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Those were the famous last words I said to myself at the beginning of this year. With only 3 months to train, I had signed myself and 2 colleagues up to the Brighton Marathon. Crazy? Yes. Stupid? Probably. Worth it? Absolutely.
I wanted to set myself a challenge for 2019; give myself something to push and train for, to test me both mentally and physically. However, once I was standing at the starting line, bracing myself for the 26.2 miles that were to come, I suddenly realised with horrifying clarity that I had made a mistake. Surrounded by what appeared to be very professional runners with gel belts, personalised water bottles and a steely determination in their eyes, I felt incredibly out of my depth. Before I knew it, the mass of people began to move. So, with the music blasting, my heart pumping and a quick fist bump to my fellow Boston Hale runner, I was over the starting line and we were off.
I ran the first mile with surprising ease and as the route continued, I had a tiny moment where I thought to myself “this is actually possible; I can complete a marathon – ME”. With a smile on my face, my feet continued to hammer the pavement and I felt like Superwoman.
If only that feeling had lasted.
For those who have never been to Brighton, let me tell you one thing – it is very hilly! What may seem like a gentle coastal stroll on a lovely summers day felt like a never-ending climb up Mount Olympus during the marathon. Suddenly, people were overtaking me at a surprising and quite frankly soul-destroying pace. But what choice do you have but to keep placing one foot in front of the other?
I crossed the halfway mark feeling more exhausted than I should have at that point and started to think that I may be in trouble. How on earth was I going to do all of that AGAIN? Had it not been for the crowd of people cheering on the sides and the potential embarrassment I would feel if they saw me start to walk already, I would have stopped then and there. Onwards I ran until mile 16 and 17 were behind me. It is at this point that I will tell you that it is terrible timing to discover you have a dodgy knee whilst training for a marathon. It is even worse timing when this knee decides to give up on you at mile 18 of a 26.2-mile run. Slowly but surely, my run became a jog, which became a quick walk and finally, a depressively slow crawl. At this point, I realised how mentally challenging a marathon is. To keep going when your body wants to stop takes a certain type of willpower that I wasn’t aware I possessed. By mile 21 my knee had reduced me to a rather pathetic limp and the tears had started to come. I had been on the move for 5 hours already, the crowds had dispersed, and I was cold, tired and in pain. I wanted to quit – badly. I couldn’t see how I was going to keep going, but I knew I could not face my friends, my family or my colleagues if I quit. The idea alone was both heart-breaking and mortifying at the same time.
The next 5 miles were ones I don’t look back on fondly. This was not how I pictured finishing a marathon. I had envisioned running over the finish with pride and overwhelming happiness into the arms of my friends. The reality was quite different. I crossed the finish line after 6 hours and 4 minutes, limping, crying, and having been overtaken by two people in full rhino costumes.
Everyone said that once you run one marathon, you get the bug and want to do more. If I am perfectly honest, that hasn’t been the case with me – maybe I am just not built for long-distance running. However, we all survived and crossed that finish line, which is an amazing achievement that I will carry with me.
It is very easy to get caught up in the times and targets when you are running the marathon. The first question most people ask when you finish is “How long did it take you?”. But what you really notice when you are running is the sheer number of people who have taken on this challenge for charity. We ran for Stroke Association, a charity I picked after losing my nan following a stroke just before I joined Boston Hale. We aimed to raise £1200. We ended up nearly doubling that, raising £2314.20! That number right there made the marathon and the subsequent sunburn, blisters and swollen joints 100% worth it. Seeing all those people running for charities, for those they love and for those they have lost, was an emotive experience and one I will always be glad I was a part of it.