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…
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
. 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.
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…
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…
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….
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.
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!
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.
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:
- At somepoint I stopped. My body shut down
- My GPS provides some insight. I can see roughly where and when it unraveled…
- My ankle hurt. Does this mean I twisted it? A stumble? A fall? Tortured by the bastard paramedics (I jest)?
- 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.
I’m still uncertain of many things. What I do know with hindsight though is:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!***