I have unfinished business with the marathon.
I ran my first 26.2 miles in Brighton in 2014 and was overwhelmed and delighted just to make it round the course without my lungs bursting or my legs falling off. For the first few miles I was so excited just to be in a marathon race. Me, the least sporty person ever. The girl who hated PE and would rather sit an exam than run around a wet and muddy school sports field. The girl who had an article published in that most hallowed of teen magazines Just Seventeen decrying the awfulness of school sports. Now here I was *running a marathon*. It was brutal and hard, and miles 16 to 23 were an internal battle of will, forcing my legs to keep turning over when all they wanted was to stop, I’ll never forget the sight of my friends with their homemade signs willing me on, or Mum and Dad’s grinning faces as I ran/lurched/staggered towards them at the finishing line, and burst into tears of joy as I crossed. I was finally – in my head – a proper runner. I had completed my first marathon in 5 hours 28 minutes.
My second marathon, a year later in Chicago, was to be my *serious race*, where I trained properly and got a ‘good’ finishing time that I could be proud of. I worked hard, studied pace charts and race time predictors, and was determined to finish between 4 hours 30 and 45 minutes. It was an amazing race with an incredible atmosphere and what felt like most of the city cheering and waving hilarious signs. My friend and marathon guru Jenny was lead cheerleader and logistics fixer (organising vital post-race beer and pizza refuelling). It should have been my race. Instead it went wrong from the start. My Garmin watch lost the plot in the high rises of downtown Chicago recording 6 minute miles one minute, and 15 minute miles the next. I started with the 4 hours 30 pacers but they were just too fast for me and I should have slowed down. Instead I did the exact opposite. After 5 miles I desperately needed the loo but didn’t want to lose the security and camaraderie of the pace group, so nipped into the portaloos, peed as fast as humanly possible, and sprinted down the course to try to catch them up. Clearly an idiotic move and a big mistake. I never saw them again. Instead I wore myself out, and was exhausted by mile 10, and nearly cried when I thought I’d missed Jenny and her boyfriend Keith. The temperature rose, and I got slower and slower, got a stitch at mile 16 that persisted for most of the rest of the race, and just wanted it to be over. I was gutted to finish just 4 minutes faster than Brighton. Another 5 and half hour race. I felt like I hadn’t done myself justice with a disastrous approach to pacing and should have run a much better race. I was disappointed with myself.
So here we are. Four years after my first marathon and at the beginning of another training cycle. Marathon number 3. Loch Ness, Sunday 23 September. This one is mine. This time I want to run my best race and come away proud of my effort. And hopefully earn a shiny new PB alongside my race medal. Nevermind that it’s my brother’s first marathon and he will almost certainly finish in a very speedy sub-3 hours, a full hour and a half faster than my dream goal. It’s not about a competition with him. If fact sharing Strava kudos and comparing our training plans is quite fun. Race day will be a family affair, with even my 5 year old niece running in the wee Nessie race for little ones. It’s not a race against anyone but myself. In the immortal words of film director and armchair philosopher Baz Luhrmann “sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind; the race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself”.
I’m not speedy. I still don’t think of myself as sporty. But I am determined. I’ll give it my very best shot, and hopefully smash my goals. Whatever happens, the good, the bad and the chaffing, I’ll share it here. I hope you enjoy reading my tales.