May 2017Eclectic Cake: May 2017

Thursday, 4 May 2017

How to Love a Marathon (aka That Time I Ran London Marathon)

"FLAMINGOS!"

I force an awkward laugh in an attempt to disguise the ridiculous tears rolling down my face, as I watch 'inflatable flamingo man' waving crazily at the couple of strangers holding up mini versions of his wearable race companion. Only four miles in and I've already cried more times than I can count on my toes.
The important thing to note is that these were tears of pride, of joy, of being part of this surreal procession. Not the tears of misery I cried in my first road marathon. If I could keep this up, I'd be on for a PB. That is, have the personal best time of my life whilst running a marathon. Not your traditional measurement of success.


Photo: Tanya Raab

The London acceptance magazine landed on my doorstep the day after my marathon disaster. I was never meant to get a spot, it was a token first ballot application to say I'd at least tried. Now entered, there were just two goals in mind, 1) to have fun and 2) to feel strong again. The first goal was taken seriously, by only training when I felt like it and climbing A LOT. Not really the best way to fulfil goal number two.

Despite attempting self-sabotage, I crossed the start (in tears) feeling relaxed. The guilt of not training hard and the pressure of my hypothetical finish time I was constantly asked for were gone. My only job for the day was to move across 26.2 miles, collect a chunky medal and have a finish line beer. The pace band taped round my wrist, acted purely as a guide for when to put the brakes on excited ambition or to prepare for a long inning on the pavement.


London Marathon miles seemed shorter than training miles. Perhaps it was the number of distractions that prevented me from watching the distance tick off on my watch. My headphones remained tucked in my top for the whole race. Entertainment came from the roar of the crowd that lined almost every inch of the route, tearily singing along to cheesy classics blaring from pubs and zig-zagging to high-five cheering children.

My favourite marathon pastime, though, was to spot the bobbing unicorn balloon that had my friends attached to its string end. Every time I spotted them, it was like we hadn't seen each other in years! Hugs, screams, big over-the-top waves and then, before I set up camp to chat, a friendly reminder that I should keep running.


It couldn't all be plain sailing. As the half-way mark approached, I prepared myself for a mental struggle whilst running alongside a stream of runners who were already nine miles ahead. But that struggle never came. Actually, I was thankful to be on the other side of the fence, the speedsters looked miserable and I was having a ball. Party pace for the win!

"That's not pain you feel, it's love", said one marshall.

"Well, then love hurts", I wittily thought to myself a mile later, still feeling a fuzzy warmth of enjoyment instead of the burning ache of hard work.

Photo: Jessica Sumerling

Not every mile came easy. That's what my secret weapon, motivational Cheestring was saved for. At mile whatever, when my watch decided to go loopy and call a 3-something minute mile, I decided it was time. I let myself walk for the first time since 10:13am that morning, so I could enjoy a much needed savoury bite. Sanity restored, it was on to business and spotting friends dotted along the course who offered all the love and energy (and beer! – I will never run another marathon that doesn't have beer on the course) I could have asked for to get me to that finish line.


That last corner, the one I'd normally only see on TV, hit me. It was so loud, I almost covered my ears. There was no sprint left in my legs to leave them quickly, instead it seemed like I was moving in slow motion. That was ok, I was almost done, I wanted to soak this up to remember. When I finally allowed myself to finish, I grinned through one last set of tears. A proud personal best – 26.2 happy miles, my strongest all year.