It’s been a week since I crossed the finish line at the end of Brighton Marathon, stumbling towards the baggage pick-up in a daze, gripping onto a foil blanket, overwhelmed by the weight of what I had just done: I had just run a fricking marathon.
I am filled with a sense of utter pride while simultaneously disbelieving that it even happened in the first place. But anyway, let’s start from the beginning.
I was in the wrong headspace in the starting area, which threw me for the first 8-9 miles of the race. I got off to an alright start, but mile 5 was the beginning of an incline that felt like it would never end. I was expecting to see my family at mile 6, but unfortunately they didn’t make it there in time. It was incredibly disheartening, especially when I could also see runners coming back down the hill on the other side of the road. I just wanted to be them!
So I had a wobble. I think this might have even been my “wall” (yes, this early!). I walked for three miles, feeling utterly miserable and sending messages to my nearest and dearest for some much needed support. Some “life stuff” was getting in the way of what I had to focus on (running!) and I momentarily let it take over. When I saw my dad and my brother, I knew that I had made it through the rough patch and that it was time to get back on track, finish the marathon and feel proud of myself.
The course was relatively quiet at this point and so my dad actually ran alongside me for a little while (while simultaneously forcing me to eat some flapjack because my final fuelling that morning hadn’t really happened). He was with me until we approached the 11.5-12 mile mark, where I saw my mum and then waved them all off with the determination to get back into some proper running.
From then on, I stuck to a strategy of running 1km, then walking 1km. This was totally different to anything I’d done throughout my training and I was frustrated that it was in such small bursts, but you know what? It got me through. It got me through for the next 10 miles. At this point, I had already decided that time wasn’t a factor for this run, it was all about finishing. So I pushed the thoughts of how slow it was to the back of my mind – and I actually really enjoyed this part of the run. Between little girls giving me jelly babies, the quick chat with a lady called Liz who I walked alongside for a little while; and the orange slices that made me so happy I almost shed a tear, I had a thoroughly great time.
My running strategy worked well enough that my family couldn’t keep up with me – each time they got to a mile marker, I had actually just gone past it. At mile 20, I stopped to go to the loo (an experience in itself, trying to step up into the portaloo, trying to steady myself enough to pull my leggings down, trying to will myself to stand back up again when I was done!) – when I came out my brother was there. He kept me company for a little while until it was time for me to run off again.
Miles 20-22 were definitely the quietest of the race, and the wind picked up a bit there so it was chilly in places. Nonetheless, I kept going, and found myself overtaking some people I had crossed the starting line with, which was a confidence boost. My brother showed up at mile 22 with a carton of orange juice (I’d been craving it since the heavenly orange slices near mile 18), and so we walked together for a bit until we caught up with my dad. Then it was just a case of moving my legs forward. I ran for a hundred or so metres every now and then, but it was mostly just putting one foot in front of the other.
My body was exhausted by this stage, I couldn’t hold a bottle of water without dropping it or even walk in a straight line. There were benches along the seafront and I desperately wanted to just stop and lay down on one of them, but I kept on going. I saw my mum at mile 24 and gave her a hug, which was emotional and I did my best not to cry, as I knew this was the last I’d see of her before I crossed the finish line. Soon it was just me and my dad, he kept me going, encouraging me to pick off people in front of me one-by-one until we had gotten past the 25 mile marker. Then I knew I had to start running properly again with no stopping until I got to the finish. A final jelly baby in me, and I was off.
By this point, people were telling me that I was “so close” to the finish line, but I couldn’t even see it yet. There were a few gantries before the finish and I had false hope that they were the end but soon realised they weren’t. But I wasn’t stopping until I crossed the line, so I kept on going despite the screaming desire to pack it in. It was so hard not to cry at this point, the closer I got the more emotional I became and the louder the cheers were. I overtook one last person as I approached the finish and I Just. Kept. Going.
Pulling the best smile I could muster, I crossed that line. I’m getting all emotional just thinking about all of the feelings I felt in that moment. It was incredible. I got my medal and had someone wrap me in a blanket, then was off to get my kit bag.
Once I was through, I sat down (sweet relief!) and stuck my phone on charge (died during the run, but I’d had the forethought to pack a portable charger in my kit bag so I could get in touch with family after the race – definitely recommend doing this!). Then I donned my hoodie and changed into some fluffy socks and comfy shoes (an absolute god send, I tell you!). Once my phone was on, my first message that came through was a text from my boyfriend telling me the time I had completed the run in. It all came rushing to me, I felt incredible.
And now I’m part of the 1% of the population who has completed a marathon. And I’m part of the whatever-percentage who definitely wants to do another one too.
It’s been the longest, most difficult journey from barely-runner to MARATHON runner, but I persevered at every point of that journey, even when the desire to give up was way stronger than the desire to carry on. And while it might sound cliche or whatever, actually running the marathon was only a part of the experience for me. The things I’ve discovered about myself and the milestones I’ve reached along the way were ones I never expected. When my 15 year old self claimed she’d never run a marathon, that she didn’t even have any desire to run a marathon, she had no idea what a truly wonderful experience it would be. I’m so so glad that I didn’t let that past version of myself get in the way of this achievement. And nobody can take this fact away from me: I did it. I did it all by myself at points, in the freezing cold winter, in snow, driving to races where I’d have no support on the course and crying my eyes out because of some hip or foot or whatever-else pain. I did it. I did it when I wanted to stay in bed all day on a Sunday instead. I did it instead of drinking on a Friday night – I gave up drinking for more than four months. I did it with foam rolling sessions that left me crying out in pain (it’s a love-hate relationship), with trips to the physio where I learned about yet more muscles that I hadn’t been paying enough attention to, I did it by dragging myself to the gym multiple times a week (and even at the weekends if the weather was too bad to run). I did it by breaking personal bests over and over again in my training runs. I did it by spending hours telling people how much I hated it and would never do this again, knowing full well that I blooming will. I did it. And you know what all of this makes me? It makes me a marathon runner.
I am a marathon runner. I did it.