‘I aim higher’. Altiora peto – that’s the motto of my old school, and it’s been a great maxim to take through life, whether for study, sports (especially darts, of course) or business.
I’ve found that sticking to a task, and simply pressing on, regardless of distractions and disappointments, is often the best approach to reaching a challenging goal.
Nihil sine labore – because application is everything.
After my first marathon (4:18 in London, 2001), I knew there was a faster time lurking within me. I worked hard, I entered another classic race and I came close to my sub-four hour target (4:05 in Chicago, 2002).
Tantalisingly close. So close that I kept on trying.
Per ardua ad astra – that one is actually the RAF’s motto, but perhaps it was true that through struggle I still could reach the stars. I trained harder again, running 4:06 on a hilly course in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2003, and hoped I could run 3:59, somewhere, some time.
‘It’ll probably come when you least expect it,’ encouraged Ed in Dallas, as semper fidelis as any good friend should be.
I’ve run four more marathons since then. Different courses, different conditions, different training.
Non illegitumum carborundum – and I’ve tested that one, too, treading four differently brutal paths to the finish line – each time on schedule to the half, but falling behind whilst coming home.
Tempus fugit – it’s five years since my first marathon, and I’ve been running for nine years. I improved steadily for a time, but not any more.
I never used to suffer from injuries, but now I do, and I simply can’t train harder, or that much smarter, even if I really wanted to.
It’s never easy to face up to missing a goal, especially one that you’ve held for quite a while. But I’m fitter now than I was twenty years ago. In autumn 2000, I wasn’t sure that I could finish one marathon, let alone seven, and whilst I won’t reach the precise time I hoped for, it’s achievement all the same.
I know that I could drift through pointless struggles ad infinitum, always finding disappointment in my running. But honestly, I enjoy life far too much for that.
I’d like to race occasionally, not always pushing the furthest limits of my bodily endurance, yet hearing the exhilarating sound of a thousand rejoicing feet. Stretching my own envelope cautiously, or even a little more than that.
I’d like to keep on running in all my favourite woods and hills, to explore different landscapes and cities, to see new sights and new places, to gaze on fresh horizons and to understand the world better than I did before.
I’d like to run down old familiar towpaths, and across new fields and clifftops. I want to talk through social runs at lunchtime, think tranquil thoughts on lonely, solitary nightfalls, and force my burning legs through icy winter dusks towards a well-earned beer beside a roasting fire. I want to stay fit to do all those things, Dei gratia, for years and years ahead.
It’s a subtle shift of ambition, but I know it has to come.
But speed alone can say nothing important about a runner’s commitment, and I know that my feet, and my aims, will still fly as high as ever.
So altiora peto. Because curro, ergo sum.