The other night I was doing a club run, and found myself comfortably at the back of the six-mile group. Sometimes, if you’re not quite feeling the energy surging, taking it easy and just getting time on your feet is the way to go.
I cantered alongside Jim, who was the official tail runner (so no-one’s left behind), and we started chatting about life, the universe and marathons. It was a steered conversation because I am thinking about my final bit of course work for this year. It’s about completing your first marathon, so naturally I asked him a) if he’d run any, b) why, and c) how it felt.
I assumed that all seasoned club runners would at least have bagged one, because, as Jim told me, it’s what every non-runner asked him. ‘Have you done a marathon?’ Or, even more strangely specific, ‘have you done London yet?’.
London was actually my first marathon, so I’m nothing if not predictable. I felt that I’d finally be able to call myself a runner if I did complete one, because I used to suffer from terrible ‘imposter syndrome’.
Jim’s first was in Stoke, which sounded much harder with all those hills. But apparently it was just in training for London, as who has ever heard of the Potteries Marathon? (Not many people it seems, as it no longer runs due to falling participant numbers). The hills of Stoke should have helped him wipe the floor with the big one, or so Jim thought. He told me, he was looking for a sub 3 hour finish, and right up to mile 22 he was on track and felt brilliant. Just as he waved happily to some family in the crowd, his legs suddenly lost their mojo, and those last 4 and a bit miles were torture.
I know now, that going through that ordeal was not necessary for me to get my ‘runner’ badge. In fact, one of the best runners in the club that I know, Ali, has never run one. Because she didn’t want to knock the fun out of running.
I recognise that feeling. My training for London felt arduous in the extreme and I think I hit a genuine point of delirium from mile 21 onwards for the actual day. The aftermath too was like a deflated balloon. But still, with hindsight, I am proud to have crossed that finishing line, even if I was muttering ‘10 In The Bed’ by the end to myself to distract my brain from the pain.
It has got me wondering though, about how other people view their marathon experiences (if indeed there was one).
So drop me a line in the comments below, or wherever you see this post, about your first time.
Did you love it?
Did you hate it?
Do you want to stay a marathon virgin?