I don’t now what it is about the London Marathon that, more than any other sporting event, really inspires me. I love watching it, the atmosphere looks amazing and I get chocked up every couple of minutes listening to and reading the stories behind all of the runners.
I have never been to London to watch it, nor ran it, just watching it on TV is enough to set my mind in motion, wondering what I can do to challenge myself next. Around eight years ago after watching it, my sister and I were inspired to run our own marathon. We knew getting into London would be a long shot so chose Paris which worked on a first come first served basis. We were obviously complete novices as we completely underestimated how hard a marathon alone would be , without the pressures of flying to another country and the logistics that came with that.
Our marathon was awful. We trained hard, but not hard enough. Our longest training run, which we thought was 21 miles, turned out to be (we found out after the event) only 16 (we thought we were very fast runners). I was told I had plantar fasciitis a week before the race and advised not to run. Obviously after raising around £1600 in sponsorship this was not an option, instead I decided to run with an insole in, which I had never run with before the race. Anybody who runs will know running 101, never run a race in new kit. I broke this rule numerous times because as well as the insoles (which I discarded half way around and immediately regretted, they was definitely the lesser of two evils), I also wore a sponsorship t-shirt (again not tried and tested) and a brand new running cap (bought from the EXPO the day before the event and still my favourite hat to this day).
This was not my only running mistake. We also decided to walk half of Paris the day before the race (sightseeing, like we wouldn’t see enough running the damn race) AND we walked to (and from) the race on the day. We were late arriving and literally ran to the start line adding mileage to an already long race.
To say we hated running the Paris marathon was an understatement. By the time we were half way, I hated myself, my sister, the spectators and especially the bands who were making all that horrible news around the course. I wanted to shout expletives at everyone in my way; we were running so slowly, we were even overtaken by elderly walkers. My sister kept telling me we could stop, my foot was killing me and she wasn’t faring much better, but failure was not an option. We cried the majority of the way and when we finished the race (after five hours) my sister actually threw her running trainers in the bin and didn’t run again for a year.
That experience put me off for years, I doubted I’d ever run another marathon again. Then after watching London two years ago, I signed up to the Edinburgh marathon (again, first come first served). Like having a baby, I had mostly forgotten the horrors of my first marathon and thought I could do a great job. My sister and I laugh because we forget the horrors of the training and the run and every year when watching London are convinced that we could run a really fast race.
I convinced a group of people to run Edinburgh with me but of course on the day, I ended up running alone, my team having all dropped out along the way for one reason or another. I was so nervous about running that distance alone but I had put in the training and knew whatever happened I could get round. I was secretly hoping for a near 4 hour run as well. Alas, this was not to be. I had a great race but it was hot, hot, hot, people were dropping like flies. After training all Winter in the freezing temperatures, the heat was unexpected and really uncomfortable. I had to walk a few times and I felt awful but I knew I’d finish, I’d done it before in much worse circumstances. I came in at 4hrs 40 which is at least half an hour longer than I wanted to run but I’ve been told since that the weather probably added at least that on.
So a much more positive experience but still fresh enough in my mind that, while watching this years race, I wasn’t stupid enough to sign up for another. Instead I opted for a much more achievable and local half marathon. Still a challenge but not one that will take over my life like marathon training would.
That’s what I admire so much about every person running the London marathon, I know how much time and effort they’ll have put in to get them to that start line. I don’t think people realise that it’s not the race that is the hardest part, it is the months and months of training, usually over the freezing cold winter. It’s the Sunday morning 3 hour runs when everybody else is in bed. The hour long speed session of an evening after a long day at work. The commitment to run come rain or shine because you have to get the miles in your legs. It’s the injury set backs, the aching muscles, the self doubt. You cannot underestimate the dedication that is required to train for and run a marathon. So every time I see somebody coming over that finish line, pain etched into their face, turned into elation and relief, I can’t help myself, I choke up. Then I start to think about what I can do to feel that feeling again.