Today Brighton Marathon Weekend posted a photo on their Facebook page of two suspiciously cheerful men named Sam and Rob approaching the Brighton Marathon finish line pushing a young girl in a wheelchair, with the caption “3 weeks to go! Are you ready?”
Am I ready? Let’s see. I suppose I am ready, a bit like a pizza is ready when you have left it in the oven too long and it starts to curl around the edge and turn black and have all its cheese evaporate. I am ready to drop. I feel a complete wreck. Just take me to Brighton, sling me by the side of the road and wait for someone to sweep me up and put me in the bin. I am done. My eyes won’t stay open, my legs are on fire, my bones ache, I’ve lost all sense of meaning in anything else in the world except I-must-get-round-that-marathon. My head is a whirl of calculations, calendars and weather reports. Nothing else matters.
I was under no illusion that marathon training would be easy, but I underestimated how hard it would be. I knew the training itself would be hard. I didn’t really understand how exhausted I would feel between runs, the effect it would have on my work, friendships and other hobbies. I did not understand the constant trade off between the risk of undertraining and the risk of injury. I did not understand that having the mental strength to keep going when in pain or tired was not enough – I needed to learn how to stop the pain and fatigue setting in in the first place. I can honestly say that I have worked harder at training for this marathon than I have worked at anything in my entire life. And I am saying that as someone who went to grammar school, has two degrees, has written an actual proper book and who has an occasionally quite demanding job dealing with burning tower blocks and bombs and the like. Maybe I should have put a bit more effort into some of those things, in retrospect. Maybe I will, when all this is over.
Three weeks to go – that’s one last long run this Wednesday, a last 10km this time next week, a little parkrun for the road, a thousand downward dogs, close acquaintance with a foam roller, two appointments with the physio and a big plate of carbs all round. Am I ready? I’m ready to run by the sea, to enjoy the little hills and the white cliffs on a mild spring day, to count down mile markers, to take jelly babies from outstretched hands, to keep plodding on for twenty-six miles through Brighton and all the slightly sour memories it holds, grateful that I am no longer the person I was when I nearly moved there, remembering that every step is earning money for my chosen charity Hounds for Heroes, remembering Sam Beck’s mum‘s cruel words at the school sports day and wishing she could see me now. I’m ready to cross that finish line, ready to call myself a “real marathoner”, ready to go back to my normal life safe in the knowledge that I never have to do this again. Thank fuck for that.
I just have to avoid falling down a hole or getting a horrible tropical disease in the next three weeks.
If so inclined you can sponsor me for the Brighton Marathon here. You might want to wait until I’ve actually finished it though, I wouldn’t blame you.