I decided to take last week off from adulting, following my first ever marathon. Granted, I still had to go to work, but I decided to sack off just about everything else- blogging, socialising, grocery shopping- you name it. So now I’m back, let’s talk about that marathon.
Oh my days. That’s the only way to describe it.
The Course: 26.2 miles round Greater Manchester- flat, friendly and fast.
A. Hit sub 4h
B. Hit sub 4.30h
C. Don’t die and/or poop pants
I was very nervous the day before, and I could hardly sit still. But by race morning I was feeling much calmer, and even excited. We got stuck in traffic on the way to race village, so I had to get out and walk 20 minutes. Then there was bag drop- a huge, uncoordinated mess of runners, essentially. It was about 10 minutes till the start and I hadn’t been able to leave my bag yet, and I needed to pee very badly, so I left my bag with a complete stranger (and fellow runner) who checked it for me. Final stop at the loo accompished, I had to run to the start line to find my corral. And the start line was about half a mile from race village. Ugh.
Having finally got to my corral with about a minute to spare (literally), I didn’t have time to warm up, stretch, eat something small, or even fix the wonky insole in my left shoe. Oh well…
The Race Itself
The race started with very little fuss, and we got going. During the first three or four miles, my legs felt tight and heavy, like ugh this is so much effort do we really have to do this? By Mile 6, and old climbing accident flared up: it’s a loose SI joint caused by impact, which causes an inflamed piriformis, which in turn causes a trapped sciatic nerve. I haven’t suffered from this injury for 6 years, not even through training. By mile 6 the entire side of my left leg was in spasm and I was in agony, and so I had to stop to stretch. I was still hitting my paces, and somehow despite the pain, I felt okay. I was high-fiving kids, whooping and cheering at other racers, and generally enjoying myself.
I hit the halfway point at 2:01:00, so with negative splits in mind (and how I naturally race), I could have (very tentatively) hit sub-4. But by that point, the pain was overwhelming, and I just knew it was out of the question. Despair arrived just after that point, when I realised there was still half a marathon to go.
Miles 13-16 were a blur of pain, with alternating stretches of walking, running and stretching the away. When the cramp dissipated and I was able to run, the pace was actually quite respectable- but then the spasm came again. By Mile 18 I was in full-on meltdown mode. All I kept thinking was how I’d let everyone down, especially since I’d put my everything into training for the past 4 months, and chewed everyone’s ears off with my endless marathon talk. I’d sacrificed so many things in those past few months, and it all felt like it was for nothing.
At Mile 20 I said a little prayer and hoped just to finish. By this point I really couldn’t move very well, and so I knew I would have to get over my ego and high expectations. But luckily, we were headed back into the city and the crowds were phenomenal. I ate as many jelly babies and fruit pastilles as I could carry and used the pure sugar as a much-needed boost. I stopped for a long time somewhere around Mile 22, and only started moving again when I could see the 4:30 pacer closing in on me. At Mile 25 I saw two of my closest friends, Ben and Josh, who’d come to support me, and that gave me a huge boost. They were outside a pub, screaming excitedly as I ran past (because at this point, thankfully, I was at least mustering a jog). Their punny, personalised cheers helped me no end, and I finally made it to the top of the hill where, I was told, I’d be able to see the finish line.
Finish line my ass. I mean, I could see the finish line, but it was bloody miles away (not literally…obviously…it was probably half a mile!) It felt like a mirage- it never seemed to get any closer! I kept wanting to stop because of the pain shooting down my leg, but honestly the crowd support towards the finish was so phenomenal I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And so, in a blur, I somehow made it to the finish line- I honestly can’t remember it!
There was no clock at the finish line, so I had no idea how I’d done. But frankly I didn’t care- I got my medal and my space blanket, and sent a quick update to my colleagues, who’d all been tracking me and cheering via our Whatsapp group. Stopping turned out to be a bad idea- apparently my legs preferred to be mobile by that point! So i found a place to stretch, and meet Ben and Josh. There was a palava with the baggage collection (more on that to follow), but Ben and Josh bought me a chicken burger and chips, and we sat on the tarmac in race village to eat. And I’ve never felt happier, or more loved, or more relieved.
My finishing time, I later discovered, was 4:34:14. I was really disappointed with this- I’d had to come to terms with not achieving my A goal which even I knew was lofty. But I was sure I’d finished before the 4:30 pacer- really, it didn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve been feeling a bit low in the aftermath of race day, but I know it’s just a barrier I need to get over in my head. I need to find a way to recognize that 26.2 miles is an achievement!
So there we have it; my first marathon. It wasn’t the result I was hoping for by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m glad to have at least achieved it. Not everyone wakes up one morning and decides to run a marathon, so at least I’ve got that.
Lots of love,