Matthew Munson: Back on the marathon trail

Matthew previously took part in the Shine marathon in 2018

Excitement abates in the Munson household lately; Bryan is preparing for some dance exams, and it is genuinely exciting. He has found a natural talent and has gladly thrown himself into it; to say I am proud of him goes without saying, I’m sure. I don’t have any dancing talent at all; my rhythm doesn’t even extend to walking in a straight line for very long, so I respect people with a sense of rhythm.

I used to think that the reason for my lack of rhythm was that I have dyspraxia, a condition that causes a lot of difficulties with my balance and coordination. Bryan and I are complete opposites in that regard; there was obviously no chance of me passing on my condition, so he finds it intriguing that I struggle to use stairs without something to hold on to, or coordinate myself as I walk across an uneven surface (sand is particularly hellish). I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have any rhythm even if I didn’t have dyspraxia, so on reflection, I probably can’t connect the two. I’ve never wanted to be a dancer, though, so that’s all good; being a writer doesn’t require too much coordination – thank heavens I can touch type.

Bryan knows I write this column, and he actually made a few suggestions for what I should write about this week. However, I’m not sure readers would be interested in a few hundred words about the hat he bought me for my birthday last year (it was pretty good, it has to be said), or about the intricacies of the dance moves he’s learning in his ballet class. But I can at least say that I’ve considered them.

One thing I’m excited about is the possibility of doing a marathon next year. It would be a walking one – I don’t enjoy running – and I’ve done a number of them before I became a dad. I even did one a few months after Bryan came home, and it meant I was away for two days and a night. I missed him terribly, and I stopped doing them at that point; I wanted to concentrate on building a relationship between the two of us, and that was more important than anything.

However, four years have now passed, and I’m confident in our relationship – I don’t take it for granted, but we make a good family – so I’m giving myself permission to do something for me. It won’t be until September 2024 (I hope), so that gives me a lot of time to get ready. I used to do marathons with a great friend, but she hung up her marathon shoes when she moved away to be closer to her family, so the last marathon I did by myself. I don’t do it to be competitive, but to have fun; it’s certainly more fun to have a friend with you while you walk 26 miles, but there was something quite peaceful about walking a long distance around London by yourself – whilst also surrounded by thousands of other marathon walkers.

With the walking group I’m hoping to get off the ground, I hope to maybe convince someone – or multiple someones – to join me for future years if I decide to continue doing it. Bryan expressed an interest in joining me, but when it sunk in just how long 26 miles actually was, I saw a flicker of doubt cross his face. Maybe I can convince him, but I’ll leave the final decision up to him. He’s very determined, so whatever he decides is alright by me.

One memory from a half-marathon I did a few years ago I wanted to share with you. It was a lovely 13 miles through central London, ending up in Battersea Park (south of the Thames); we were quite near the front of the pack of walkers, along with another lady. We made an effort to engage her in conversation along the way, but she seemed keen to keep herself to herself, so we respected that. But as we went along, we detected a frisson of annoyance coming from her; she tutted at us a few times as we occasionally took the lead, and made it her mission to get back ahead of us as quickly as possible. We weren’t sure why she seemed so cross, so my friend and I continued to just enjoy each others’ company along the walk.

When we reached Battersea Park, this lady was really annoyed as she seemed to struggle to get ahead – at this point, we realised that at least one of us was going to be first over the finish line, and clearly she wanted that person to be her. Just then, a horrendous stitch meant I had to slow down and let the lady overtake me. But I urged my friend to keep going and see if she could get the accolade; my friend, being the kind soul she was, would have gladly suggested to the other lady that they team up and go over the line together – but her body language told both of us that this suggestion would not have been well received.

My friend – Di – got over the line first, followed by the other lady, and me limping along a couple of minutes later. Di then told me that the other lady had been so cross that she barged through the waiting volunteers and stormed off, never to be seen again.

I always try to teach Bryan what good sportsmanship looks like, and I try to always remember that moment so I can try and be kind in that setting. When I do a marathon again, being kind will be important; I’ll be incredibly nervous, so seeing people en route and supporting each other will be so important. I can’t wait.