26 reasons not to run a marathon
Why not 26.2 reasons, you ask? Well, because there are at least .2 reasons why you should! That’s why. One is because it’s a pretty amazing challenge to overcome – and the second is because when you cross that finish line, for one second you are completely invincible!
So – the 26 reasons not to run? I’ll leave those up to you. You already know what they are.
That’s not to say that the journey to invincibility is not challenging. What a joke! But it is also, I think, deeply personal. You have to constantly find things that work for you – not what seems to be working for everyone else. Books and training and 1001 top tips can help a lot, but in the end it’s all about you, how well you know yourself and, yes, how well you manage yourself!
6.30 a.m. Fresh pineapple. Porridge and raisins. Loo x 3.
7.30 a.m. Out the door. The Brighton Marathon signs are up. The city’s waiting.
8.30 a.m. Hook up with running buddy. Final loo stop before race. Everyone’s laughing at the long queues and commenting how nobody really needs the loo. ‘It’s just nerves …’. Ha! I wish! Another several litres later … Maybe I should have bought some Huggies Pull-ups!
9 a.m. And we’re off! Well, the rest of the pack is off. It’s another 15 minutes before Mandy and I reach the starting line and Goddammit I need the loo again – and I’m not kidding! It’s not nerves! It’s called a full bladder!
Our run/walk race plan is to warm up with the first 5k, then do an hour on Run 12 mins/Walk 3. Psychologically, we only have to do that four times and then it’s an hour gone! It doesn’t quite work that way. I come across a friendly and convenient pub and leg it into the loo after the first 12 min stint (the 5k bit was a cinch). The pub DJ informs the rest of the clientele that ‘Amanda has made it back out onto the course in record time …’! We set off again. The heat is already getting to Mandy and that hill has taken its toll already. She’s finding it difficult to recover and starting to worry! It’s not good. We’ve done 3 of the 4 and another couple of hills and we’re walking quite a lot. Mandy’s getting tense and nervous. ‘You have to go,’ she says. It’s a quandary. We were going to do this together – but she needs to relax, too – and she’s not going to do that if she keeps worrying about holding me back! That sounds laughable in the ‘whole’ scheme of things, but at that part of the race I was going strong and it was still easy, while she was struggling. It was going to be better for both of us to split up. The only thing that convinced me was because I knew she was mentally VERY strong and that she WOULD finish. I made her promise and ran on. The run/walk intervals ceased to exist. Why? I don’t know. Was it a good decision? I don’t know. Do I care? I don’t know. In retrospect, I wonder if my knees might have lasted longer had I stuck to the original run/walk plan. For weeks I’d been telling myself ‘Stick to the plan’ and ‘You must have a plan and don’t sway from it!’. When it came to the day, all I could think was ‘Stop wondering what to do and just bloody get on with it!’ I went with the latter and ran the next 10 miles and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I ran through the halfway point extremely conservatively but feeling very chuffed, well up for the challenge and so far no joint trouble.
Oops! Shouldn’t have said that! Jinxed it! Here it goes …………… Ping! … Knee No. 1.
Well …. Mile 18, that is. I can feel it starting to really complain and I’m walking now. It’s a long straight road that’s going on forever but it’s completely flat and lined with residential houses. The residents are all out on the street shouting and cheering and handing out sweets, coffee (!), CAKE (lol), and I passed a plate of cocktail sausages, too! Unusually for me, I didn’t stop. That can’t be a good sign lol
The only problem with this road is that there’s a sharp turnaround at the top and then you double back. Doubling back is fine. What’s NOT fine is when you’re on your way up and you’re looking at the state of the people coming back. It’s like they’ve suddenly gone through a time warp and aged about ten years. Makes you wonder what the hell is at the end of that road that’s so evil. Twenty minutes ago, they were quite normal(ish) human beings. The road back has morphed them into strangely unrecognisable bipeds.
It’s ‘wall’ time!
Thankfully, I never hit it! I’m going far too slowly to ever reach that wall, thank goodness – and I don’t have any times to beat, any goals to reach other than to keep putting one foot in front of the other until, as my training buddy said, ‘somebody hangs a medal around your neck’! Having said that, this IS where several things start to crumble and my day becomes less enjoyable. My right knee brings me to a complete standstill. Sore and achey and fatigued are all things you can push through and ignore and deal with as you wish. Shooting pain from ankle to hip is not one of those …. (sorry! Distracted! Just been passed on the road by a pig on a lead! …..) …. Where was I? Yes. Ho Hum! Not in a good place. The loop around Shoreham is abysmal. No people, no houses, nothing to look at, other than a bunch of other people looking totally dejected and taking this away-from-the-public-eye opportunity to lean over the wall and throw up into the river! I pass five in a row, bums up – wish I had my camera. Bless ‘em but this is ‘photographer heaven’! The loop is silent apart from retching – and endless. Some students with a sense of humour have graffiti-ed the arches of the bridge, colourfully announcing ‘THE WALL’. It’s the only smile raised for the next half an hour – and probably doesn’t do the job for the majority!
Shoreham is behind me. I’ve walked most of it. Feeling low now because I’ve got loads of energy and am itching to run but can’t manage more than 50 yards at a time. I try to push on, because actually the stopping and starting up again each time is almost worse! Nope! Leg just will not let me. Keeps collapsing underneath me. Ho Hum. Think again! Next strategy!
OK! Will get to that damned line no matter what. Give myself a stern talking to! I should be pissed off, I tell myself. I’ve spent 22 miles doing none other than keeping in front of that unbearable 5 ½-hour pacer! She’s been driving me insane and it’s been thoroughly motivating (and fun) to make sure I stay in front of her – and far enough so I can’t hear her inane chatter and that piercing, dog-whistle voice. She’s overtaken me now. Dammit!!! So ……….. what to do? Choose another target, that’s what! Got it! There’s a short dumpy (yeah, yeah, it’s Mile 22 and I’m not feeling charitable any more …) lady dressed in vile fuchsia from top to toe and wearing a ludicrous feather. She is NOT going to cross that line in front of me!
Note: Apologies to the lady in pink with the feather. Absolutely nothing against you at all. You were an opportune target and I was thinking solely of ‘me’ and getting ‘me’ to the finish line by whatever means available!
So ………. I have my target. Magic! I’m also finding myself in complete AWE of the three army lads who’ve been maintaining more or less the same pace as me, but at a WALK! I got quite a giggle trying to walk beside them at one point and discovering I needed almost 3 steps to their one stride! It was quite amazing, really (and made even better because I finished ahead of you, too lol (well, every tiny victory counts, doesn’t it?)).
Battle of the feather continues right to the end. I break into a run and maintain as long as I can. Hundred yards, then walk, quick stretch, run again, walk, quick stretch, …….. Those blasted ‘ramps’ are looming like mountains. I’m compensating for my right knee with my left one and distributing weight rather oddly. I find a good balance and hey ho, here comes another of those damned speed bumps, which play complete havoc with my legs. It gets silly. I start trying to see the funny side. I’m thinking of things I’ve read which could be useful to me now – at Mile 24. On a 10k run, two miles is nothing. At Mile 24, those two miles seem neverending. At one point, I’m watching my shadow just to check that I’m still moving!!!!! No, really – it’s a bit like that. I’m wondering if I’ve suddenly stepped on a travelator because I don’t seem to be progressing.
AND THE FEATHER HAS PASSED ME AGAIN!
Smile, look confident and remind yourself that you are accomplishing exactly what you said you would …. to get to the finish line! That’s what one of the books told me.
I smile. Doesn’t help much.
‘Make your own reality.’ A slightly more helpful tip. I picture the finish line – and then laugh at the thought that it could be 30 yards in front of me and I’m so blind I can’t see it!! For some of us ‘picturing’ the finish line is probably the best we can do, so actually ‘seeing it’ is a whole other challenge!!
My watch beeps! Bloody marvellous! Look at that! It says I’ve finished!!!!!!! If it wasn’t so tragic, I really would roll on the floor laughing. I stop momentarily and show it to one of the spectators, who finds it hilarious! I guess calibrating does have its uses, but at my level of running I’ve just never bothered. Never had to. Now I know why you do it. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!
WATCH IT! CONCENTRATE! HERE COMES THE FEATHER AGAIN!
No bloody way, Sweetheart. You are NOT crossing that line before I do! The army boys are to my left. There’s a tiger on my heels (literally).
Last bit! Look! There it is! The supporters are fantastic – and have been fantastic all the way (thank you to ALL of you!). I can hear my name being called and I don’t need any energy gels. I’m desperate to sprint all the way to the finish …………… but I can’t. I’m choking back tears from the sheer effing frustration! Another tip I’ve heard frequently – and used often …..
Yep! That’s the one!
Works every time.
Knee stuffed. Do I care? Out of the corner of my eye I think that’s Karim running the last bit with me. Can’t afford to turn around and check. (It was, by the way).
Cross the line. I’ve run a marathon. For a second, I’m invincible.
(Feather comes in behind me ………………….)
5 hours 41 minutes – but who’s counting!