Smashing the 26.2 Mile Challenge: My Story
Thinking about putting on those shoes for a 26.2 mile run? Firstly, hats off to you. Earlier this year I succeeded in completing my first marathon. It was agonisingly hard work for months but entirely worth it as I crossed that line.
It was amazing. Terrifying. Painful. Lifechanging. Restraining. Rewarding. Emotional. Difficult as hell!
This is my journey in achieving my dream.
Obviously, I waited until after Christmas to start my 14-week gruelling schedule. Christmas was great. Lots of food, lots of booze and, most importantly, no commitments. It was a great Christmas. Then came boxing day. I began the day with lots of energy and drive to start training. I hadn’t realised how restraining it would soon become.
What I didn’t appreciate before I started training was howmuch time I needed to devote to running. I was doing two 5 mile runs in theweek and a long run on the weekend. That’s 14 weeks are not drinking on a Saturday and watching what you’re eating before that big run. Even keeping an eye on your bowel movements!) Not only this but ensuring you’re managing withall that uni work and that assignment you know you need to start.
Recovery time was an eye opener. Every week I would be walking like John Wayne for 3 days, it wasn’t until I could move my legs again that I could start on that next run.
The funny thing is, even though the training was time consuming and tiring, I enjoyed every minute of it. I ran through the most beautiful countryside and breathed in the freshest of airs. I felt better as a person as I journeyed through dedication, discipline, mental and physical barriers. Week by week my distances improved. I couldn’t believe the distances I was covering; 13 miles became a walk in the park- never thought I would say that.
- I am at the start line with all the other naive people. I feel like a sheep going to the slaughter house. No one looks happy, just nervous. I am here alone. My family are in the crowd somewhere around mile 10. Music in my ears to get me motivated. Pretending to fit in, I will do some stretching. One last look at that long queue to the portaloos. I don’t need the toilet. But what if I do soon? No. Focus.
- Bang. The race has started.
- I start to pick up the pace, then slow down, jog again, walk. I am not even at the start line, looks about a mile away. I am not wasting my energy. Back to walking.
- Finally, over the line. Runners around me are shooting off like Usain Bolt. I am not a fool. I carry at my pace and run to the side.
- I start to remember why I am here. So many spectators cheering us all on. So much support. Maybe I can do this?
- I pass the first set of portaloos. Long queue. Thankfully I feel fine.
- Moral starts to decline as I get overtaken by people wearing heavy costumes, and people who are 3 times my age.
- Drink stations become potential death traps and discarded plastic bottles get thrown over my head. I start to realise the benefits of giving up now, but I soon remember why I’m doing it and continue with the other sheep.
- Mile 15 now, is that it? I start to pass runners who have given up and all I want to do is help to spur them on, but I don’t have the energy to speak.
- I then begin to see people having their lunches in restaurants and having fun, envy starts to build up. Mind focuses back on to why I’m here.
- More people in costumes are overtaking me. Didn’t I already pass batman?
- A spectator tries to fill people with positive words and shouts ‘you’re almost there, only 6 miles to go!’. Only? Only?
- A mixture of pain and exhaustion start to rise and now there’s a lump in my throat. When will this emotionally roller-coaster end? Mind distracts back on to what to have for lunch.
- Spectators are back! Yes! I must be close to the end.
- The finishing line. I try to pick up what pace I have left. I need to overtake these people and get a lower overall number.
- I’m through! The end! That lump in my throat is back. Where’s my medal?
After the race, my body felt like it had been beaten to a pulp. Crossing the finishing line was an amazing experience. People shouting my name- love that! I said I would never do another one. But now, I have picked up that ‘Marathon Bug’ and I am looking for another. This is my story. I hope I have encouraged and not completely put you off. One thing I did learn from this experience is that:
Greater Manchester Marathon claims to be the flattest and fastest marathon. I beg to differ.