After drinking two bottles of wine I awoke this morning 10 minutes before my alarm was due to go off with a headache. The cold I'd had over the last few days seemed to have cleared up to some extent. I no longer had a sore throat, and it was doubtful that the remaining headache had anything to do with illness. It was early- 7.30am and I was going to watch The Berlin Marathon.
I'd had a real easy week, having ran The High Peak 40 at the weekend, and I must admit, totally loving it. The week before I'd been talking to my brother telling him ,again, tof my intent to try to run a few fast 10ks. He replied that in 2012 he doubted that he would race at all. It wasn't that he was not going to run. Indeed he was going to have a mammoth year of running, completing a personal goal of running every country footpath in Lincolnshire. No one ,except people he had chosen to tell would ever know about it, no times would be known, no comparisons able to be made.
After the marathon ended, with my headache easing slightly, I came across a link my brother had posted by Anton Krupicka. In it Anton was discussing the idea of best known times for various runs in his home town to Boulder. The discussion spread to mention of UK fell runners and in particular The Bob Graham Round. My brother had completed this a couple of years previously and what struck me was the way that it seemed to obsess the people who would attempt it. It would literally take over a persons life from first thoughts to completion.
I struggle with concepts of ego. I therefore struggle with various aspects of racing. Of course it is nice to see your photograph on the back page of the local paper, and to have people say they seen how you'd done in race X or race Y, but ultimately its not about that. My struggles lay in the knowledge that I feel an immense personal need to achieve, and the method I've chosen to do this ,at present, is though running. Is it a failure to feel this, or is it a basic need? Whatever the philosophical questions, the main way to achieve the need I have is through racing.
I have big problems about races, both financially and ethically. I chose not to owe a car for environmental reasons mainly, but also for financial reasons and mental health reasons. In an attempt to minimize stresses, the absence of uncertainties such as MOT repair costs, insurance costs etc are liberating to me. Living in Skegness this presents problems. The public transport system is inept and on Sundays (usual race days)non existent. I normally have to cycle the 60 mile round trip to Boston to catch the club transport or rely on lifts from others, both of which are not ideal. The car, especially in rural areas can be a curse to non car users like me. If more people tried to break the cycle of reliance on motor vehicles, maybe there would be more attempt at organizing things locally, or events that could be reached by public transport. Ultimately,however, some problems I'm fully aware are caused by myself. I could join a nearer running club, run for no club or stop running altogether. I could take up a sport that had ample local competition opportunities.
Charity involvement in races also causes me concern,basically because I don't believe in the basic premise of giving to charity, as a moral concept. Racing has, at least in bigger events, become hijacked by charities. This summer the RNLI attempted to organize a beach 10k in Skegness. I'd done it the year before and the organization left alittle of be desired. In some circumstances i.e if the race is cheap, this can be a plus, but the entry was £12. This year the entry was £18. Not surprisingly the event was cancelled, due to lack of entries. If charities want to raise money it would please me personally if they would clear off and did their fund-raising somewhere else.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that , perhaps, the idea of best known times does present an extra option to a person with a competitive drive, but wants to avoid races for one reason or another. The icing on the cake of the best known time idea is , as Anton rightly points out, is that it is a best known time. What about the unknown times? Earlier this year I followed the progress of a woman who attempted ,and succeeded,in completing the pilgrimage walk in Spain, the Camino de Santiago. She was running it to obtain a World Speed record. The only way that it could be a world best would be if every completion had been timed. To my knowledge this is not the case. The same is true of The Bob Graham. Although there is a list of procedures to adhere to in order to officially become part of The Bob Graham Club, as in witnesses of peak ascents etc, the fells,and so the Bob Graham course is open to anyone. Therefore the Bob Graham Club can only give the best known times for the round. The fastest known time was set by Billy Bland in the 80's. It would be a romantic thought that somewhere there could be sitting in his front room, someone who has satisfied his need to achieve, to have run the fastest Bob Graham Round in living history.... but had not told anybody.