It has been just over a week ago since I ran the Greater Manchester Marathon.
I have felt an array of emotions in the last couple of days and have decided to leave this post until I was ready.
In the lead up to the marathon, I had a checklist. With my anxious mind, I had planned to do many things to ensure that I was physically and mentally prepared for the 26.2 miles that I had to run on the 10th of April 2016.
First off, I did not have a set training plan. Many runners gasped when they heard of my ‘wayward’ routine. However, I did have check points that I had wanted to reach by certain dates.
- Work and training.
In my day to day life, I do shift work. Bar life is not easy to play with, as I had the long hours, the late nights and was constantly on my feet which left me exhausted at times. Doesn’t bode well with intense training. In my mind though, I believed I may have had it somewhat easier compared to the typical 9 to 5er. I could run when I had the time off in the afternoons. Not many of my runs were excruiatingly early or ridiculously late after work, when many were most likely to be tired. For my line of work, I just had to fit in the training whenever it was possible to do so.
- Planned races.
The next step in my personal plan was to book a 10K, a half marathon and a 20 mile race prior to the big marathon. I had to make sure that I was capable of running the distance, but still keeping up a great pace.
I choose the places I race in wisely. I like to have a reason to visit an area to run in. You see, I ran the 10K in my hometown of Manchester, the Winter Series run for Cancer Research UK. It was the first of its kind after starting up the Winter series down in London, (secondly in Liverpool) then up here in the Great north, based at the Etihad stadium… And I had wanted to be apart of that.
Secondly, the half marathon was for Vitality in Liverpool. I had a friend that was living right by the course and I had been wanting to make plans to see him and this fit in perfectly. The course also followed a similar route to the Liverpool Rock and Roll series that I had ran a year earlier… And to this day, is still one of my favourites.
Thirdly, the 20 mile run was based in Lancaster. I had spent my university life in this city and had many friends within the area and thought it was another excuse to visit.
Plus all of the races I chose had been for causes, mostly for my main charity Macmillan Cancer Research and other cancer charities.
- A runners diet.
So what does a marathon runner eat? I did not have a set eating arrangement as I did not want to restrict myself to any sort of ‘diet’. I generally eat very well, but like anyone else, I sometimes eat chocolate and I sometimes reward myself with junk food (especially pizza), but it was all within moderation. All I believed I needed to remember was, that if I fuel my body correctly, it would repay me with great things.
“My body is a machine.”
This was a quote I had taught myself during training. If you treat your body well, put in the hard graft, and with rest, it will carry on ticking over. Progression comes with time.
- Mental state.
Along my journey, I had first found it difficult to mentally push myself when it came to my longer runs… But the more I ran, the easier it got. I was able to let my mind flow as it should. As my legs carried on pounding the pavements, I would lose myself to the world. It was not about clocking up the miles any more, as I would almost forget how long I would be out for. Before I knew it, I could go out for hours without realising it.
- Marathon day.
In the last few months, I began thinking of the big day. Of how I would feel, and of how my body would be able to cope with such stress of running for that length of time. This is not something that just about anybody could do… Without sounding obnoxious, I had to work hard for this moment and my training would be key if I were to be able to finish this 26.2 mile race. What would the plan be if I ‘hit the dreaded wall’? Only experiencing the marathon would I be able to answer such questions, and this freaked the hell out of me.
- Final thoughts.
I was nervous. Of course I was… Just like anyone else in my position. I was entering the world of the unknown! Although in reality, when I looked at it from another point of view, I had done the homework. It would all be apparent to me on the day that it was enough. Which brings me to the positive thought trail that I had to teach myself to endure in.
- A runners life.
I had worked hard. Some weeks I would only be sleeping, working and training. It had engulfed my life. I was at one with running, and the more I trained, the more confidence was situated within me. This now was not only just a hobby, but it had become a BIG part of my life.
- Social life.
Friends would look at my life and not understand why I would be doing such, when there were other ‘cooler’ things to be interested in around me. Drinking, dining at that new burger place down the road… There were so many things happening. Including my 27th birthday. But this is what I had really wanted.
An obsession some may say, but I became hungry to know what finishing a 26.2 mile run felt like. How you can just work yourself up to a moment and your body will take care of the rest. It fascinated me in how mentally stimulating it could be, as well as mentally draining. Running a marathon is not just the physical task I had first thought it would be. Running brought out every single, damn emotion within me and I had let myself feel every second of it, regardless of whether it would be a positive or negative. I learnt so many things of myself during them last few months of training. Oh, What a roller-coaster of a ride it was!
Getting up on the morning on the 10th of April, I knew things would never be the same again in the few hours ahead of me when I would cross that finish line… Because I would be an even more capable, much stronger, confident runner. I would have completed the farthest distance of my training plan.
- The final stretch.
At mile 24 I felt the struggle, my lower back had become very painful and I lowered my head to watch my feet take one step in front of the other. The sun was high and sweat poured down my face. I sure didn’t look pretty, and I entered somewhat of a void. This was not the wall I had dreaded, but a narrow tunnel towards the end. Then I heard the tannoy… ‘Only one more mile to go. The finish line is in sight!’ We were at mile 25. I lifted my head and the banner was in view. My body took over, and I pulled every ounce of strength that I had left within myself. So much that it was almost as if every pain, every ache, every dark thought had disappeared. I picked up speed and raced towards the word FINISH. This was it. Everything I had wanted was to be enjoyed in these last few seconds, and then… It would all be over. Excitement and elation ran through my body, I could not stop smiling… And THIS will be the moment I remember.
This is why I run.
I proved to myself that;
I am able to do anything if I put my mind to it. Hard work does pay off.
Here I am, a marathon runner. Something I had never thought I would ever be able to say. It was only a year ago that I had said that I would never do something of the sort… And it was such a great experience, one that I could almost not describe. I was so overwhelmed with how I felt on that Sunday that I knew I had to enter another marathon, to experience it all over again, with a stronger mind.
So for anyone who is dabbling with the idea of going the distance, I would say GO DO IT. Your life doesn’t finish when you start training, you begin to live. The fun doesn’t stop here, if anything, I had also realised that if you completely cut out everything ‘fun’ in your life, you will begin to despise your training. I still went out for a lovely meal every now and then, bottle of wine (or two) in between. It was choosing my moments and it would be a real treat. I still had an enjoyable social life, just like anyone else.
If I could do it all over again, would I?
In a heartbeat.
Berlin Marathon, September the 25th? WHY THE HELL NOT?! 🙂