I’d done a bit of running here or there, nothing serious, nothing consistent, but around the start of 2017 I decided to set a goal. That being to do the 10 km Great Manchester Run.
I would say I was out of shape but then again, can’t say I had been in running shape before this, so pretty much starting from ground zero in terms of long-distance running.
Starting off wasn’t the hardest, just lacing up the shoes and heading out the door.
Where I came a bit unstuck was a) consistency, and b) my feet were absolutely killing me, nothing to do with constant pounding of pavement when I was a tad more than overweight at the time… probably some other reason.
So, after a couple months having a run here or there, May 28th came around and will be one of the runs I think I’ll always remember. Firstly, for being my first run, but more so because it was the immediate weekend after the Ariana Grande Manchester bombing and with this shocking event there was thought of cancellation, that no one would be going near Manchester.
And on the day, it was absolutely packed. People turned up in droves and it was one of the most supportive environments and examples of a community coming together that I’ve ever seen, crowds lined down the barriers, a band seemingly at every kilometre and enough whistling and cheering you’d imagined this was a world cup match.
I hadn’t done a 10 km run prior to the race and around 7 km in I was feeling it. Not so much out of breath but foot pain followed by pins and needles. It did help numb it but had its revenge as it did give me a bit of jip after the race.
The finish line came and past, and my first proper run finished at a steady 1 Hour 1 minute and 12 seconds, which for the OCD in me bugged me a tad afterwards.
But the main goal was just to finish, I didn’t time myself as I ran, didn’t keep to a pacer, just ran to enjoy the experience and focus on crossing the line. Goal set and achieved.
What better to focus on next other than a Half-marathon, and the Manchester one all set and ready, nicely dated in October giving plenty of time to practice and be ready for it.
And then the procrastination hit….
June, July, August, September came and went, with little or no running.
October came, and I was not in any shape to even attempt a half-marathon without a potential case of needing to be rescued by ambulance. Was a tad miffed at myself, which led me to signing up to run the Greater Manchester Marathon the following April for Cancer Research UK.
Seems a bit illogical to fail to even try the Half-marathon and sign up for a Marathon, but that’s how it went.
Getting back into running was tricky, recently moved so I had to find a new route with a few steep hills littered in there. Bit of a slow start but got use to running again and ended up being a lot more consistent keeping to a 2 day runs, 1-day rest schedule.
January came around and the opportunity to run at Oulton Park, a motor racing track, came up to do a half-marathon distance (13.1 Miles) which consisted of 5 laps around the track.
25th February 2018 was my first half-marathon. Bit different from the 10k this time as I stuck with the pacer, (someone who volunteers to run at a certain pace for the entire race, so people can follow and achieve certain times), for pretty much the whole time only ‘dashing’ forward at the end.
Being a combination of laps and being my longest run to date, there were certainly a few mind games going especially when the same steep hill appeared 5 times in a row just telling you how easy it would be to slow down and walk up it instead. Again, the pins and needles visited me but managed to finish the race with a time of 2 hours 14 minutes.
Now, after the 10k my legs had ached a tad the day after.
With the half-marathon there was a slow creeping pain almost immediately after finishing, just allowing time to thank the pacer, collect my medal and receive the complimentary tin foil blanket. Then after limping to the car getting driven back, and by the time of returning home having to essentially roll out of the car seat to exit, I could confidently say that I wasn’t best prepared for that run… and don’t even start me on the stairs they almost ruined me.
Recovery took a week or so, first few days legs were like a stick-man with a wince accompanying every step.
I could only imagine what running double that would do to me.
April 8th, 2018, The Greater Manchester Marathon.
In truth, although I ran more per week, faster and with more consistency after recovering from the Half-marathon. The Half-marathon was the furthest run I had done to date.
Even knowing that I didn’t have a shred of doubt that I would complete it one way or another.
Today was the day, all set and somewhat ready. Everyone starts moving to the line, send a quick to message to friends asking for the feels and then your stood bouncing from one foot to another ready for the start.
Gun goes off…
It’s like a wave seeing the front slowly flow forward, the wave passes down the mass of people each starting their first steps as it reaches them. It comes to me and the running begins.
The main goal of today was to finish irrespective of a time but saying that, without any real logic I selected the rather arbitrary figure of 4 hours 45 mins to be my goal. Mainly because after about 3 miles I came up to a pacer running at that speed and decided to stick with them for the next 21. The pacer funnily enough was the same one from my Oulton park run.
I was in better shape than for the Half-marathon, so after passing the 13.1-mile point, (which was a buzz as every step on is further than I’d run previously), I still felt relatively ok. A few aches and pains but nothing I hadn’t experience before.
The two new experiences happened between miles 16-17 and 22-23.
Miles 16-17 or so, they were the first ones for me where the mind starts getting to you. You’ve run for 16 miles about 2 and ½ hours, you’re tired and you’ve still got 10 miles to go which could be another 2 hours and would be so easy to just stop and walk for a bit. It was difficult but getting through was helped quite a lot by passer-by’s handing out of copious amounts of jelly babies, and the more regular water stops that were appearing.
After around 17 ½ miles, it wasn’t so much the pain had stopped or that I wasn’t as tired but that a bit more of the running rhythm had returned. I had gotten used to it a bit more and although I still could have stopped, the next 4 miles were easier to get through. With running past mile sign 20 being a real high point.
Miles 22-23, these were the crushing ones. Can’t actually remember the majority, but a lot of it entailed of wishing it was the end, wishing that there was a taxi or a magic carpet nearby to get me back faster and that the pain had gone from the classic foot pain to pins and needles, that I’d experienced before, but this time returning back to pain again worse than I’d experienced before.
After reaching Mile 24, I can only imagine a combination of endorphins and adrenaline had started pumping through the body, realising that the end was near. I started moving forward past the pacer trying to push forward to the end, 25.0….26.0….26.2
Finish line, the final straight, pass the line. Time: 4 Hours 40 mins
Success, elation, happiness…
… followed by immediate pain.
I can say that completing that marathon for the first time was one of the biggest physical and mental tests I’ve done to date, and the biggest instant regret after finishing.
You would think because it’s a run that it would just be the legs that seize, but no its full body. Everything was cramping, I was stumbling past the others finishing, went into the end area where they hand out the finisher bags, grabbed the nearest one and immediately was on the phone with my Mum who had come to Manchester with my Grandad to support me, asking where they both were with thoughts only of the car and my bed waiting at home.
All this time I was still walking around, hadn’t stopped since finishing as I knew that one sit down or stall in movement would be me not moving for a long time. Found them, all trekked backed to the car, although for me it was a combination of a limp, stumble and spasm with every step.
Finally getting back to the car, back home and collapsing to bed. Marathon goal achieved.