When I started running 4 years ago I never envisaged running a marathon. That was something proper runners did. But during some difficult times running has become my escapism, time when I can get out on my own and think about nothing but putting one foot in front of another. And with running becoming an almost daily event, marathon training didn’t seem quite as daunting as it once did. It become almost inevitable that at some point I would tackle 26.2 miles.
Yet with life being somewhat unpredictable of late I couldn’t guarantee that training would be straight forward or consistent, or if I’d even be able to make the starting line. Therefore I wanted to find an event that I could train for, but only enter at the last minute when I was confident that I would be both fit and available to run. This would also enable me to establish how my body stood up to marathon training without committing myself to a race months in advance. Particularly after nursing achilles problems during the backend of 2017.
I can’t remember how I come across the Boston Marathon but it seemed to fit the bill. For months I resisted the urge to enter, finally succumbing three weeks before the event. Fortunately training had gone relatively well, with few missed runs and only the occasional niggle. Yet after my final long run my left knee started giving me trouble, and completely messed up my taper as full blown ‘maronoia’ set in. I considered the option to defer but when that deadline past I felt committed to run, yet even the day before the race I nearly pulled out.
Race day finally arrived and weirdly my knee felt fine. My restless night appeared to be for nothing. But the persistent worry about my knee had robbed me of the excitement and anticipation of running my first marathon. Even on race morning there was little time for nerves as we rushed about in order to make the start line in time. Its fair to say preparations were less than ideal.
With little fuss we were off and running, having only just reached the start line following a final dash to the gents. Conditions were great, little wind and the sun just burning through the morning mist. The initial crowd of runners helped stop me going of to fast and as we headed out of town I settled into my target pace, any lingering doubts about my knee were soon forgotten.
The field slowly spread out as we headed towards the patchwork of arable fields. I really enjoyed the route which was very well marshalled with water stations plentiful. And despite the rural setting there were groups of enthusiastic spectators dotted throughout the course.
I felt I was going a long nicely, trying to enjoy the event yet staying slightly a head of my target pace. I was conscious not to push too hard given my poor taper but was feeling good despite a slight niggle in my right calf. The mile markers were ticking by and as we reached double figures I was still holding a steady pace. It had become considerably warmer by this point, much hotter than the weeks preceding the race, but not anything too uncomfortable. As we reached the half way point I was feeling tired but not alarmingly so. I continued to stick to my pre planned pace and was keeping well hydrated. My quads were starting to complain but again I wasn’t overly concerned by this. Yet approaching the 17 mile mark I was starting to struggle. It seemed to happen very quickly and by mile 18 I slowed to a walk. I tried to kid myself initially that it was just to take on fluids but in reality my legs were killing me.
I knew that running a marathon was going to be hard, but I naively believed that I would run the full distance without stopping. The prospect of having to stop never once entered my head, yet here I was walking. I genuinely considered giving up. I slowly got going again but it wasn’t long before I was again fighting the urge to stop, my thighs were so sore. At this point I was caught by another runner who asked how I was doing. ‘Awful, my legs are killing me’ I replied. With his encouragement and by being distracted by our chat about running we soldiered on together towards the 20 mile marker.
The final 10k was agony, I truly have never felt physical pain so bad. My quads and hamstrings felt like they were turning to cement. The urge to walk was continuous, yet walking was just as painful as running and the transition between the two even worse. I had to stop and walk occasionally during these final few miles and drifted behind and then in front of the runner that I had shared those most awful miles with, sharing words of encouragement on each occasion.
Finally we retraced our steps back into town and towards the finish. The crowds and noise grew and with it my determination to get to the finish line, running faster than I had done for quite some time. The finish was amazing. It wasn’t the race that I had planned and it was much tougher than I thought, but I was just so pleased to have finished. I met Emma and the kids right on the finish line and promptly asked them not to let me do this again. I could barely stand up due the pain in my legs. Having collected my medal I waited a minute or so for my new friend to finish. I thanked him for the encouragement that he had given me when I needed it most. It helped me get to the finish more than he realised. Sadly I never caught his name.
It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I really enjoyed my first marathon experience. I finished in 3:42:22. Some way short of my sub 3:30 target but I learnt so much and six days on I’m definitely up for doing it all again sometime in the future.
The Boston Marathon UK is a super event that I would more than recommend. Its a relatively cheap, friendly, well organised marathon with a lovely flat rural course. This was only its 3rd year and I imagine it is going to become increasingly more popular over the next few years. Well worth a look.