November means training in dark morning and evening but it also means cross country season for Kevin Dooney.

I hate November. The hour has rolled back and the nights draw in early. Double days completed in the dark and always trying to work out how many layers are appropriate. Skin turned raw running the homeward leg of an out and back into the teeth of the westerly wind. 

November weather begins to test the mind; did the summer make you soft?  Early autumn had a nice chill, but it was bright and the weather less wild. November provides a reminder of what the winter of mileage will be like.

As the weeks roll by the body starts to creak that little bit more. The cumulative effort of the miles gone by is taking its toll. The body is weary; the mind begins to play tricks. Each slight niggle and every tightness sending a pang of fear deep into the core. The collective fatigue has the spirit calling out for a break but there are jobs to be done. 

I love it.

I love November. It is championship season. The prep races are done, the training is logged. November is a simple month, success and failure of the season comes down to a performance on one Sunday afternoon. There is a chill in the air, a cool bite to keep the mind focused.

The night creates a sensation of flying through the dark. It can be much easier to zone out, switch to dream mode, when you are the only one charging down the seafront in Sandymount.

November always means championship season, opportunities to be fought for, national medals to be won and international vests to be earned. Last month I wrote about how there can be more to the sport than just racing but the crunch time of championship season creates a rush and an atmosphere that is hard to beat. 

Why do I do this perhaps you ask

The questions go through the mind almost daily. What can you handle? Is the body breaking down around me? Can the mind maintain the intensity to see me through? I’ve been here before, the doubt and anxiety is nothing new yet as each season comes to an end the pangs are no less real. 

Competition is the reason I train though, and November is time to find out what it all equals to. For me this journey started back in June. After two months not being able to run I knew my comeback finished in November. Now as the day draws nearer I simultaneously want another month and the race to be yesterday.

I do not know

Still what compels me to pursue this? To wince when I stand up as the Achilles tendons wait for blood to reach them. To move slower and slower through my day as the month progresses, hoping that each pain is just stiffness and nothing more sinister. Are the short steps just energy conservation, or is it the weary body taking the steps that now feel most comfortable. 

But sometimes when looking up mid race a bigger picture comes into view. A view of green tracksuit tops with a white shamrock on the side of the course roaring you on. There is another club title to hunt for, only four men to count but with so many more making it possible.

The sideways glances family and friends who have endured your complaints for weeks and now stand by your stand. People who do not bear witness to the training but know that it gets done, they hear enough complaints about it after the fact. But the race is a rare change of expression, to show why it is done, to produce a result. 

But I feel it happening and I am tortured

There is not long left to go. Regardless of what the next week brings I will toe the start line next Sunday knowing I have done what I can, done what I wanted so I could put myself in this position willingly and must relish the task. The last week is always the longest.

Questions from deep within rise to the surface. But so the body must rise on Sunday, it will have been rested. A rare opportunity exists to wake up on a Sunday morning a fresh man. It is the torture of the months that must be embraced, the knowledge of how deep into wells you have gone only to dig your way out. 

As I write this I have a little over a week until I race. There is very little that can be gained now, it leaves you powerless. The body must be trusted to recover and repair itself now that it will be given a slight chance. The rare chance of rest to ensure that on one Sunday in November it is right, that it is ready to torture itself once more.

After a month of hating and loving the sport it is time to determine how the last five months of work shall be viewed. If nothing else, that question can be answered. 

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Kevin Dooney features in the ‘Fast 10: class of 2018’ and over the course of the year will share his running journey. You can read Kevin’s previous posts here and further information about the ‘class of 2018’ can be found here.

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