I am an addict. I don't mind admitting it now. I'm always working to find a way to squeeze little extra out of my body that will send me over the edge into unknown territory where I'll experience the feeling of elation and reward I know is waiting.
When I first innocently thought about going for a run in January to help keep my wife company at the start of her training plan for the Manchester Marathon, I didn't picture myself 9 months later stood at the front of a half marathon being started by a gold medal winning Paralympian.
Yet there I was, ready and willing to run around an extremely hilly course in the effort to register a time I knew would, for me, be a massive improvement on anything I'd managed in my short running life to date.
Just over an hour and a half later, with no fanfare other my wife and son cheering me on and after being passed on the way to the finishing line by the winners running in the opposite direction warming down - the feeling of elation and personal triumph was all mine, hard earned but all mine.
With my lungs on fire and knees sore, a look at my borrowed Garmin told me all I wanted and needed to know. I'd run the distance and conquered the course in less time than I'd ever done before. My knees hurt from the mile long downhill stretch at mile 7 and for a few minutes feeling like I could throw up was a real possibility but ultimately that feeling of elation I'd been chasing was there in spades.
I know I'm unlikely ever to win a race outright, or even compete at the front of a pack, but it does nothing to dimish the feeling of achievment. Once that starting gun goes off, no matter what the distance, I find I'm racing someone. Sometimes they know it, sometimes they don't.
Ultimately though, the only person who knows the effort I've put in is me. The personal best is something nobody can ever take away from me, it's exclusively mine.
It's liberating and it's rewarding. It's the reason I willingly layer up when it's cold or put on a waterproof and step out the door whne it's raining and windy. It's all for the chance to improve myself and without that effort, I won't improve. It's a certainty.
It never gets easier, you just get fasterGreg LeMond
No doubt a time will come when I reach a plateau and the diminishing returns in my results will be apparent and unforgiving. Luckily, this thing I do - I also actually enjoy. I'll still be out there, I'll still be looking to improve myself and find some way to challenge myself.