She doesn’t look too sad about it, does she?
(I know she was disappointed though)
I set off far too fast. I ran too fast for twelve miles, in fact, carried away by the enthusiasm of the pacing group I was running near. Sadly, after twelve miles, my legs started to object. The pacing group disappeared into the distance.
The next few miles were a bit of a trial. My mum and sister popped up at various points which was lovely – they took my spare top away, brought a new pair of shoes for me to swap into, and provided treats and a much-needed excuse to stop and rest for a while.
The supporters along the route were brilliant, and some had even put out bowls of sweets and fruit at the ends of their gardens. The marshalls were fab, especially the one who gave me a cheese butty at 20 miles when I was about to cave in.
After 18 miles it became quite clear I wasn’t going to meet the six hour cut off, and I did toy with the idea of dropping out, but then realised if I did drop out, I’d just have to come and do it again another day. What a horrifying thought!
So I carried on, and at mile 25 a marshall finally admitted there was only one person left behind me. One person?? What if they dropped out??
I don’t know how, but I found some strength from somewhere, and did the final mile almost as fast as I’d done the first one. I overtook five people, was cheered down the riverside, and even managed a bit of a sprint finish, crossing the line with six people behind me, after 6 hours 24 minutes.
So, half an hour faster than last time, and (most importantly) not last.
Was I pleased? I was certainly pleased it was over! And I was pleased I didn’t come last, that I was faster than last time, and that I’d managed to speed up and overtake people in the last mile.
There’s still a tiny part of me that’s a bit disappointed I didn’t beat the cut off or get anywhere near the time I was aiming for though… And it’s been strangely hard to talk about that.
People keep saying helpful and supportive things like ‘at least you did it!’ and ‘I could never run that far!’ and ‘you were faster than last time!’ and I appreciate all of those things, I really do, as well as appreciating that they’re trying to cheer me up.
But I wasn’t aiming to be faster or run further than them – and I’ve already ‘at least finished’ one marathon before. This time I was aiming to see how fast I could go if I actually trained properly (or at least as hard as I was willing to).
Turns out as hard as I was willing to wasn’t quite enough to get me the time I was after.
And so I feel a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Not sad, or upset, not at all, just ambivalent. People seem to want me to be celebratory, and I am, but I just needed to acknowledge somewhere that it wasn’t quite what I was aiming for. It’s difficult to do that in an actual conversation because it’s often met with another round of ‘yes, but at least you finished!’
I should point out this is probably exactly what I’d say to someone else in my position. It’s entirely natural to want your friends to see the positive side and I love it that my friends want me to celebrate my achievements. But we all need a space to acknowledge slight disappointments for a while, before moving on.
What have I learned?
I’ve learned it’s easy to get caught up with others going faster than you, but that it’s better to do your own thing in the long run. That when you’re tired and hungry, a cheese butty tastes better than any other food on earth. That having people cheering you on makes all the difference in the world. I’ve learned that even when you think you can’t go on, there’s often a little part of you that can keep going when you know the end is in sight.
So will I do another one?
Nope, absolutely not.
I adore running, and I won’t stop doing that. I love the places its taken me and the people I’ve met. I love the local parkrun, and running alone through the woods in the sunshine. I love running through the park at sunset, and I adore races. There’ll be plenty of those next year, but I’ll be sticking to 10ks and half marathons, and trying to get a bit faster.
I’m looking forward to not having to run for three or four hours at a time on a Friday. I’m looking forward to some other types of exercise – cycling, dancing, hula hooping, maybe even swimming! I’m looking forward to walking everywhere again, rather than saving my legs for long runs.
More than anything though I’m looking forward to a nice long rest and a few weekends of doing absolutley Nothing At All…