the loneliness of the long distance angst-ridden adolescent

it’s obvious now, when I look back with the pixel-perfect, perfectly clear 20/20 vision of hindsight. the dots are easy to connect.

“little g” had issues; too little self-confidence, too much self-consciousness, shyness, inward-looking tendencies… you know, typical nerdy-swot-teenage-angst type stuff.

it was all perfectly normal

there was nothing unusual about this, no learning difficulty to point at, no bullying issue forming a backdrop of struggle and pain, no nothing. little g’s childhood was safe, secure and relatively comfortable – in many ways it was too easy, too cosy, too safe.

I’m not sure when or why it started, perhaps it was simply there from day 1 – but whatever the reason, little g soon learned to steer clear of new boundaries. the preference was to stay within known territory, doing whatever came naturally and easily.

ever-increasing limitations

shyness ensured limited success on the romance front. an inward-looking awkardness kept little g safely away from being one of the trendy kids.

sport was very quickly listed as “no good at it”. simple adventurous, typical “boys will be boys” stuff, ruled out. stuff like climbing trees, leaping fences or jumping ditches.

when playing “tag” on the council estate, the other kids knew exactly how to get off scott free when little g was “it”; just jump the ditch – then jump back again once he’d walked all the way around to the bridge crossing.

you probably know who I am talking about

if you haven’t figured it out by now, though I’m pretty sure you have, “little g” was me. the “14 year old gary” who put in an “appearance” during the joondalup half-marathon last month.

it’s taken a while, but what at first seemed to be a simple case of setting a ridiculous goal, turns out to have long-standing and deeply-seated reasons behind it.

when “big g”, the 42 year old sack of bad health, decided to run a marathon, it was a classic mid-life crisis situation. except there wasn’t a “crisis” as such – I didn’t buy a Harley for example.

you spend the first half of your life gathering the issues you will resolve in the second

I can’t recall who, but that’s the basic idea of some famous pyschologist or other. maybe jung, maybe not.

as you live your life, you asbsorb some things into your life, and suppress others, locking them away in a shadowy area of your subconscious. they seem to have gone away, but really they are plotting, hatching an escape plan, figuring out exactly how brutal the confrontation will be on the day you are finally forced to deal with them.

it appears to contain a great deal of truth. facing up to the fact I was in bad shape, and probably being in the last decade of my life (if things had continued the same way), was a trigger-point, and has since proved to be just the first layer peeled back from a rather complex psychological onion.

this chapter ends tomorrow but has spawned many more

if you go back 18 months, running the perth marathon tomorrow would have been seen as an end-point. expectations were that it would be “case closed”, how wrong I was.

at one level, the process has been simple; establish an initial base of fitness and health, slowly add running into the mix, finally embark on a 20 week marathon training schedule.

but all the thinking time available on those long runs, the introspection that comes from blogging every detail, the complete change in my attitudes and perspectives – these things have thrown open so many locked doors, released many demons, brought forth so much self-understanding.

I get it now, I really do

the marathon idea popped into my head because “secretly” I wanted to be good at running. but it doesn’t stop there – I “secretly” want to be everything I wasn’t when I was 14.

in particular that means being a bit sportier, a bit more active, having the confidence AND ability to jump ditches.

sure the physical and mental health benefits have been great additions to my life, but this really has been about doing what “little g” secretly wished he was able to do.

scoring well on IQ tests, finding mathematics and computer programming to be as natural and easy as breathing – all that nerdy, swotty stuff has served me well, but it’s all been played safe, it’s all been done within known boundaries of comfort.

well it seems there’s a bit of a teen tantrum going on that’s putting an end to all that!

“14 year old gary” has another chance, and this time he’s not going to blow it.

so what does this mean after the marathon is done?

completing the marathon will be a massive accomplishment, and will truly represent completion of a significant chapter. one that will be the launchpad for everything else to come.

I will enjoy the moment, I will no doubt get emotional, I will be over the frigging moon.

but already I know this will simply prove to me that I can and should start dealing with the other shit. As silly, pathetic even, as it sounds, that means facing “fears” like jumping ditches.

the last half of this year will be very interesting. I’m training for “tough mudder”, a half marathon distance obstacle course, with fire, ice, barbed wire, monkey bars, mud, jumping over ditches/pits/holes and live electric wires.

by the time I’ve finished that event, I will have truly smashed every single physical boundary I ever imposed on myself.

but the therapy still won’t be complete

the final stage in facing the home-grown fears and angst that I carefully cultivated in the 80s and 90s will be very literal.

at the end of this year I will be heading to the UK for a month, to spend Christmas with family and celebrate my daughter’s 18th birthday.

while I am there, I will be running the old school cross-country course.

now you may wonder at that – after all the course is a mere fraction of at least 3 runs I will have done by then (it is only 2 or 3 miles).

but this “journey” can not be completed through marathons and special services obstacle courses alone.

even if I ran every marathon in the world, there would be a lingering feeling, a gnawing, nagging sense that things had not been put to bed. no sense of “closure”.

that’s why I simply must run that cross-county course. slay that dragon once and for all.


image courtesy of Creative Commons License Hartwig HKD via Compfight

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

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