They say that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
The scary thing is that they might just be right.
You just have to believe.
The truth is, this marathon journey didn’t start three months ago when I ventured out for my longest run ever with a small, but perfectly formed, group from RRC.
This journey started a long time before that.
Everybody has their own reason for running, each marathon effort taking on its own meaning.
For me, running has always been a way of proving that I can. Of defying the odds. Proving my doubters wrong.
I spent my childhood being told how I didn’t really compare with the other kids. How I was different. How I would never compete with people of my age group. I didn’t match up. I didn’t fit in. When those around me were constantly reinforcing the same damning messages, who was I to challenge them? Over time, those same comments, repeated again and again, took their toll.
When I talk about that aspect of my life with friends, one thing is clear. No matter how many times you compliment somebody about their deepest insecurity, it pervades. Negativity trumps positivity and that hurts. It’s hard to face up to and even harder to conquer.
But time changes most things in life and I began to challenge what I once thought was fact. For some time now, telling me that I can’t do something, that I won’t be successful even if I try has been tantamount to waving a red rag to a bull. If someone tells me that I can’t, I’ll make damn sure that I do. And then some.
This is more than a marathon.
Marathons are so much more than 26.2 miles of distance run. They are the hundreds of miles covered in training, the sacrifices made to ensure that you are ready to hit the road at 7.30am on a cold, wet Sunday morning. The commitment. The nights out missed. The determination. They are mental battles to put one foot in front of the other when your body is straining and common sense dictates that you stop. The drive. Reminding yourself of why you are running, why finishing the marathon is so important. You carry on, because the marathon distance, much like life, dictates that you carry on.
Don’t misunderstand me.
I have loved nothing more than being a part of a band of runners striving towards the goal of finishing a marathon. I value the sense of belonging and understanding that only running affords. Despite each runner’s unique purpose, we run together as one. To begin with, running in a group didn’t come naturally but I found myself loving that moment when the endorphins kick in and you feel like you can open up to those around you and talk about anything. The notion that anybody could enjoy running whilst soaked to the skin, covered by waves of dirty water, early on a Saturday morning is, frankly, bonkers. The connections that you forge are anything but.
That was the reality on the 16th March. Sometimes life is uncomfortable. It throws challenges at you that you’d rather not face. Marathon training is like that too. It was wet, cold and marred by a lunatic van driver who ploughed through a lake of water at 40MPH covering us all from head to toe in rainwater and mud.
Challenges make you stronger, unexpected ones more so. There’s little point in stopping and certainly, nothing to be gained by giving up when you are cold (I shivered through a good 2 miles of the twenty that day), sopping wet and at least 7 miles from your car. Race days seldom go exactly to plan; training runs prepare you for that.
Running with Ramsbottom Running Club’s marathoners has been invaluable. Together with the other marathoning rams, I have completed all but two of my long runs; they were so much easier than the times I ran alone.
I am also indebted to the friends and family who have supported me. To those who have told me that I can. More so to those that insist that I will and those that will be waiting at the finish to have a beer!
When the start line comes on Sunday, I will line up alongside fellow runners at the beginning of the Manchester Marathon. Although we will run our own, individual races, we will run together. Runners with finishing times of two and a half hours or seven hours are all marathon runners. I don’t pretend to know what time I will finish my first marathon in, in fact, I have very little idea how the day will pan out but it’s time to trust in the training now all the hard miles are done. Although I have to admit, I am hoping for a sub-4:30 finishing time!
There are just 26.2 miles left of this marathon journey.
This is the finishing straight.
On Sunday, I will finish my first marathon.