If you’d have asked me this time last year whether I’d ever be able to run a marathon, I’d have probably laughed in your face. Not because I didn’t think I was potentially capable of running 26.2 miles, but because I knew that to do that sort of distance I’d have to train, and my ability to stick out a training plan (at least when it comes to running) has never been particularly strong.
Still, when I failed to get into London Marathon 2019 and entered Edinburgh instead, I did two things that I thought would at least guilt me into sticking at it: 1) I paid for a training plan, which meant I had to do it so that I didn’t waste money, and 2) I committed to running in memory of my brothers for charity and roped my brother Kris into doing it with me. Emotionally blackmailing myself into running for them and so as not to let sponsors down was a genius play on my part.
Training went relatively well for me, even though illness, kids and life predictably threw a few obstacles up. Kris didn’t have the same luck, with a knee injury early on in the year wiping him out for two months and completely derailing his training. By the time Sunday 26th May — the actual day of the marathon — came round, I’d nailed all but one of my long runs including the crucial 20 miler but Kris hadn’t done anything beyond half distance, and even that had been months prior. To say I was nervous was an understatement: not about the marathon, but getting one of my remaining brothers round in tact and without massive injury.
The weather that morning, despite clear skies and sun in the week prior, was predictably Scottish: wet, windy and cold. I was nursing a twinge-y hip which had been playing up for a couple of days and my stomach was doing somersaults (aforementioned anxiety about Kris, general pre-race nerves, fear of the unknown, etc) but we donned our ponchos (read: bin bags nicked from the airbnb) and found our start pens.
The race started on time, which surprised me given the half marathon last year was nearly 30 minutes late, and we set off at a steady pace enjoying the huge crowds that had gathered to support the start. After about a mile or so of playing dodge the dumped rubbish (bags, ponchos and spare t-shirts) things started to clear and by about mile 3 the rain subsided too, just in time for a pee pit stop.
Kris and I managed a very steady approx 7:00 min per kilometre for a lot longer than I thought we would; I expected his lack of training would have early impact but it wasn’t until we got approx half way through that he started to flag. Even then, we managed to maintain a consistent jog walk rhythm for another 10 kilometres or so. After approx 30km the fatigue had obviously started to accumulate because the walks got longer and the jogs got shorter. This is no criticism: 30km (18.6 miles) is no mean feat on a total lack of training!
Even with tired legs our spirits were high which is really reflected in all our race photos, and we both managed to use instagram to send out mid-race updates. In fact, at one point Kris was playing Pokémon Go… hatching an egg?
As we broke over the 20 mile marker my dodgy hip started to make its presence felt, with the slower than usual pace causing me problems. I ended up having to jog away from Kris and then let him catch up with me just to stay comfortable; it’s interesting how forcing yourself to run at a speed you’re not familiar wreaks havoc on the body.
Approaching the final stretch, Kris started jogging again and faster than before, expecting the finish to be right around the next corner. Hilariously (for me, not him) the actual finish was further away than he’d anticipated and his little sprint effort was premature. I nagged him into maintaining momentum though and we came in for a sprint finish. The photos of us running up the final stretch say all that need to be said though:
We finished in around 5 and a half hours which, all things considered, is a pretty stellar effort. Not only that, but in doing so we’ve raised over £1,800 for CALM (just shy of our £2,000 goal) which should help them in their goal to help reduce male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. Our sponsors have been amazingly generous and I can’t thank them enough: literal internet strangers have stepped up and donated to this amazing cause. <3
I was asked several times before Sunday if I’d do another marathon, and for the most part I answered “probably not” or “ask me after I’m done” (AKA not a chance) but here’s the thing: I am now wondering when I can squeeze in my next one. I don’t know if it’s a question of proving to myself that I can do it on my own, or a feeling of ‘what if?’ because I didn’t have the opportunity to go max effort, but there’s unfinished business here… watch this space.