The Hjartadagshlaupið (Heart Day) run seems to be an annual community in Reykjavik. This year’s route, a there-and-back loop by the sea around the Kársnes peninsula, was shared by the 5k and 10k races.
The Icelandic language barrier intimidated me, because I’m an anxious traveller. The lovely locals made me welcome and at ease. Even in a local crowd I could pick out snippets of English. So, Reykjavik in October is fucking cold, as the city sits on the ocean. The wind off the water cut right through my leggings and top before I warmed up.
The course was on a pedestrian track around the shore, so the worst I had to watch out for were morning walkers. I enjoyed flat, fast run to and back from the turnaround. The worst I have to say is that I sprained my ankle in a bad way, which had a knock-on effect later in the week. It wound up so bad that I had to cancel a planned hike on Wednesday. I could hardly walk down the street, let alone up a bloody mountain!
Super awesome, fun run, one I’m going do again next October. Iceland. 💖
The 2018 SSE Airtricity Half Marathon was both my first half marathon race and a major personal milestone. As I write this post in late October it has been a year since I took up running as a hobby. My personal gains in weight loss and fitness over the year underscore what has been the best choice of my life.
The half-marathon scared me. The runners I see at 5k (parkrun) and 10k races are more casual, the get up and go out to have fun. Runners at the half marathon were from a whole other crowd. Although everyone there was friendly and eager, they intimidated me. I felt dowdy and unprepared for the race. Remember: only person you compete against is yourself.
One mistake I continue to make is to start too far back in the pack, from pure lack of confidence in myself. While I don’t want to be too far in front and outrun, that’s exactly what I do myself. Looking back at my run times, I wasted a lot of energy in the first few kilometres as I overtook slower runners. The path through the park was narrow and twisted, meaning I often had to go up onto the verge to overtake.
Between the 5k and 10k marks not much of interest happened. The pack stretched out as runners found their place and pace. It was around 10k, when we rounded Phoenix Park, that the thought “oh, this is a half marathon” began to percolate. We were less than halfway done. I passed a poor runner crouched down with diarrhea behind a tree.
As the run wore on, my thoughts wore into a determination to finish. Why else was I there except to earn that bloody medal? The cold got to me in a bad way toward the end because I didn’t dress warm enough. Layers, layers, layers! Layers are key to a comfortable run in poor weather. Phoenix Park sat high and exposed to a cold, wet wind out of the south below a heavy overcast. My hands felt like clubs glued onto my arms, and my arms felt like sticks glued onto my body. Looking around I could see other people struggle with the same cold. Of all things, it was seeing other people suffer along with me that gave me the strength to get through.
The race became a slog to the end. My mind went to my body, from my body to my feet, and to each foot as it moved. Up, ahead down, next foot. I know in my heart that I would have struggled to go on if I had stopped for any reason.
After going around the Zoo, looping out to Farmleigh, down Tower Road, back into the Park, at last I crossed the line. I finished under my target time of 1:50. My big mistake after the race was to not check my actual finish time. The race clock read 1:55:30, while my hands were too numb to pull out my phone to check. I thought I had missed by five minutes. All my triumph over having made the finish turned into me kicking my own ass because I didn’t finish fast enough. That’s so typical of me, the way I beat myself up. By the time I realised that, no, I did make my target, I had crushed my own enjoyment of the day.
From now-October-I look back and feel an absolute sense of pride in my accomplishment. Back in late 2012 when I lived in Sligo, I had to walk back to my apartment one day after class. I was so badly out of shape and my leg so sore, that I had to stop a few times to rest it. Compare then with now. The day taught me valuable lessons about attitude, clothes, assumptions and focus on the track.
The concept and actuality of faith makes no sense to me. What I mean by this is what I dismiss the entire idea of miracles as that of effect without cause. Somewhere deep down in my brain exists a part of me that rejects the miraculous as effect without cause.
One of the most important stories of Christian canon is the Wedding at Cana. Long parable short, Jesus turned water into wine while at the wedding. On several fronts the story offers proofs of an omnipotent and omnipresent god:
The majority of attendees found the wind to be of the highest quality. God knew their tastes.
God knew the subtle combination of time and process which underpins all good vintages. Perfect past knowledge implies perfect future knowledge.
God accomplished without any side effects. For example god only converted the water in the jars to wine, and not, say, the water in the body of some bystander.
God is detail.
The chain of effects without cause is aberrant in the context of our ordered universe. Everything that occurs, occurs according natural physical law. The efforts of the best and brightest of our species haven’t produced any proof to the contrary. Whatever we don’t understand now, we will in the fullness of time.
And so the small acts of faith with the great. What I find to believe in has been an exhausting open question over the last eighteen months. The lessons of agency and choice, the questions of action and responsibility, have destroyed my faith in the assumed, the unseen and the unknown. As you, for me. The natural world derives from a predictable and time-reversible set of physical laws. The human world belongs to a different order of cause and effect, a system that looks like enlightened self-interest. We all look our for us and ours; most of us also try to cause no harm along the way.
If you express faith as a function of trust, then I’m not someone given to trust. I had to earn my own trust last year before I could go and earn anyone else’s. The hard truths about awful hurts I caused and the destructive ways I acted and interacted, they destroyed my faith in myself.
Now, this outlook is exhausting. I can’t go through life afraid to trust anyone because of an unbased fear in my ability to cause and receive hurt. That I realise my fear as another, negative, kind of faith leads me back toward reason and mindfulness. You, whoever you are, you I’ll trust. Give me your proofs and I’ll give you mine.
Back at the larger scale, I trust in science and logic and reason. In combination they offer a testable set of proofs on the nature of the world. They describe the nature of cause and effect and consequence in neat steps. While yes, I hold a reductive view of Everything, Everything gives me a heady sense of wonder. Across billions of years and time and space, here and now I am alive, aware, and able to find spontaneous disordered beauty in a domain of law and order.