There is something quite calming about getting your kit together the night before a race. A conscious attempt to reach a zen-like state when your tummy feels like it is going to reach its way out of your mouth in an Alien-esque type way.
You have flashbacks to being eighteen again taking your high school exams; where you try to remember all you have learnt and try to calm yourself so you can sleep, with only the thoughts of your life failing before you have started crashing through your mind.
Okay, its not quite like that. However, there is a strange contradiction that goes through you. You know that a race isn't that important, but somehow -the night before a race- you feel as if you have reached a marking point of your life; that somehow tomorrow after the gun has gone off, nothing will be the same again.
Tomorrow is not a race I had planned. It is not something I have been counting down to in my diary. It isn't the culmination of months of training. Yet, it is still a marker in my life.
It is safe to say, that this time last year my life wasn't like this. I was sunning it in the glorious surroundings of Greater Vancouver, telling myself that my life is a series of decisions I had made and that I shouldn't lament any of them.
It was a mantra. Something I was telling myself to ignore my destiny. Lies I was saying, to remove the wrench I was about to suffer.
This is not a year I had planned. If you had asked me where I wanted to live, Swadlincote, Derbyshire was probably not on the list. Heck, it wasn't even on the list of those on 'the list of the ones not on the third list'. Don't get me wrong, I am becoming content on my life here, but it would be wrong to make out that this was what I had planned.
Since our move out of Canada a year ago, life has been... well...turmoil.
It was an endless ream of paperwork and legal conversation. There were hoops to jump and then there was the fire-pit and barbed wire I had to battle to even get that far. Even though the battles are still on-going, there was a feeling that the worst was over - the war was on the brink of being won. Then my body decided it didn't want to play.
I have had many injuries in my time. Most of them through my own lack of judgement and an over-sense of my 'daring-do'. There were always ways to cope. You could -if you thought outside of the box- ways to do pretty much everything you could before -as long as you accepted that you now possessed an additional limb made out of tempered steel. However, I have never experienced an injury as debilitating as a protruding disc. The pain in itself was enough to stop you in your tracks, but it was the frustration that even the most simplest task was out of reach. One and off for over six months, the thought of picking up a basket of laundry was enough to bring a mild panic. There were days, weeks and lets face it months, where I was incapable of doing the smallest errand and that painkillers were a constant part of my life.
I think this is why the race tomorrow is bringing its own sense of 'being a life marker'. I was on the point of counting this -the first year since I started running in 2008- would be the year, that I would not have a race-bib or medal to my name. The first year I would count as a 'Did Not Start' (DNS). Yet, thanks to my new found running buddy Nikki, I came to realise that if this year was a DNS, it was through no fault except for my own lack of determination. The failure wouldn't be that life had got me, it would be that I had let it. So after a sign-off to start some 'fast-walking with short periods of slow running' from my physio, I ran a 6.5 mile run on Tuesday. (Yeah, before you ask, he doesn't know about that yet). Then I decided that 'No. This would not be the year life defeated me' and I signed up to the National Forest 10K. The run will not be fast and it will not be pretty. It will hurt and it will be hard.
So, as I get my kit ready for tomorrow -that calming ritual that runners do, which makes no sense to anyone else- I am relishing those jumpy feelings in my tummy. I am enjoying every part of the process I have done countless times. Embracing the little things: like deciding if I should run as a zombie or a robot; packing a bag of Jelly Babies as my on-the-run goodies; finding a towel and a sonic screwdriver to put in my drop bag; and wondering if I should pack the wine and the mince pies for after.
It seems my pre-race ritual -like my attitude to life- is an eclectic mix of geeky humour which no-one quite understands. As one of my 'life-markers', I think thats just how it should be.