Simon Keller

On the Run Simon vs Simon

On the Run editor Simon Keller tells us about his efforts to run a faster marathon than his 32-year-old self, and his 32-year-old self replies.

45-year-old Simon

I have enjoyed many friendly rivalries in my running life, including some with my teammates at Wellington Scottish. Over the past eight years, however, my greatest rival has been my younger self: in particular, my 32-year-old self of 2006.

When I was 32, I ran the Boston Marathon in a personal best of 2.49. As a new father with new responsibilities and beginning to feel my age, I was pretty sure that that was as good as it would ever get.

By 2011, I had moved to Wellington and taken up running again in earnest. Driven by the optimism of my new coach, Todd Stevens, I decided to take aim at my earlier self. My obsession was with beating him over the marathon.

Opposite to most Boston experiences, when I ran that 2.49 I finished with a three-minute negative split. Looking back at my 32-year-old self, I wasn’t sure that I could ever be fitter, but I thought I could be smarter. My plan was to go through half-way a couple of minutes faster than he did and then run steadily towards a 2.48 or better.

In marathon after marathon, the plan failed. I would go through half-way right on schedule, but around 35km, I would look at my Garmin and realise that my 32-year-old self had come past and was disappearing down the road ahead. Then I would stagger to yet another two-fifty-something finish.

This year in Christchurch, I felt I had one last chance to win the battle. And this time, finally, it worked. Late in the race, feeling tired but with the end in sight, I realized that while my 32-year-old self was bearing down on me with speed, I had done enough to hold him off. I finished in 2.46, and the ghost of my younger self was finally slain.

As I march towards fifty, I am satisfied to know that at this moment I could compete with any version of my younger self. Looking back at my 32-year-old self I feel the thrill of victory. But I know he would be proud.

32-year-old Simon

A pompous little lecture from a 45-year-old in tights. That’s exactly what I need right now. You dickhead.

Did it ever occur to you that maybe you didn’t need to spend your whole life trying to run a few seconds faster? Do you think there are Olympic marathoners quaking in their Nikes because some old man in Wellington ran a marathon in 2 hours 46? (And another thing: where the hell is Wellington?) I thought you might have had something better to do by now.

Look, I knew that there was probably a mid-life crisis in my future. I just hoped that I’d get something good out of it: a decent car, maybe, or a kayaking tour of South America. But no: I get a dorky watch and a drawer full of lycra. Kill me now.

Anyway, you failed to mention that the Christchurch course was short and you were running in $350 shoes. Did you think I wouldn’t notice? Maybe you’re not so smart after all. 

I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. Get over yourself. You are pathetic. Also, I slept with your wife.