‘Dodging SUVs as I run on small country roads’

I know I’ve progressed from the scared little boy who embarked upon his first marathon attempt

Two facts to start:
1) My attempt at clocking a three-hour marathon in Belfast City approaches very soon, on Sunday, May 1st.
2) I hate SUVs.

The 1984 Jeep Cherokee is coined as being the first 'sports utility vehicle' on the road. More recently, they have rose to clogging up the avenues of Ireland, dragging the climate down with them: 'SUVs emit 14 per cent more carbon dioxide than small passenger cars on average' (Milman, 2020), spiralling them to become 'the second largest cause of the global rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the past decade, eclipsing all shipping, aviation, heavy industry and even trucks'.

Evidence-based points aside, my unofficial poll concludes they are mainly driven by clodpates, congesting every country lane known to humankind.

Adding transparency to my claims, a self-driven survey was conducted the other day, as I pottered from a public footpath on to a typically quiet descending thoroughfare, in the direction of home.


A demonic SUV approached me, gurgling up the steep incline as it did so. The situation worsened further with another thundering from my rear, leaving me ‘SUV-surrounded’ – a modern phenomenon where, instead of said SUV drivers glaring at each other, their stupendously large cars, and their inability to negotiate smaller country roads; they fire an SUV-scowl at me, an innocent runner, just trying to train to get close to a three-hour marathon time.

Enraged, incensed, I run around the two big-car-buffoons and carry on my run.

Before leaving them to a reversing hokey-pokey to continue their onward journeys, the fronting Range Rover widdles its window down to me, where an arguably upmarket mouth laments, “‘You’ve got the right idea . . .”

Typically, I would’ve taken this as a compliment, however the venom frothing over the words suggests a sarcastic alternative was inferred . . . bemused and unresponsive, I run away to be left alone with my thoughts.

‘The right idea? Of course, I have the right idea!’ I thought.

Ironing out the feelings, emotions, frustrations of the day by plunging my foot harder into the ground so I can glide faster through the air is the way I want to continue making sense of the muddling process of the human mind. Approaching my second start of the Belfast City Marathon makes me reminisce back to my first . . .

It was 2016, and I was 21. About six weeks before the marathon, I had quit what I thought would have been a 10-year career as a professional cyclist – I mentally just couldn’t handle the lack of knowing what was going to happen tomorrow, or when I was going to come across some money next. Cycling had become the fabric of my identity, and this decision felt like I was ripping it out, leaving me unsure of what to do in any capacity.

So, I did what any sane person would do, and signed up for the Belfast City Marathon. Glued to staring at the ceiling above my bed, the marathon forced me to get outside, go for a run, so that I could at least survive the 26--mile endeavour.

Cycling offered me the heart and lungs of a blue whale, so I knew all I needed to do was get trotting on my feet for my body to adapt to the new exercise. It paid off, and although still pretty lost in the world, my first attempt was a successful one, completing the marathon in 3 hours and 50 minutes or so.

Six years on, and I really wish I could say, ‘That was me then . . . look at me now!’ And believe me when I say, there have been opportunities for me that crumbled at the 11th hour that could’ve put me a position to put those words to my lips – but they didn’t materialise.

And maybe they never will; maybe my life will be made up of a haphazard sequence of challenges; some I set myself, some that are thrown in front of me (like an SUV); some I conquer emphatically, others I fail to meet the mark.

I can picture myself on the start line on May 1st , nibbling a banana between clenched palms, wondering ‘should I have another piss?’ Whatever happens, whatever the finishing time, I know that I have progressed from the scared little boy who embarked upon the first marathon attempt.

For sure, a part of him will always reside within me, but so long as another challenge is around the corner; a state of being ‘almost there’ persists, I know I will be okay.

I think that’s the right idea – for me anyway.

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Best of luck!