Running a marathon is hard.
That may be an obvious statement, but it is really hard and I think that there are few experiences in adult life that require such a sustained force of will. How do I know this…..
Saturday 21 November saw me lining up with 2000+ runners for the Queenstown marathon. I had been nervous all week in the lead up to the run but felt surprisingly calm and abuzz with nervous excitement as I thought about my plan and what lay ahead. The run went well, a bit slower than I would have liked but I achieved my goal of starting the race uninjured, and better still, completed the race with no major injuries. The worse I have to show for running 42.2km is two matching black toenails.
I enjoyed most of the run, and was surprised at how my body coped with that distance. There were aid stations every 4-5km which mentally made the job easier. I thought about the next distance to the aid station, rather than about how far it was to the finish. The most enjoyable parts for me was the track around Lake Hayes and the last 10km along Frankton track. There were a few little hills along the way which made it more interesting – although marathon hill at 30km had the potential to make one doubt what the heck they were doing….. Needless to say I was glad I had incorporated hill training into my training programme. Overall it was a great run to do and I enjoyed the challenge of the marathon distance. Was such a buzz to have completed it and I cant wait to do it again.
So what happened on the day….
The first 25km went by quite quickly; partly due to running with someone I knew which led to chatting and just enjoying the scenery and the run. Weariness and some achy niggles settled in around the 26 km mark and it was between the 26 and 32km mark where I had a few struggles mentally as it was awhile since I had set off, and I knew, it would be awhile until I saw the finish line. Psychologically though I knew if I could make it to the 32km mark (which I had done in training) I could walk the rest of the way. My mind started to have its own way for a while though and the little naggy voice kept telling me, but you only did 32km in training…. The other part of me was like yeah well I did Mission Mt Somers and that was four hours on my feet so you will be FINE! Mental bargaining started to play a factor as I ran through the km’s.
After a while I started to notice the parts of my body that hurt.
— “What the… what is that going on with my knee? Haven’t had that before. I hope my knee holds together until the end”
— “OMG I just want to sit down, my feet are so tired!”
— “Why is my arm sore?”
— “Ugh my laces are too tight but I don’t have the energy to bend down”
At the 35-40km there is now absolutely no talking – just the odd check in with my run partner that she is still there, breathing and moving. I felt completely focussed at this point on keeping up my pace and trying to have some semblance of form. From some of the photos I have seen, the form bit wasn’t actually going so well but it gave me something to think about and concentrate on. Being fatigued, mentally and physically, there are a myriad of thoughts that go through your mind and running long distances for me, becomes an argument between my body and my mind.
— “Stop, slow down.”
— “Slow down!”
—Your legs hurt don’t they? Go on just walk for a bit”
— “Feel that ache in your hips, what about that pain in your calves? Stop.”
And so on.
Then suddenly this thing, the end, that I could only imagine many hours earlier, was suddenly in reach.
So how does it feel at the finish – amazing! It was a surge of emotions crossing the finish line – relief, fatigue, exhausting exhilaration.
My immediate thoughts, after hugs and congratulations from my husband and friends, were to find a drink that wasn’t water, and a patch of grass to lie down on and take my shoes off. They say it’s the small things in life that matter – on marathon day it was heaven to remove my shoes and ecstasy to have something other than warm water and sticky super sweet gels. It took a few days for the reality to set in that I had completed my BHAG – while still on the ‘high’ I compiled a list of want to do runs for 2016. We will see how many are still on the list once training resumes!
The biggest thing I have gained from this adventure is self-belief – my longest distance in training was only 32km, and there’s only so much that you think you can do. But when you go past that barrier and keep going, you’ve entered the world of the impossible.