Duncan Whyte Ambassador – Final BlogWell, as I sit here writing my final blog a week on from having crossed the finish line at BT Murrayfield for the Mens 10k in Edinburgh, I still have an enormous sense of wellbeing from having participated in the race. I have really enjoyed acting as an ambassador for the event, raising money for a charity dear to me heart and meeting some other like minded people who share a passion for running. I was hoping to run a sub 50min time which didn’t quite happen as I finished in 51’11 but I thoroughly relished doing the run which has provided a focus and motivation for all those hours of training and preparation in advance. I find taking part in such events helps keep my own personal fitness agenda on track and supports me to keep up a level of activity that boosts my physical and mental health and gives me a greater sense of welfare in my life in general. The race was well organised and all the staff and many volunteers who without which such events couldn’t take place were superb and the course which was challenging (the hills on Holyrood Road and the Cowgate were tough!) took in many of Edinburghs historic and cultural landmarks. If you have read my previous blogs you will recall that I was running for a charity called ‘The Yard’ which provides adventure play services for children with additional support needs in the East of Scotland and is a facility that my family access with my son Theo. On the route, on many occasions I heard people referencing or shouting support for The Yard as a result of my yellow running vest with the organisations logo front and centre and it was great to see that so many local people cherish this wonderful organisation as much as I do. They really do provide invaluable opportunities for families in Edinburgh, Fife and Dundee respectively.
I started my first blog in this series by quoting one of Edinburghs most infamous fictional sons, Mark Renton, the squalid anti hero of Irvine Welsh’s seminal novel ‘Trainspotting’ and his rant about choosing life. It only seems fitting to sign off from my writing to reference the T2 reboot which was released as a contempory update as to the lives of the original characters.
Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares
Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently
And choose watching history repeat itself Choose your future
Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn
Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work
And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen
And then… take a deep breath
You’re an addict, so be addicted
Just be addicted to something else
Choose the ones you love
Choose your future
Choose lifeThe world had changed around Renton and his pals just has it has for all of us who have grown up or at least gotten older over the past 20 years. The Mens 10k sets out to promote mens health issues and as a Teacher in a Secondary school in Scotland, this is something I do in my professional life. Men of my generation and older never talked about our health, our fears, our passions, our stresses, our emotions and certainly not our mental health. Sharing any of this would be a sign of weakness which may lead to paranoia about being thought of as less of a man as a result. This was the sort of stuff women talked about. The myths about openly discussing male health of course have been greatly dispelled by well publicised research, far reaching media campaigns and thankfully a very robust and clear female narrative. As men, we all have women in our lives; partners, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends, best friends, colleagues, managers and so on. I think I could confidently proclaim that each of these female influences in our lives want us to be real men too. Men who talk about how they are feeling. Men who ask for help. Men who are strong enough to reveal their vulnerabilities and let others in. Men who are caring, nurturing, gentle and most importantly strong. Real strength comes from helping others, being that rock but also from being brave enough to let that guard down, be honest with yourself and those who matter in our lives. This does not mean being male means you have to give up swearing or following your team. We can be both football fans and show the chinks in our armour to those we trust.When I work with and talk to the young people in my school, it is very clear they all have a much better understanding of modern day masculinity than my generation and those that came before it do. They just get it and it gives me great hope that the world where my son and daughter will grow up in will be a much healthier and more supportive place for it. Attitudes are changing and I for one only see this as a transformational development. Further work needs to be done of course and I see the responsibility for that not lying with divisive and self-protecting politicians nor flimsy and faddy instagram influencers nor indeed our stretched to breaking point education system. It falls on all of our shoulders to model to our children and younger generations what it means to be a man, what being manly looks and sounds like and to model appropriate male behaviours to both our sons and daughters and those of others. After all, where did we learn all our bad habits from when we were that age?
Renton cited many modern day pitfalls of society; the inherent risks of inescapable social media digestion and regurgitation, financial strains and uncertainty as a result of economic mismanagement by the banking sector and the government bringing austerity to the doorsteps of many in a variety of guises, numbing the pain of the trappings of current life through junk food, substance misuse, self-harm and other escapist avenues. It’s certainly quite scary and undoubtedly more complex for young people growing up today and trying to make sense of the world, their place within it and trying to navigate a positive pathway through it. As I have matured in years, I have come to realise that in life, it’s never really about the destination, it’s the journey that matters. It’s about shared experiences, overcoming barriers, crossing paths and steering a course through life that brings you joy and happiness that is important. Not what you have to show for it at the end. If you can do that one day Theo, you will then be a man my son.
Running is more often than not about the journey also rather than crossing that finishing line. It’s about the progress, noticeable changes to fitness, differences to your body, times coming down, distances going up, the people you meet, feeling good about yourself, striding with a sense of purpose and finding a positive focus for your life. I hope you have enjoyed reading the blogs and if you are thinking about giving running a go for the first time then go for it. There are loads of support tools such as ’Couch to 5k’ to get you started and I guarantee you will have neighbours, workmates and others in your community who can offer advice and guidance. I am certain you won’t regret it and it could be another step in the right direction towards a happier and fulfilling life.