The follies of over exuberance: Marathon madness

What on earth have I done? As I sit here I am less than a week away from committing to running a marathon. How did this happen? And more importantly what the hell am I going to do about it?

The story goes something like this. Just over a year ago I went for a run. Don’t know why, maybe a new health kick, maybe to vent some frustration, maybe it just looked like a nice morning. Very possibly a combination of the three. Who knows? And the truth is I can’t remember. What I can remember however, is the forty odd plus years before this event, where me and running had a very clear understanding – we would not trouble each other due to an unhealthy dose of mutual contempt. I am not a natural athlete and even less so a runner. Rather top heavy for most of my life with joints that grumble at the mere thought of an over excessive workload. A mind that gets bored far too easily. And probably most relevantly an ankle that has been rebuilt (in the same way as Steve Austin but without the bionic bits) a mere three years ago. Sure, a mid life male evangelist runner is probably nothing new, but all I can tell you is the story from my perspective, and believe me it’s a turnaround of pretty epic proportions.

So far then, it’s a good news story right? Go you! Get healthy before it’s too late! Prove something to yourself about your strength of character and spirit! Well, to start with I did. Running was enjoyable. I found that I could keep going. I ran in lots of new places and explored them as a result. I realised that not only was it healthy and good for me physically, but it was also a great way to switch off and contemplate the world a little bit subconsciously. Overall a great way to unwind and feel good. All good stuff that you can read up on anywhere if you look at the right blogs and articles, but let me tell you it was a revelation to me.

And then it happened. After stretching to a 15km run I started thinking I could have gone further. I also started thinking about a very good cause that has become important to me based on the impending loss of a close colleague and friend. Then I saw an advert. Next thing I knew not only had I signed up for the marathon but I had told people about it and committed to raising funds for the good cause. Suddenly running stopped being fun. Which pretty much leads me to where I am now, sitting here after a 10km run on tired and aching legs, feeling run down and very sorry for myself.

The training plan such as it is, has been kept simple. Most things in life can be simple if you allow them to be. I spoke to a few “running” people that I knew, bought a running magazine and spent an hour or two googling. The plan boiled down to 3 key bits of advice. Firstly, stay injury free and healthy. Seemed a strange one to me at the time and fairly obvious, however this has played with my mind ever since. My legs ache to high heaven, I’m convinced I’ve just caught a bug and most worryingly my ankle has started to remind me in a semi pleading way about its fragility. Or are all these in my head? Second bit of advice was to do 3 long runs ahead of time – ideally 30km – oh, and some of it should be up hills. Boy was I pleased to get that one on the list. Let’s face it, 30km is a fair old bus ride, let alone a run. And three of them? However, I’ve battled on like a trouper with this one. One 25km run, which nearly killed me, followed by two 30km runs, which bizarrely fared better. Final bit of advice on the plan is the tapering period. Two weeks before, start to do less excercise, rest a lot, and eat a lot of carbs. I must confess that this part of the plan appealed to me, but given I’m only half way through this period I think I may have taken it to the extreme. The idea of a long run right now, let alone a damn marathon, is pretty frightening.

So there it is. That’s my plan. My preparation is almost complete and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’ve been bowled over by the support from colleagues and friends and will be trying my best to live up to it and not let anyone down. I’ve also been asked if my will is up to date. Trying to think about what I’ve learnt as a result of putting myself into this situation is currently hard. I’ve certainly learnt that I will not become a serial marathon runner, but I do believe there will be some real positives from the whole experience, which hopefully I will be able to reflect on a little more positively in just over a weeks time. Wish me luck and stay tuned!

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