On Sunday, I ran (NAY, JOGGED) my first marathon.
I was very particular about where my first marathon took place.
I wanted to run in a town with copius amounts of artizan bread and balmy sea air, which had seen the birth of one or more British youth subcultures, and housed a coffee shop run by Peter Andre. But which town could offer so many particular ideals?
Of course! Brighton!
I was grateful for being slightly unfamiliar with the layout of the town. I feared being able to calculate distance would lead to panic, as knowing what was around the corner would mean I was able to work out how much further I had left to run.
Here I am at the start, with my mother, who told me not to get confused and run into the sea.
When I signed up to do the Brighton Marathon 10 months ago, I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge (a lot of a challenge), but that seemed fine because I was drunk, and it was very far away. You can say yes to just about anything, as long as it is more than 4 months away, because you always imagine your future self to be an improvement on your present day persona. That’s why people book bungee jumps/accontancy courses in advance.
My prep for the marathon involved watching Run Fatboy Run, visualizing the finish line and salivating over the original glazed krispy kreme doughnuts I would gorge on the day before the race. I also ran a lot, jogged up a bunch of of hills, did a 20 miler and some squats, but mostly I thought about eating those three krispy kreme doughnuts, and David Schwimmer’s short lived directorial career.
Marathons are not the best way to loose weight, (if that is what you are hoping will be a pleasant side note to the achievement,) they are however the best way to gain the thighs of a rugby player, a collection of disgusting blisters, and some chafing in a very sensitive area.
(Haruki Murakami did not warn me about that. Thanks for nothing buddy.)
By the time it got to race day, I was sort of ready to go. Or at least I was fed up of thinking, talking and dreaming about marathon training. It had become an all encompassing tedious obsession, and something people would ask me about with a kind of terrifying fear in their voice, as though they admired yet pitied me. ‘Your running a marathon? OH WOW! THAT WILL BE HARD!’ They would say, grateful they were not as fool hardy as I, and filling my head with a moment of absolute dread. yes I was wasn’t I? Dear god. ‘I know,’ I would say, as fear settled in my stomach, wishing I could say ‘am I?’ before crying, telling my legs they were stupid.
I should have said ‘I know right! Check me out!’ Before running off really fast around the corner.
So I got to Brighton, and I ate a krispy kreme doughnut, and I dreamt about Paula Radcliffe punching me in the legs and then I woke up and I had another krispy kreme doughnut (and slow release carbs too, don’t you worry,) and then I worried it might rain, and it didn’t and I hugged my loved ones and I got in my pen, and then it all hit me. I started thinking ‘Dear God, what if I don’t finish this? What if I am one of those people who says they almost ran a marathon, but had to stop for various bullshit reasons. VARIOUS BULLSHIT REASONS. No one buys the person the person who almost ran a marathon a Baby G watch, or a voucher from Debenhams! No one!’
Luckily there was a woman limbering up in front of me, without shoes on, who caused no end of hilarity, and distracted my thoughts from the dark place. She had gaffer tape between her toes, AND NO SHOES ON. NO SHOES. Not even a flip flop, or a kitten heel, or at drawing of a shoe on top of her naked feet. Someone asked her if they ever got stepped on, and she said no. Which seemed like a sensible response, from a totally crazy person.
Paula Radcliffe was on some kind of magical plinth at the start, high fiving people as they went and explaining to each that she did a wee and not a poo, and she is just as fed up as you with people telling you not to shit yourself during the race and ‘do a Paula Radcliffe,’ because it was wee, not a poo.
‘It WAS NOT A POOOOOOO!!!!’ she screamed, the words hitting my face as I crossed the start, and drifting off into the wind as I rounded the first corner. Later on in the race, I thought I could still hear her screaming, the dull sounds of ‘ not a pooooooooooo,’ hitting my ear….
And we were off…… and… it was pretty dull tbh.
Not much happened in the first ten miles.
There was some funny signs, someone was dressed up as a tiger, there was a couple of AWFUL and LOUD bands, a guy walking the whole thing was going super fast and overtaking everyone – but he had that professional walker thing going on, you know, where it looks like he has a loaded grenade between his legs, but is doing his final catwalk challenge for Americas Next Top Model.
This is me, 15 miles in, looking like I didn’t have a care in the world, but I had many cares. I had just clearly gone insane.
My groin muscles had really started to pull a couple of miles before, and I was in a constant state of mild pain. The kind of throbbing persistent pain you get with toothache, which you can easily ignore until your tooth falls out. But adrenaline and gatorade were keeping it at bay.
As you can see I am wearing a blue top from the Bristol Half Marathon. A lot of people had their names ironed on to their tops, and the crowd screamed them out as they went. It was great. I could pretend everyone was temporarily psychic, and I was in one of those creature of the week episodes of The X Files.
I knew I was slightly ahead of a guy called Alan, because people kept shouting out ‘Go ON ALUN.’ I was all like, ‘Yes! Can I help? Oh you were shouting Alan! Never mind, I’ll be on my way.’
I got a lot of “GO ON….. BRISTOL?” Which I enjoyed immensely, imagining myself as a whole town meandering along the road. A mess of Massive Attack, Nick Parks and Banksey all shoved in a over hyped Pieminister pie and washed down with some kind of organic cider, made by two attractive overachieving brothers from Box.
My mother and my boyfriend were tracking me on the Brighton marathon app, so they check I had not collapsed, or was hiding in a pub somewhere. I was a little moving blip who was going at 10 minute miles, which wasn’t the fastest. In fact it was the slowest run of my life, but my aim was to finish it and enjoy myself rather than even attempt to be a speedy gonzales. I was trying to be sensible (not that I could have done it much faster,) but I did speed up in slight increments in the second half. And I didn’t walk, which I was chuffed with. But mostly due to the fear of not being able to start again.
I think there was a point though, about 22 miles in, when I realised I was actually going to finish the thing. I mean, I always hoped that I would, but I always hoped I would learn to play the piano or learn how to wear blue eyeliner, or get a good deal on car insurance, and you know, they never happened. It was a lovely moment, only marred by Zoe fucking Ball getting all up in my face. She was sitting on a corner, urging on some guy (probably Jamie Theakston) to keep going, looking like she had never aged a day past 30 and causing me to turn to the guy next to me and ask if he had just seen Zoe Ball too or had I gone insane?
And if I had gone insane, why had my insanity manifesto itself into a mirage of Zoe Ball?
He ignored me, because he was on his phone.
‘Oh mate, where are you? 24 miles? Great, great. Can you wait for me?’
I nearly cried when I saw the finish line. I was like ‘where the fuck have you been all my life?’ but I quickly realised the crying was making me hyperventilate, because it was that kind of crying, so I stored those tears away and am going to use them for the season finale of The New Girl (WHY NICK AND JESS WHY?)
I sprinted the last 200 metres. In my mind I was on a par with The Flash, or Robert Patrick in Terminator 2. On reflection, and after seeing footage of me finishing, I was actually just moving my arms really quickly but not going much faster.
I ground to a halt, legs like jelly, and got my space blanket, some water and a fucking brevita breakfast bar. Which no one likes, which is why they are always on sale, and why they were giving them away. I threw it back in the volunteer’s face and said ‘What the fuck is this?’
I left the finishing area, clutching my medal, and got stuck in with a crowd of happy runners, off their tits on endorphins, hugging their families and smearing banana’s into their pores. I was given a free sample of cider, because I totally love a post run drink, and was immediately drunk. (Yes, I drank and trained the entire time which you totally can do if you’re not aiming for a great time, and you don’t do the drinking before the running.)
I found my mother who gave me some oatcakes, a kinder egg, two diet cokes and some tesco pre cooked chicken, and I shoved it all in my face.
This is me at the end, and I LOOK CRAZY. LOOK AT MY CRAZY EYES WITH THE WEIRD LIGHT IN THEM. THAT’S THE LIGHT OF MADNESS. There is some weird manic pixie nightmare girl look on my face, like I have done something deliciously evil, rather then just run 26.2 miles.
All in all, it was a good day, and after we all went for prosecco and pizza and I said ‘hey guys, remember when I ran a marathon.’