Wednesday 6 November 2013

On being ambitious

Oh, the perils of being ambitious.

The pain of being possessed of that drive to exceed that can so often place you in awkward circumstances. The aggravation of not being able to shut down that voice in your head that keeps telling you: "Go on. Do more."

It's particularly vexing if you're an ambitious Brit, and that urge results in you Putting Yourself Out There (shudder) - exposed to the comment and analysis of others.

Being aware of all this, I often wonder why I persist. Right now, I'm wondering it again because again, I find myself running uphill in the rain.

Ah, running in the rain. Uphill. In November. My face is numb with cold and my fingers are burning. My hair is in rats' tails. And my bum hurts.

I am doing this because my ambition has got the better of me. I am doing this despite the fact that my last run was so awful I haven't blogged - or run - for a month. My last run was the Royal Parks half-marathon in October, which I flailed around in such an ungainly manner, leaking both tears and sweat, and finishing a full two minutes slower than my previous slowest time, that I couldn't bring myself to revisit it in writing. I spent the following weeks Not Running, nursing my wounded pride and consulting various running clinics, nutrition and training experts on why it was that I seemed so unable to run fast. Or at least, faster. My ambition was such that even while feeling like a prize chump - both the Laurel AND Hardy of my running community - I was looking for an expert to tell me that it was entirely possible for me to run an ultra, or a triathlon. Which is what most of my online running friends seem to be doing these days. (Seriously. Could you all just knock it off?) One trainer told me, sympathetically: "We're not all built to be marathon runners, you know." I didn't call him back.

Anyway, while I was feeling sorry for myself, my daughter was getting on with it. Gracie is showing her new school and her new teachers what she's made of. And she's made of good stuff. We've had some hiccups, sure. There's been some fine-tuning of the support she gets. But the school and she are doing well. I am glad to be ambitious about her. I am glad to be ambitious about her future. I am happy that I can be. It still bothers me, though, that it took us so long to get here, and it bothers me that it took so much yelling and screaming to get people to listen and act. I find I am too ambitious to be happy with our lot now. I am too ambitious to shuffle back to my box with what I got.

So in sum: I'm out here running in the rain because I am ambitious for my daughter, I am ambitious for other children with autism, and I'm ambitious to do more to help. I'm out here running in the rain because next April 13, 2014, I will be running with team Ambitious about Autism - the national charity that seeks to help children with autism thrive. I will be running all 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. Again.

At the thought of what I've signed myself up for, my stomach gives a lurch. At the same time, I splash through a puddle much deeper than I expected it to be and my feet turn instantly wet. I try not to think about the mud between my toes, and I keep going. I am feeling a bit sick about the training ahead of me, and I'm feeling a bit sick about the race next year, and I'm feeling a bit sick about asking people to help me raise money, yet again.

But then I think again to last night's parents evening at Grace's school, to her form teacher leaning forward with a big smile to tell us that that Grace is making "fantastic progress", that every one of her teachers has commented on the quality of her participation and contribution. I think again of Grace's happy smile. We have a happy ending. Or at least, a happy continuation.

I want this for other kids too. So I'm sorry to everyone I swore I'd never ask again for money but - hey - never say never again, right? Please will you be ambitious with me? If you can get me to the first £1000, my employer and I can match it. (To family and local friends - I'll be holding a big party early next year and selling tickets. Please come!) I don't want to be happy with what Grace and I have got. I want it for other children with autism too.

When I got home, I found I'd done my usual circuit 2 minutes faster than usual. And then I found this notification card on the doormat, with Grace's name on it:

Be ambitious about autism with me if you can. Ambitious about Autism's stated aim is to make the ordinary possible for children and young people with autism and its mission is to help them to learn, thrive and achieve. Help us by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter and by clicking here 


  1. Ambition can create challenges, but you wear it well, do a lot of good for your sweet one and many others in the autism community. Thx for sharing these insights, great to read about the school progress, yay for that.

    M K

  2. You are awesome, and I'm right behind you every step of the way. Well, maybe not every step of the way. And I'm now ashamed that I didn't run in the rain this morning.

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