8/12/2013 1:27 PM
By Paul Willgoss
I’m not sure where I’ve picked that comment up from, but it sums a lot of things up. A walk is, normally, easy-ish going. A challenge walk is less, or a lot less, easy—often with hills, quite often with big hills in. A walk, or even a challenge walk, will often have a couple of sit downs, maybe a defined lunch break…
A run is continuous pushing, limited breaks, lunch is taken on the hoof—if at all.
So when I say I ran each day of my latest adventure, 100 miles in 3 ½ days, I’m telling a white lie. Every day I pushed myself, some days more than others, breaks were limited often to minutes sat at the checkpoints, sometimes just breathing breaks at the top of hills. Lunch? Well, I ate my sandwiches whilst going uphill—I was going slowly so it didn’t make a lot of difference.
Sandwiches? On a run? Yup—sandwiches, whatever filling I fancied. This was ultra-running, and whilst I’m not anywhere near the insanity of the true ultra-runners, their advice of eating what you fancy when you’re on the trail works for me. They, on the truly awesomely long events, will have pizza delivered as they run. I think my chicken and bacon sandwich is a suitable homage.
My definition of running allows many more people to run than many others would. I sure as hell don’t met the definition in one book—a 20-minute 5k, moving through to a sub-4:30 marathon. Quite frankly, if I could run that fast it wouldn’t be news that I run at all.
And that’s part of why I do what I do—almost every runner out on the 100 miles was running for a cause they believe in, and running with all of the conviction that running for a cause brings. What I occasionally bring is the extra of being something unusual. Someone with a heart condition? Running a hundred miles? Hold on… and it’s something he’s born with.
We, us with these congenital heart conditions, have interesting stories to tell. We’ve spent time in hospitals, we’ve lost friends and lovers far younger than many others. We live our lives as normal people, some of us with extraordinary hobbies—me as a recreational endurance runner, others as singers, authors and so on. What makes all of us extraordinary is that we have normal lives. It would be easy to be the patient, the “ill” person, but in my experience as a group we’re not like that—we are just normal people living with something. Occasionally, that something is news, or inspirational to someone, but for us it just is.
My feet are still a bit achy (it was 100 miles!!!) and I need to start training for the next event—a nice short one—the Great North Run, my favourite half marathon! And because it’s our community I’ll be running for, my charity is organising a boat trip for teenagers with congenital heart defects. So I get to be the old man in the corner, and see the next generation of extraordinary people start on their journey.
So people, go for a run if you can (at whatever pace) and be what we always are—extraordinary.
Marathon runner, GUCH (Grown Up with Congenital Heart Disease), long-distance hiker, charity trustee, patient advocate and whisky lover—Paul Willgoss is all of these and more. A member of the Most Honourable Order of the British Empire, his efforts both in front and behind the scenes for those with congenital heart defects have been recognized at the highest levels in his native U.K.
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