Earlier today I was watching the London Marathon. The commentator repeatedly emphasised that ‘anyone can run the London Marathon’ all you need is ‘enough training and enough belief’.
I let this sink in for a bit and decided that I couldn’t stay quiet. I was encouraged by a friend to share what I thought.
What absolute rubbish. Quite frankly it’s insulting.
At first thought it’s simply harmless encouragement and inspiration… but if you think about it, what that statement actually says is ‘If you can’t run a marathon it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough or don’t believe enough’.
This ‘harmless inspiration’ felt like a punch in the face me. I try my absolute best to be fit and healthy and I’d love to be able to run a Marathon but it simply isn’t going to happen. I posted on Facebook and I was soon inundated with people who felt the same way, that statement cut deep for all of us who will never be able to do it, no matter how hard we try.
Let me give you an example of why I’ll never run a marathon.
My boyfriend is a runner, he loves obstacle races and as part of his training he often goes for runs. At the end of one such run he arrived home and I stood up to meet him. Our heart rates were the same. We both had heart rates well over 100bpm. Him from running 10km and me from standing up for 30 seconds. I was tachycardic from standing. Just let that sink in.
Combine the tachycardia with crippling joint pain, migraines that render me totally un-responsive, daily joint dislocations, skin that blisters in shoes I’ve worn for years and fatigue so severe I sometimes cannot speak and you’ll have a rough idea of why I don’t ever think I’ll run a marathon.
I am not alone and these are not the only reasons for not running marathons. Plenty of people go about their daily lives dealing with much more than meets the eye.
For those of you who are able to run a marathon or even run for a bus, congratulations on all your hard work but please don’t underestimate how lucky you are.
Saying that anyone and everyone can run a marathon minimises the monumental effort put in by every single one of the people who cross the finish line. It also highlights how little thought goes out to people with complex or hidden impairments. It simply didn’t occur to this chap that there are people like me and my friends who can’t run.
This, I think, is the main problem facing people like me. We’re invisible, an after thought. If we’re thought of at all its stereotypes and media misinformation. Casual ableism is the norm.
You might be thinking now of the wheelchair racers you saw crossing the finish line, AWESOME. What a fantastic achievement and YAY for media coverage of adaptive sports, Adaptive athletes like these impress me endlessly…
But what about the people who wake up every day not knowing if they’ll be able to walk or not, to eat or not, to speak or not. Not knowing if they’ll make it to work or the gym or if the pain will stop them before they even get going…
Those people impress me even more. To keep going with life no matter how uncooperative your body is, that is the longest and hardest marathon there is.