Mourne Ultra to Dublin. I’ve met some great people & had the love and support of my friends & family every step of the way. Gosford in particular is a day that I will never forget.

I also set new personal best times in the marathon, 100 mile, 10k, 5k & 52 miles. Next up is a PB attempt in the 50k distance in February. Then I’m going to try and PB at being a Dad again to a new bambino due in April.

Who said PBs don’t matter?


2 thoughts on “Why so Serious?

  1. Conor Morrissey (@chasing3hours) says:

    Hi Paul, I read this recently which chimes with what you are saying…
    “I don’t want a stack of race completion certificates I can put on my living-room wall or medals or belt buckles that tell people: I’ve run this, I’ve run that. The sense of satisfaction that goes with knowing I have finished a race? I don’t even want that. Achievement, for me at least, is a process of making the things I achieve not matter anymore. I run not to achieve anything – not in this sense of acquiring something – but to be changed by a process of achieving. Of course, I have to achieve things in order to be changed by the process of achieving things. But achieving things is just a means to an end. I run because I want to be changed.”
    Running with the Pack: Thoughts from the Road on Meaning and Mortality by Rowlands, Mark

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