From smashing ‘it’ to smashing yourself.

So it turns out I’m not superhuman after all. This is my account of what happened when I was running in the Limassol Marathon, when I finished (not the race though!) with a Bang!

It is a piece that is just the beginning of looking back on what happened in Cyprus. Not my thoughts on a particular topic or theory, but a collection of my memories and resultant reflections on an very specific experience. I’ll get to the main event – it sets the scene – I passed out during the run. I didn’t finish and I don’t really know why…

So let’s tell the story…

Chapter   4:  The Awakening

I feel content. I feel like I smile as I open my eyes. It’s very light. There are faces looking down on me. They are smiling. They look friendly. I think they are saying “you are alright”. I try to get up but they ease me back and cover me with an emergency blanket. I tell them I’m hot and they pull it back. There are tubes in me. My arms. My left arm hurts. I can see it is strapped. A blood pressure machine. There’s a tube in my nose. I’m not smiling any more. My left ankle hurts. They offer me a drink. I get isotonic drinks. I need to pee. They ask me stuff. I can’t remember. They answer my questions. I’m in the medical centre. I’m at the finish line. I was in an ambulance before. Turns out I wasn’t abducted. Mmmh. Oh. That was some overreaction I had. Wait, I didn’t finish the race? Aaaw fuck bollocks. I have things in my left hand. It’s my headphones and my watch. I tilt my head. I see my hat also. I hold it. It’s wet. Soaked. I remember my stuff. My phone. I feel for my waist. My trusty Spi-belt. I feel the phone inside.

There are more questions. Some answers. I tell them I’m in Cyprus. Limassol. They smile wide. They come and they go. Checking and adjusting. Smiling. I keep thanking them. My ankle hurts really bad. I still need to pee.

I try to explain I was angry in the ambulance. I want to apologise. They laugh. They tell me to rest. I look around and see others like me, some have friends. Shit. Where are my friends? We have a confused conversation for a moment. They tell me not to worry and to relax first. My ankle hurts.

Eventually I take my phone and try to call Brigita. She was waiting. I don’t know what time it is. How long it’s been. Where they will be. I cant operate my phone. It’s soaking wet from sweat. My hands are wet. It doesn’t recognise my thumb print. I struggle to remember my passcode. I’m shaking. I don’t want to fuck this up

SMS
Trying to use the predictive text to type

. My music is still playing. I don’t want to kill the batter or lock the phone. Eventually I access it. Loads of apps initiate. I don’t know what is happening. It’s too much so I keep stopping and starting. I eventually call. She can’t hear me. I can’t hear her. It cuts out. I get a text saying to call her brother. I respond to the group. It takes a while trying to type. They get the message. They are on the way.

The doctors are concerned about me being cold. I’m in wet clothes. I can’t remember packing spares. They undress my t-shirt. They make me an emergency blanket poncho for me. I like these guys. I keep saying thanks. I relax a little. Nothing else I can do.

Chapter 1:
Mind Games

Sub 3 was possible. Do I build up to it over time? Limassol was perfect. No other races soon. Flat and fast. But it would be a dull course with mental challenges in the tedious straights.

For days leading up to the race I can’t stop thinking about the time, the possibilities. I don’t like it. I’m used to running with little pressure, no expectations. It has made me anxious. The day before the race my preparation was poor. Early flight. 4 hours in Paphos airport as a friend’s flight was delayed.

Despite everything on my mind, I felt I had to do it. I had my plan. My strategy. I’d based it on the progressions of the last two marathons. A 2:59 marathon would need an average pace of 6:50 min/mile. I thought I’d go for 6:20 pace for ten miles (5 mins in the bag for later) and 6:40 for the next 10 (another 3 in the bag for later). Then the last 6 miles I can drop to 7:50 or below and eat those reserve minutes up.

I had to go for it…

Chapter 2:

Print

Off I go. Top loaded strategy selected.  Playlist on. Run run run. Keeping pace with locals. Keeping in line. Pulling away from time to time. I’ll admit some lazy writing here, most of what follows is a shortened extract of my race review…

To plan I mostly stuck. What did I feel? Good. Strong mostly. Admittedly around mile 6 my breathing was all over the place. I had to concentrate to control it. I corrected it and powered on. This is probably one of the early warning signs I ignored. Hitting the 10 mile mark my pace had dropped to 6:30 for the last few miles. I decided to sustain this pace up until 13 miles to compensate.

There were water stations ever 3 miles or so. I hydrated at each. Taking a few gulps of water and cooling myself also. Shortly after 10 miles I collected Some gels also. I thought I’d need these this time. I took one immediately and the other around mile 18 I think. As I hit the long straight and back half marathon stretch of the course I felt in good shape. Hydrated and fueled. Settled into a rhythm. Focused on my goal. It was dull but I persevered. No real thoughts this time. The time-goal was dominating my mind. Eventually I was watching the average pace slowly increase with each passing mile. As long as they were in sync, a ratio of slowing the average pace 2 seconds per mile would even see me come home on time. I still had the contingency minute also as I’d planned for a 2:59. I still felt good. The last thing I remember is that I had about two miles to go. It would be tight for the sub 3. But I was confident. I was planning the last half mile, all or nothing attempt. And then…

Chapter 3:

The Abduction

I was in the back of a van. I have vivid memories of walking home with Daryl, Brigi, Bernardas and Yvette. Medals round our necks. Runners everywhere. Next thing I’m in this van. The men were scary. I was on a bed. They were doing stuff to me. Fuck. I freaked. I saw the door. I tried to get up. I was sure we were still in the street. They were holding me down. I was flailing my arms. Windmilling. “Who are you”. “Why are you doing this”. “where are my friends”. Fuckers. This ain’t gonna happen to me. They kept restraining me. Holding me down. I was powerless. I was angry. Scared. I kept trying to get up. There were two of them that I could see. They were bigger than me. One was near my head doing stuff. Putting things in my arm. The other one was holding me down. I didn’t like his face. He looked like an angry bastard. I wanted to punch him. I couldn’t move my arms. I tried to kick him. It didn’t work.

My aggression turned to scared compassion. “Please” I pleaded “let me go, don’t do this”. They didn’t respond. I hated them. Their silence. Why am I not strong enough?

Fuck you I thought. I’m stronger than you think. You can’t break me. Go on. Do what ever you intend to. I’ll take it. I tensed up. I lay there, resigned to holding out and taking whatever they dished out. I started shaking. I could feel stuff. Stuff going into me. Fuck you. I wanted to cry. My ankle hurt. I gritted my teeth. I took it. The tears were close. Don’t break now. It was so hot. So so hot. I was sweating so much. I’m tougher than this….

Chapter 5:

The Rescue

I’m laying in the medical centre. Worried about my ankle. Every now and then a medic checks. It takes a while to locate where I’m trying to explain. They ice it. I still need to pee. They tell me not to worry. How can I not worry about peeing myself in a medical tent?!

They smile and laugh at me. I smile and thank them.

I see Brigita and Bernardas at the tent entrance. I smile and wave. I thought of feigning recognition but I’m not that funny or quick. The medics ask if they are my friends. We all nod and smile. Brigi asks what happens. I don’t remember other than passing out. The medics tell me to get into dry clothes. Thankfully I’d packed a spare t-shirt. I take Bernardas’ fleece. I’ve no spare shorts. I wrap an emergency blanket like a skirt. Everyone laughs. We’ve got this. Daryl walks in. He has a beer. He’s had a massage. He laughs. I’m glad to see him. Some questions and answers. I need proper food. They say I can leave slowly. I stumble. Everyone laughs. This is funny. I guess.

I need that pee. The guys walk me to a toilet. It feels good. My ankle doesn’t hurt so much when I walk. But fuck me my toes do. Yvette turns up. She doesn’t know what happens. I’m confused. Daryl is worried. I’m pulling faces and getting weird with Brigi for giving me my phone. We go back to the medics for another check. They are happy. So off we go again. Almost how I imagined it. Only less successful.

Chapter 7:

The Aftermath

We wander for some food. Find a restaurant. Sit down and talk it through. Me. My issue. Other’s races. Then I throw up into my mouth. Shit. I can’t move out of this chair quickly. Yvette, with cat like reactions, grabs a vase from the shelf and I empty my stomach into it. Over and over. It’s just water. I’m empty inside. We are all laughing. How she reacted so quick I do not know.

It didn’t stop there. Some plastic bags and paper bags later and I was fine. The restaurant staff were good about it. Offering support and to call an ambulance if needed. Hell no!

5 chicken kebabs for the table later, mine hardly touched, we walk home. It took forever. I wasn’t the one to fall over though!

Space Cadet
Styling it out

That night we celebrated with beers and lemonades for me. It had been a great trip, an eventful day and one full of memories. I can’t be grateful enough for having such wonderful friends in my life.

Chapter 8:

Retrospective

So let’s process it all. What happened? What went wrong? Where do I start…, Dehydration, Sun/ heat, fueling, pushing myself too hard, loosing sight of my goals. They are all factors.

The only way I can peace this together is with the clues I have. I’ll never know for certain. All I know is:

  1. At somepoint I stopped. My body shut down
  2. My GPS provides some insight. I can see roughly where and when it unraveled…
  3. My ankle hurt. Does this mean I twisted it? A stumble? A fall? Tortured by the bastard paramedics (I jest)?
  4. I’ve no other pain. No bruises. No cuts. If I fell, there would be evidence right? The lack of injuries. Did someone help? Was I stumbling and someone assisted me to a stop?

So where and when did it happen?

My memories. I recall two miles left. GPS suggests it was closer to one mile when I slowed and stopped. What happened for that mile? It’s a little clearer. Maybe 20 minutes are unaccounted for, when I’m not running or moving.

What Happened
Was I stumbling? Did someone help? Was it a Benny Hill-esque escape from the ambulance? Did the paramedics have difficulty doing a 3-point turn?

25 mile pace Garmin

25 mile pace
So my heart rate increased around mile 24, my pace started to slow and I stopped moving at mile 25. My heart rate then spiked…

I’m still uncertain of many things. What I do know with hindsight though is:

  1. I’d lost sight of why I run. Malta changed everything. My previous blog on process efficiency and feeling connected was completely contradicted by my behaviour here. I wasn’t in tune. I ignored the warning signs – remember the breathing issues early on? The desire to fuel? The fact I was only thinking of time? – it’s very silly really.
  2. This is on me. My mind. I forced something I didn’t need. I wanted the glory. I wanted it done and out of the way. Truth is it isn’t in the way. It’s meaningless mostly. It will make for a good Instagram post for a day and a story to tell someone in the future with a smirk on my face. But, I need to be in that future to have the smirk. It’s not worth it. what difference does 3 minutes make in my life? Absolutely nothing, that’s what difference it makes.
  3. Also, The pace wasn’t sustainable. The fact I knew I couldn’t run 6:50 but I went for 6:20 and 6:40 for 20 miles. That’s a shit race strategy isn’t it! It seemed to make great sense at the time, but it’s ludicrous looking back. Comparing the times from Muscat, Malta and Limassol:

So lessons learnt.

Respect. Respect myself, the run, my body, the others (like medics, runners and spectators) around me on the course who don’t need egos like mine to deal with.

Focus on what you enjoy. It was a great weekend. But I added pressure and stress to those around me and took away some of that enjoyment. I put my plans and future at risk. I’ve bigger and better things to come and I shouldn’t be risking them for the sake of a few minutes.

Chapter 9:

Days Later.jpg

I’m overwhelmed with support and messages I’ve received. This is the good side of social media. Admittedly some people close to me made me a little worried so I have had a check up. Doctor thinks I’m fine. Some fine advice and the bottom line, listen to your body.

My toe hurts. It’s a suspected infection (I had some mighty impressive blistering going on!). I’m on the meds. Great. I’m too stubborn for help.

I’ve pulled out of a trail run. This upset me. I’ve been waiting to go on one with the NSL group for months now. But some great and wise advice was received from the community manager, where I’m clearly not listening to my body or my own words, saying things like ‘it hurts like hell’. He is the one who reminds me “you’ve got bigger things to come than this run”. Sense that got through.

I want to run. I’m not put off by the incident, which is good.

For a few hours during the mid week I’m angry at myself. I could have gone back to where I fell and hobbled the final mile, completed the marathon and gotten a medal (we walked for miles afterwards anyway!). This would have achieved absolutely nothing so i eventually move on from it. Some rest and I shall start again…

 

*** Big thanks to the Limassol Marathon Organisers, the medic team, the paramedics (also sorry for the aggression!) and Daryl, Brigita, Bernadas and Yvette. I’m so grateful for you looking after me!***

Limassol Marathon

Pre Limassol.jpg

When & Where:

Cyprus, Limassol, March 2018

Why I ran this course:

Daryl was going. Remember, when Daryl asks, I say yes… Daryl, Yvette and Myself signed up to the full Marathon, Bernadas to the Half and Brigita was on cheering duties and keeping us all in check.

The Course:

Dull. A lap of some industrial areas. Then straight along a major road up the coast. Then back. Flat though. The coast was nice (as expected). Whilst a good course for racing, I don’t think it provides any mental stimulus.

The Organisation:

Smooth. Slick. Professional. The team did a great job in preparing and advertising the event. The were good with correspondence providing plenty of information and were quick to respond to queries.

I avoided most of the experience though as a friend collected my pack for me.

Most of the volunteers were young school kids mostly. They did alright. Not hugely enthusiastic and I suspect bored of it all for later runners.

The Atmosphere/Support:

Mostly not there as it was an out and back course. Few congregations around major hotels and water points though. I presume around the finish it was a good atmosphere. The event village had a stand with DJs.

My Race:

The prep was per usual. Plenty of mileage covered. Physically I was there. A marathon (over two runs) the week before was easy although unnecessary. Mentally, I was a bit of a mess. Malta has changed things. My mind couldn’t get away from the thought that a sub 3 was possible. So many ways to approach this but after dwelling on it I decided I’d go for it. Get it. Get it out of the way and enjoy the rest of the marathons with out the pressure I was suddenly feeling here. So that’s what I decided to do.

My math (google and someone else’s math) told me a 2:59 marathon would need an average pace of 6:50 min/mile. That’s a big ask. Finding 3 mins off my last time across 26 miles is not  easy. The way I decided to find this was to go with a heavily top loaded strategy. I thought I’d go for 6:20 pace for ten miles (5 mins in the bag for later) and 6:40 for the next 10 (another 3 in the bag for later). Then the last 6 miles I can drop to 7:50 or below and eat those reserve minutes up.

So off I went. And to plan I mostly stuck. Early splits were a little over 6:20 but I wasn’t too worried. It dawned on me around mile 6 that my breathing was heavier/ more noticeable than previous runs. But it would be right. I was flying. I mostly kept pace with various groups of other runners. At one point forming a sort of peloton as we hid from the slightly oncoming (mostly side) wind.

Hitting the 10 mile mark my pace had dropped to 6:30 for the last few miles. I felt ok though so promised to try and make it up by sustaining this pace till the half way mark. A high five and cheer from Brigita and I was motivated through. Some gels collected too. I thought I’d need these this time. It was now time for the mental game. The long straight and back half marathon lay ahead. It was dull. No way around it. Head down. Plot on through. Clapping and cheering the few supporters out on the route and the elites coming back the other way.

I was struggling with my target pace but was hovering under the 7 min mile mark. I wasn’t bothered. I knew the miles were in the bag. I was watching the average pace slowly increase with each passing mile. As long as they were in sync, a ratio of 2 seconds per mile would even see me come home on time. Besides. I still had the contingency minute as I’d planned for a 2:59. All it meant was the last 6 miles would need a bit more effort is all.

And so it continued. Long. Straight. Pace watching. Slowing slightly each mile. I started to get overtaken around mile 22 but also overtook a few myself. I still felt good.

I remember noticing I had two miles to go. Annoying. Thought it would be one mile by now. I was around 7:30 pace. It would be tight for the sub 3. But I was confident. I knew we’d turn into the final stretch with about 1/2 a mile to go (I measured it on the way out) I told myself, get there, get passed the turn then you can check the watch. If it’s gone 2:56, go for it. Last half mile. If not, relax. You’ve got this.

I never got to check the watch. Or at least next time I did check the watch it was 11:30. I should have finished at 10:30. I was in a medical tent. Something had gone wrong. Very wrong. I must have passed out. I recorded my first Did Not Finish. I’m okay with that. Better than I thought I’d be. But now I need to figure out what happened….

The Goodies:

None for me! Well, apart from oxygen and fluids. I hear there were massages, freeze spray and beer. The medal looked good. The t-shirts you needed to buy. Pah

DNF

Time/Standings:

Time: DNF

Standing: DNF

 

 

London Burger Run – March 2018

Group Pic

Another Burger run and another Saturday I find myself waking up stupidly early to go running. I decided to to run to the meeting point, an Estimated 7-8 miles. Why?? No reason, I just felt like I wanted to and should. I was slow to leave the house and it was looking like I would arrive about 08:55 and would need to “freshen up” (switch T-shirts) before the 9am start, so it was going to be a fairly fast run to begin with. Which was fine as I was pacing the gentle 9:30 – 10:00 min mile pace group today.

On arriving and walking in I was immediately presented with the familiar smiling faces and we were all ready to go. Outside JayZ leads us in a quick warm up to the A-team theme. The route is explained and, after bumbling around with the Suunto and setting up the navigation (I really dislike this watch I’ve decided!), off we go.

The A Team
Get those knees up

Within minutes I’ve lead us the wrong way already as we navigate the different parts of Hyde Park. As long as we are heading in the general direction I do not care though. The first part of the run I admit I felt was pretty dull as we head through the urban jungles of Kensington and Fulham (with some more wrong turns taken at Parsons Green). We eventually hit Putney Bridge though and from here we will follow the river to Millennium Bridge which, for the most part, will be much more pleasurable to run.

Smile

First though, an unplanned (but welcomed) stop, as one of the girls encounters a nose

On the Phone
I’m kinda busy….

bleed. Whilst she nips into the cinema to clean up, we stand around refuelling at the local market. It’s good. Well, it looks and smells good. I had baby food to eat, no fresh sausage rolls this time. Oddly, at this point there was a “phone” on a moving trolley of some sort that a guy kept calling. Some weird street entertainment thing. It made for an alright photo I guess.

We carried on and headed along the river towards Battersea Park where we had another quick stop. Looking at the watch our 14.5 miles was likely to be more like 15.5. Still, there were smiles a plenty. Navigating around Battersea power station at this time is pretty grim as a lot of the Thames Path is blocked off for construction. Something that made me a little frustrated as we neared Vauxhall and I tried to lead the group off the main road and back onto the river path, only to be blocked by a glass door/gate as part of the private developments recently opened. So frustrating!

We carried on and headed towards the mayhem that is Southbank at midday on a

Pace Group
I think they had fun?!

weekend. A busy place at the best of times, but at this time the volumes of tourists mean the run becomes a walk as you force your way past the London Eye. This wasn’t so fun, but I knew it would be the case. Avoid the area if you can! We were close to the finish now and over the bridge and along Cheapside we went. Finishing up after 15.5 miles in Bank where the majority of the group carried on with laps of the restaurant to round their miles up to meet the ‘long run distances’ specified on their training plans. Runners are an odd bunch aren’t they! I was glad I’d done my extra miles (for the sake of it) beforehand. Not quite sure when a planned 13 miler becomes a 24 miler for the sake of it though.

With plans for the afternoon and evening I didn’t stick around for the baptastical burgasms promised. I was off the have a wash…

What is a marathon experience really like?

“So you want to run a marathon?”

What is it like running a marathon?

You can read a lot of information out there about the preparation for a marathon in terms of the training plans and the race reviews. There is less information though around the mental preparation and what you can expect to experience leading up to, during and after a marathon. So I thought I’d try and share my experiences on it.

Hopefully this will be for everyone. For those of you out there contemplating your first marathon and entering the unknown. But also those of you who’ve already experienced it and can say ‘yep, I know what you mean’. Obviously this is biased. It’s based on me, my runs, my experiences, my mindset and approach to do things I do and how I react to circumstances I am in. It might not transfer to you at all. But maybe will provide some insight. On that note I won’t focus too much on the actual run itself. These will vary not just from person to person but location/environment and with so many other factors.

I will put the warning out now though, I’m not sure what direction this rambling might take. So it might contain too much information which you might not want to think about or know! And of course, don’t let any of this put you off!

So here’s a bunch on thoughts/things you encounter on your marathon journey…

  • The procrastination of signing up – you’ll probably dwell on signing up to a marathon. You’ll look at the website a million times, speak to a ton of people and probably make all sorts of lame excuses before finally succumbing to registering. It’s normal. I think. I procrastinate on each run over and over before I finally suck it up and pay the bucks to run.
  • The realisation of what you’ve done. The training and commitment required – its kind of a shock moment. The ‘oh fuck’ as reality kicks in and you realise you’re going to have to go through with this. You either train or you don’t. For me there is only one answer to that. Knowing each race is weeks and months of hard graft can be off-putting. Get your mind over it and get on with it! Find a way to enjoy your runs and the training becomes easier.
  • The loneliness of the training – The hard graft means long miles. Long miles means days out just running. Mostly that will probably mean running on your own. Let’s face it, its dull. Its boring. You’ll have to find your motivation to keep going through the tough times and crack on with your training. You might find yourself tagging extra miles onto other runs/races to achieve this.
  • The perceived failures along the way. Bad runs. Hangovers. Bad nutrition. Social plans. Niggles that play on your mind etc. I don’t get it right. I Just keep running. But so many things can set you back. So many things can get into your head and make you reflect less positively on a run or an experience. Don’t let it get to you, don’t let it stop you from trying again. Take it easy on yourself, our bodies are way more capable that we realise. An off-day is just that though, a day. There are many more days up and coming to be your focus and successes.
  • The stress of logistics. You might sign up to a local race for convenience. 7 out of 8 of the marathons I have run have been abroad. 3 of those outside Europe. The stress of arranging flights. Agreeing time off work. Factoring in all the costs. Figuring out when you can book everything. Timing the cheap deals right. Confirming how and when you can collect your race pack and what impacts on your plans this might have. Is it disruptive to your holiday (is it even a holiday?!)? It is all just stress. Stress is not good. I always end up booking the cheap flights and regretting it later when it means I have to get up at 4am to get to the airport and dash straight to the race bib collection!
  • The lack of sleep. Arriving at your destination at unsocial hours. Being tired all day. Not going to sleep early enough the night before. Yep. These are all consequences of the cheap flights in my . Don’t do what I do if you can’t handle that!
  • Travelling alone – it can be lonely but it gives you independence. Travelling with others is much more fun. It does however require compromise. Will you eat what you want? Stay/sleep where you want? Get up when you want etc. For me, for a race I want a place with a toilet/shower and privacy. You don’t want to be disturbed when you need to run so far. Same thing for local races. the hours leading up to the start can be lonely and overwhelming. You can start to feel anxious without the distractions of a familiar face to talk too.
  • The pre-race nutrition – At home you’ve got what you need. When you’re staying somewhere else you need to think this through. I’ve started taking porridge on “away marathons”. Not always do you have a kettle/hot water whatever needed to meet your plans. Dry granola it is then. Great… Wanting a coffee? Needing a coffee. Thinking of how to make yourself shit before you leave? (This is a big one right!…I neither want to carry that around with me nor risk a mud party in my shorts during the run).Yep. It’s not glamorous. And you’ve not even done anything yet. This is just your mind.
  • The logistics of getting to the start – yes, more planning is required. Fed up of planning yet? see a marathon isn’t just about running and training! Are there transport options arranged? How reliable is public Transport? Again, is it at a time you want? If you can’t get to the start on time you’re going to regret it! Plan ahead and get there early – As Jack Reacher would say “Get your retaliation in first”. No wait, that’s not the appropriate quote….”Plan for the worst and hope for the best”!
  • The hanging around at the start – The anxiety. The intimidation. The small talk. Watching the serious runners with their ‘weird’ warm ups. The awkwardness of the pre-arranged warm up that usually only a handful of people do. The fucking queues to piss. Not just the first time. But every time. Time before the marathon can really mess with your head. Be prepared for the mental battles whilst you wait. And yes, I know that might contradict getting there early. You’ll need to figure out which stresses you more – the anxieties of waiting or the stress of rushing…
  • Toilet breaks – Not understanding why you need to piss so much. And how you’ve held so much piss that it’s the 5th time and your breaking records each time! Nerves play a big factor here too. It ties into you pre-race nutrition though. Give your self time to drink loads hours before the race so your body can process it in time. You don’t want to be feeling the effects 5 miles into the run!
  • The waiting again. This time in the starting line up. More of the same. Hurry up already! Sometimes there are delays. Accept them, they are normally for very good reasons with participants safety in mind. Sometimes it can take you a looooong time to get over the starting line. Typically, the more mainstream the race, the longer the wait at the start line can be.
  • Getting angry and defensive as the elbow bashing begins as people want to find space further forward. Get the fuck out of my bubble before I headbutt you (I have never and would never do this. I like my face too much). Etiquette goes out of the window at the start of a race.
  • Suddenly realising you need a piss again. How?! Where?! Whyyyyyy!
  • Setting off. It’s usually a scramble. I’ve started enjoying it and heading out fast. Finding my space again. Probably shouldn’t. Can’t imagine it’s a wise technique. Get your elbows ready again, you might be boxed in!
  • You’re running now. Your thoughts are your own. But. You have to deal with them. Don’t think about pissing. Shit. Now I need a piss. Damn I thought about shit. Now I’m paranoid again. Did I take that Imodium? Did I take too many, will I ever shit again?
  • You’re probably thinking about what ever race plan you had (I never mentioned that. You probably stressed thinking about how you were going to run. What goal? What pace? What time?). You’ll either stick to it (good on you) or adapt it (still good on you. Recognising and listening to your body)!
  • Fight the Demons
    Fight those demons in your head!

    Dealing with the demons. Those fuckers in your head giving you all manner of thoughts. Work. Arrgh fuck off. Sex and people past, present, future and non existent. Wtf? Fuck off. Food. All the food! What’s waiting at the end? It better be good. Greasy burgers. Doughnuts. (Sub in you’re alternatives here). I don’t tell these thoughts to fuck off. But I don’t want them too early on. Water. Drinks. Where the fuck are the water stations? Oh. It’s only been 2 and a half miles. Will they have lids. They better not be cups. Or big bottles…

  • Water – Drinking…I like to think I’m a conscientious runner. I’m thinking ahead of each water station of how I’ll get the water. How I’ll empty half the bottle (so I don’t soak myself or twat myself in the teeth when I do) without causing slippery zones or impacting other runners around me. Why do I need a piss again. Still. Fuck off you little piss demon. I’ll sweat it out. I’ll show you.
  • Be aware of the carnage that can be the experience of each and every fuel station. remnants of water bottles, fruit, gels etc. all over the floor. People cutting you up etc. Look around you, be aware, they can be very selfish parts of a marathon. People aren’t always nice!
  • Pose for the Camera
    Strike a pose

    Oh look, a castle/tower/field/sea/ building/horse/bird/burger shop. Any distraction. I like to look around and try to absorb where I’m running.

  • I said I wouldn’t focus on the actual run. I’m on a roll so I’ll keep going. Pain. Oh yeah. That demon is a right bitch. Anything. Any little niggle becomes a big concern. You’re paranoid again. But wait. A camera. Suck it up and smile. Yeah baby.
  • What about the signs/direction information? They can fuck with you’re mind. There’s and army of demons in your head just for those. Are you a km or a mile person? Do you prefer to count up or down? They play tricks on you. I swear my watch said something different. Oh, I’ve only run an extra 0.32 miles since I last checked felt like it had been at least 4 miles.
  • And so it continues. For a long long time. You’re constantly fighting your thoughts. There’s heap of techniques people use (or wish they didn’t. I met a guy once who said he can’t stop counting when he’s running races. Not counting as in calculating his time/pace (I do this sometimes, usually getting it wrong) but just incremental counting. That must be horrifically
    BoldCleverAffenpinscher-max-1mb
    Hoooooooooooo

    annoying). Positive affirmations is one such technique. Repeating to yourself good things. Visualising your success. “You got this”, “going strong” “Hoooooooooo” like hacksaw Jim Duggen waving around his 2 by 4 in the early 90s. Yep. I’ve screamed that out loud in a race before. However you deal with your thoughts it’s got to be what is right for you. And only  you. What works for one runner won’t for the next. And I’m particularly in awe of those out there running longer times. It means you have to deal with that shit for longer than those running quickly. Respect.

  • Either way. Somehow you drag your butt to the finish. Brave face time. Strike a pose. The cameras are watching. Shit. Why did I celebrate like Alan shearer? I don’t even like him. Doesn’t matter. Usually the photographers have missed you or the geezer to your left is the one in focus and his arm has hidden your face. Or. And a pet hate. You have to pay for your photos and it’s covered with a huge watermark and a week later you get an email saying it’s £30 a photo. Fuck that (tip – it’s always half price a few weeks later. It’s not like they will do anything with them. Is all digital these days). Just to acknowledge the photographers – They do volunteer usually. They do give up a lot of time (not just on the day). It is a job for many of them. They usually are pretty great. I just don’t personally want to pay for photos these days. Cameras are everywhere. In everything. A few quid maybe. Double figures. Just nope.

Anyway. The race is done. (I did go on then didn’t I?!). What comes next?

  • Race goodies – It’s time to become a crazy. Time to hoard. The medal is usually first. Thanks. (Just a note. I always thank as many people as I can. Yes. Even the photographers I won’t pay. It’s so easy to raise a thumb or clap to the musicians. The volunteers. Those giving you water and food. The traffic wardens keeping you safe. Tiny Tim and the family who clapped you at mile 16. Those giving a medal and all the post race support. Don’t be a dick. Thank them. Acknowledge them. Seriously don’t be a dick!). Medal on. Maybe a photo taken. It’s time this shit got real. Free water? Yes please. I’ll have 8. Don’t worry. I can carry them. Isotonic drink? Sure. Put it under my arm pits. Food? Great. Just stand there, unwrap it and put it straight in my mouth. Oh what’s that, oranges. Shove that in too. Put some on top of my water while you’re at it. Thanks (don’t be a dick – always say thanks). I know, this could be controversial. My greediness and perceived ‘need’ could be at the expense of those finishing after me. I genuinely believe there is enough. I’ve never met anyone or read a review where they haven’t had enough stuff left when they finished. If someone does call me out on it though I will change. Besides. It’s more like 7 waters I take. Not 8. I joke. It’s more like 4. Ok ok. It’s whatever I can actually carry. I’m exaggerating here. But you’ll probably feel the same when you finish a marathon or have felt it before!
  • What comes next varies. You might have friends or family waiting. You might need to sit down. You might focus on stretching. You might head straight to collect your bag and change. Usually all of those need doing at some point.
  • The ecstasy starts to kick in as you realise you are done. No more running. You’re pleased with yourself or having a retrospective of something didn’t go so well. Either way, it’s happened. Forget it. Get over it. Something learnt for next time perhaps. Talk to the runners around you. Remember that woman who whizzed past you in the last mile – go applaud her. See that dude sitting with his head in his hands, check he is ok! You’ll get a great buzz from interacting with the other finishers around you.
  • Next comes more logistical stressing. This time it’s unplanned and you’re unable to focus. What do you do now? Suddenly you might not need that piss anymore. You can sweat it out after all. You might need that shit though. Your bowels have been swoshing around like a washing machine for the past few hours. It’s not going to be pretty. I once got locked in a portaloo after a race. I couldn’t contain it. I had to go. Turns out there was no water and while I was in there they’d locked it to fill it up (it was a massive trailer type toilet). That was fun. Not. I eventually got out.
  • Usually I’m walking after the race. Either to transport or the accommodation. It will be slow. You’ll walk little zig zags as you’re not paying so much attention or not able to function as you normally would. Your legs might giveaway from time to time too. You get there. Eventually.
  • Now what? Your post run routines are yours. Mine include (1) finishing all that’s left of my scavenger hunt (2) taking that long overdue shit (3) showering (4) washing my kit (5) trying to sleep (never actually sleeping). If I’m good I might also stretch. That will hurt though so I usually don’t.
  • Surprisingly the shitting can take a while. Not because you can’t or because you can’t stop. But because you sat down on the throne and now can’t get off it. You didn’t think of that did you?! No lie. That’s right up there with steps/stairs as the hardest thing for me after a run. I once almost pulled a sink off the wall trying to (literally) pull my ass up off the toilet.
  • Showering is fun and welcomed. All that sweat is now dried salt on your skin. You’ll be feeling irritable. But for me its not the only washing needed. Washing the clothes. Particularly this will apply if you’ve traveled far for a marathon. They will stink. No matter how you seal them that stink will affect your whole bag. I’d much prefer the damp smell of part dry clothes than the combination of sweat and spilled isotonic drinks/food. My tip. Wear them in the shower. Wash with the clothes on first. Best bit is you stay in the shower longer too.
  • Time for some rest. You’ll have all these promises of what you’ll do afterwards. Go meet people. Some sight seeing. Doing something. Give up on them. You won’t feel like it. Your energy levels are spent. Try to rest a little. You’ll appreciate it afterwards. Be prepared to just lay there though. As tired as you are you are probably wide awake. The different positions you lay in will also hurt like hell and keep you awake too! You’ll slowly start to realise where you’re hurting.

That’s the glamour of a marathon experience. Despite all that. Don’t be put off. The feelings, sense of worth, achievement, belief, all the science-y stuff that makes you go “whoop whoop” etc. all far outweigh the negatives. Those demons can’t beat you. But you can pound them like the tarmac beneath your feet….