Making a lifestyle of running
I was out in Morocco, and one evening was looking out at the dusty red road that stretched out towards the mountains and it seemed like a good place to run.
I didn’t think about it too much, I just went out and started running and it felt natural. I kept looking ahead and soon I fell into a rhythm, just noticing my breathing and the sound from my feet hitting the floor. When I got back I made a pact with myself to go again the next day.
They say it takes eight times for something to become a habit and eight weeks for it to become a lifestyle. I started running every day and it became a habit, then it became a lifestyle that, no matter how hard it is now and then, I have never regretted.
Striking a cord
I was in Los Angeles when my running regime went into overdrive. I would run five miles in one direction and then come back or if I had time in the evening I would get more ambitious and take off towards the mountains in the distance. After seven miles the endorphins would kick in and I’d carry on until I reached 10 miles and then I’d turn around.
A few weeks went by, and I was so fit I reasoned that if I just went the three extra miles on the way out, then by the time I got back I’d have run the marathon distance. I went for it one evening and the day afterwards I felt great, so I did it again. I felt OK the next day, so I attempted a third. By the time I’d finished I’d done five marathons in a week. I surprised myself and it really felt like an achievement.
From then on I kept my runs down to 10 to 14 miles, but I would do the marathon distance once every few weeks if I could. I then fell into a pattern where some months I would do less and sometimes more – eventually I ended up averaging around 35 miles a week.
Now if for some reason I go for more than two days without running at all I really don’t like it.
We are all in it together
The New York Marathon is the most prestigious one to run. My wife Angie had entered me without telling me, and so I found myself standing on Staten Island at six in the morning in the freezing cold with 50,000 other runners, waiting to cross the starting line.
It was a good day to run; blue skies and bright sunshine. I was glad I’d done the distance before, and I was thinking about all the bridges and taking in the views. Like most people I love New York, and running freely through all the boroughs is definitely the best way to see the city.
The thing I had to adapt to most was the crowds. I’d got into running by myself, and the solitary nature of it was one of the main reasons I liked it. But having everyone cheering and seeing all the smiling faces makes you get into the festivity of it, and it feels like a celebration of the city as well as of the human spirit.
There are people there from all over the world and every walk of life, and as you struggle through this serious test of endurance together, you realise that you really are a part of the human race.
By the end I was pretty wiped out, as you’d expect, but it’s these kinds of experiences that make you realise you really can get over your limitations sometimes. I felt like I’d really been through something, and I’d do it again.
Johnny Marr’s book Set The Boy Free is available now, £4.49