How this didn’t happen sooner I don’t know, but here we are, there are just over three weeks to go until Edinburgh marathon, and it’s all gone to shit.
As I write this I am just back from a 16 mile run, to date, the furthest I have ever done. And I’m a state. I have been crying all morning and my face is now crusty with a combination of tears and sweat. My legs are stretched out gingerly in front of me, and my body is beginning to feel cold to it’s very core, a feeling that will be familiar to anyone that has ever sat still for a period of time after an attempt at outdoor exercise.
I hardly have the energy to go to the loo, let alone hash out an entire blog post, so this will no means go down in the history books as an award worthy chunk of writing, but I pledged to share my marathon training journey and this, by far and away, feels like the most momentous moment to date and I feel I would be cheating the entire process if I didn’t document it.
Today was the first day, I think, that I was confronted by the huge reality of what I have to do. In just over three weeks I am going to be running a marathon. More specifically, I am going to be running 26.2 miles. I am going to running more than eight 5ks. Over four 10ks. It is two half marathons.
It’s not just the ever-elusive fucking long run at the end of May that I’ve had in the back of my mind these last eight months. It is now a stonking reality and, the closer I get to it, the more I am appreciating: holy shit, it’s a really fucking long way. I feel like i’ve been looking at the Great Wall of China from Russia. And now I’m nearly there and all of a sudden it’s so bloody big I can’t see anything else. For the first time appreciating quite how extraordinarily far a marathon is: I’m fucking bricking it.
Why it took me so long to appreciate the enormity of 26.2 miles I don’t know but I suspect that it’s had something to do with the fact that my training so far has been on the easy side. So much as to say, it’s all gone pretty well.
It didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time; I’ve been dealing with a spot of tendinitis in my hip (“a spot of tendinitis”, for context, is about as comfortable as sitting on “a couple” of sea urchins), I’ve damn near lost all of my toenails and if I get one more bout of nipple chaffing I reckon irreparable damage will be done and that really will be a tragedy, but after today, I realise that, comparatively, the runs thus far have been a walk in the bloody park (often literally).
Three weeks ago I completed the half marathon distance and I was on top of the moon, I wrote a blog post about it (READ IT HERE) and I was fairly sure that if I could manage 13 miles, relatively easily and in 2hrs and 20mins then I was going to be fine for the sub 5 hour marathon I was hoping for.
Today I completed a 16 miler and know I am utterly convinced that everything I thought I knew three weeks ago was a lie. It didn’t feel like the half marathon plus three I told myself it would be. It didn’t even feel like the 10 miler plus six that I kept reminding myself it was. No no, 16 miles was quite unlike anything I could describe.
It was shit and it was hard and I absolutely hated it. I went down on my ankle which meant that my dignity was in bits and I had to hobble the next four miles, I kept getting stitches which was weird because I never normally get them but now couldn’t stop and I had a new and very unwelcome pain in my right knee.
I had set off with boundless optimism, excited to be back in London after over two weeks away, enjoying the sunshine, appreciating the miracle that was my own body and bouncing along like the marathon-runner-extraodinaire I was destined to be.
I don’t know when shit hit the fan, but hit it it did. Without warning the motivation dried up and I was desperately left doing all that I could to jumpstart whatever machine was hiding in the depths of my brain (because let’s be realistic here, the physical symptoms were in my body today, but all of the problems were in my head); I switched off the audiobook that had become boring and irritating, exchanging it for a podcast episode and then quickly a running playlist. I gave myself things to count, things to watch, targets to hit. I reminded myself why I was doing it. I told myself, both internally and externally that I COULD DO THIS. I pushed and I pushed and… nothing.
It just wasn’t happening for me today.
Sitting here now I am trying to work out what exactly my rock bottom was but find myself honestly unable to choose from the extensive list of shit moments: was it crying down the phone to my non-runner friend about how shit it was and then crying even harder when she reminded me that my bad runs shouldn’t be taken out on her? Was it crying down the phone a minute later to my boyfriend who was much more sympathetic which only made me wail harder – so hard in fact that I set a baby in a buggy off next to me? Was it being asked by two truly alarmed looking builders if I was alright? Was it being asked by the nice lady with the baby if I was alright? Was it being asked by the man who looked like he absolutely didn’t want to be asking if I was alright? Was it falling over on Wandsworth road? Was it being picked up by a stranger off of Wandsworth road? Was it being escorted by a hotel security man to a reception area to wait. Was it getting there and realising that my ankle was actually probably fine and I had made a very un-British fuss and should absolutely be taking my leave now? Was it being overtaken by the same pensioner six times as I stopped to try and get rid of the stitch? Or was it, as is more likely, a culmination of all of these things?
I’m not sure it matters really. The fact of the matter is: it was a fucking shit run.
A run so shit in fact I think I would quite happily never run again. I could throw my trainers out the window right now and call the friend I’m doing the marathon with and say, you know what, sorry, but it’s just not fucking happening.
It was the run to end all runs.
Except of course, it wasn’t, and it won’t.
Because if there is one thing I know about me, it is that the only thing harder for me than doing the Edinburgh marathon right now, would be not doing Edinburgh marathon right now.
I’m going to have to do that fucking thing if it kills me. And kill me it might.
Today was really hard.
And it unleashed in me an emotion that I truthfully didn’t know I had. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not ice queen, in fact I’m the type of person to cry when they see an old man buying groceries alone in the supermarket, so the fact that I shed a couple of tears has not come as a surprise.
No, what did surprise me though, was the unbridled, shoulder shaking, cannot-fucking-breath emotion that exploded out of me today in a way that it never has before.
The emotion that saw me go right into my fucking soul and pull out every last ounce of anything that I had in there and to use it as a means of pushing myself to do things I didn’t know I could do.
The emotion that broke me.
But then made me fix me, or at least, patch me up for long enough that I could get back into my own house and onto the sofa where I belong.
That’s what came as a surprise.
That extraordinary emotion that I didn’t even know I had.
Next week I need to a twenty miler (or thereabouts), the week after that, I will need to do another 16 miler, the week after that I will do as close to nothing as is humanly possible and then?
Then the marathon will be here and will need to do what I did today and then another ten miles on top of it.
The marathon will be here and I will need to claw all the way back down into the depths of my soul and find every single old plaster, bent paperclip, fluffy paracetamol until I have the wherewithal to pin what will no doubt be a tired and weary body together for long enough that I will be able to complete what right now feels un-completable.
Wish me luck.
If you have a macabre fascination in people’s despair there are lots of videos of today on my Instagram.
– I’ve signed up for a marathon
– Marathon training part one: the beginning (and training programme)
– Marathon training part two: half way there