“Comfort, the enemy of progress”
It is the day after my marathon and I am trying to summarize the marathon experience. I am full after a delicious breakfast at Angelina’s and some hot chocolate, looking out onto the fountains at the Jardin de Tuileries. Ahh Paris.
I signed up for the marathon to challenge myself, to do something that would push me physically (and I later learned mentally). After watching the London marathon a few times I decided that I too could do it and more importantly I wanted to be someone who has run a marathon – my why I want to always be pushing myself to know I can do anything. Having a clear idea of your why is what will pick you back up when a tough training run has broken you (mine was a 18 miles when the beast from the east was in town – the only run where taking a taxi was one the options I had given myself).
My training has been up and down, a few niggles and at some points I was not sure I could do it. I kept the goal in my mind and when I had a few too many days off running I got back out there. That keep going-ness is in the end what matters most for running 42km. Yes, you have to be physically fit but you have to learn to mentally fight through the discomfort, the urge to stop. And that is what the training taught me to do: self talk, self encourage and to know that, no matter what finishing the marathon will be one of the proudest I will ever be of myself. And it was. Even now I am almost in tears thinking that I made it through. I did that, I am a marathon runner. I showed up. It was slow, ashy and not cute but I did it. It served as a reminder that everything passes, even those painful crushing moments that feel like one more step is too much. They pass. Then there will be good moments, even in those tough times things will make you smile – let them.
I followed my race plan quite well; to try and stay consistent on my pacing, to do my own race to refuel and drink water regularly. There were bananas, oranges, raisins and pretzels. And ginger bread later on but by then everything tasted like cardboard.
The course had incredible energy. The sights, the drumming groups dotted throughout, the live music, the cheer leaders and dance troops, a drag queen disco in the middle of the forest, firefighters hosing us down (yes it was as amazing as you would imagine – why haven’t I been to the Paris fireman’s ball?! #30before30), the crowds shouting Allez! and the random brits shouting go on Ruth!. It was amazing.
Post race people have asked me what my highs and lows were. To be honest most of the race is now a bit of a blur, but some highlights that I do remember is starting the race when I was fresh with lots of energy, lots of crowds and I was running on adrenaline. Seeing messages from my sister and a friend who were tracking me were also some of the best moments – made me smile, cry and laugh. The one that had me in tears near the end was “2 km to go!!! In 14 minutes you will have ran a marathon!!!!!!”. Just 14 minutes and it felt almost impossible, crying because of how bad I wanted it to be over but weirdly happy because I had already done 40 km and resolving that I stopping a few km short was not happening. Seeing Anna and Ashley, all smiles cheering me on. The guy catching me as I crossed the finish line, I literally collapsed into his arms and he hugged me saying well done.
My low was just before I saw Anna and Ashley, this must have been the wall – I was starting to fade, to debate walking, to debate if I can even finish the race, the soles of my feet were hurting (they still do) and I had used up all my positive self talk. Seeing Anna and Ashley rejuvenated me, I was so happy to see them. I wasn’t going to get any faster but it reminded me that I got this.
What I have learnt most from my marathon experience is to take things that can feel overwhelming into small manageable chunks and focus on one bit at a time. From beginning training in November and the many solo long runs that followed I focused on only the next mile. Some days the first mile would make me want to give up and some days 10 miles would feel like a breeze. Whatever I could give, every mile counted.
It is important to surround yourself with people who get it (or at least get that something is important to you), that’s who will keep you going when that doubt creeps in. They keep you whole when you are starting to crumble.