I often play games in my mind; I hope we all do occasionally. When I was a child, the game I remember most clearly was a very simple one in which I imagined someone being able to ‘see’ through my eyes, and hear through my ears, for a specific period of time. I suppose, although I don’t have clear enough memories to be sure, that the game developed after my older siblings had departed for boarding school, while I – the youngest – remained with my parents for a further two years, before I begged to be allowed to join my brother and sisters. My determination resulted in starting boarding school aged 5 ½, a year earlier than I needed to, and this in turn resulted in much greater isolation, which was quite the opposite of my intention, of course. Prior to this, however, having hours on end in the remote and beautiful Lesotho highlands with only myself for a playmate, I most likely longed for companionship beyond that offered by my Teddy Robinson and Mary Doll, and thus instead of creating a imaginary friend, I had others join me through imagined observation.
I have continued to play this game throughout my life, until approximately two years ago. It adapted as I grew older, allowing me to either imagine sharing magical moments with loved ones far away, or reveal hidden aspects of my life to those I longed to be able to share them with.
These days, the only time I tend to play internal games is whilst exercising. When I used to cycle to work, as extra encouragement to push hard, I would award myself 1 point for every female cyclist I passed, 2 for every male, and negative points if I was myself passed: -2 and -1 respectively. Passing within 20 metres of a red traffic light was discounted, as it encouraged bad behaviour and I prefer to remain safe and courteous. It was hard to keep track of my scores some days, as there are a surprising number of cyclists in London, at least during the summer months. In Winter dark it was much easier to manage.
My favourite running game last Autumn was simple, but satisfying: for every negative thing I noticed (litter left on the ground, or an inconsiderate group of people blocking the pavement) I had to find one positive thing to appreciate, such as a beautiful building, leaf, or smile. Over time I changed the proportions, so each negative needed two positives. Then I got unwell, and didn’t run for a few months, and when I returned to running in the new year I had forgotten all about the game.
I remembered these games yesterday, and suddenly thought that I should add them (apart from the points game – I am not worried about speed this time!) to my box of mental tricks for Sunday’s Marathon, when the going gets tough. My mother and my husband are the two people I most wish could be there cheering me on, so I shall transport them there when I need their encouragement the most, along with various other loved ones. I know, of course, that everyone and thing I require is in my heart always when I need to call on them. Equally important, however, will be to match each pain and strain with conscious appreciation for my surroundings, and my life. I suppose I have started, tonight, to see this race as something of a metaphor for life – full of crests and troughs, seldom going quite as we had hoped, often full of pain, but ultimately there to not only survive, but to make the most of.