29 April, 2018 / General
I’m not quite sure why I signed up for the Edinburgh Marathon. But as my husband Jimmy had run no less than three (Inverness, Stirling and Amsterdam), I had a notion that I should give it a go too. After all, he had survived them and kept on wanting to do more. What sort of crazy behaviour was that?
‘Maybe I could do that,’ I thought, as I run too – ie, our local Parkrun pretty much every Saturday morning. That’s 5k – and a full marathon is only, er, 37k further. Hang on… THIRTY-SEVEN KILOMETRES FURTHER? Christ, was I thinking? I seriously needed to get my ass into gear.
As the weeks rolled on, Jimmy and I started going on 10k runs fairly regularly – then gradually upping to 20k. If I’m making this sound easy, it really wasn’t – setting off is always pretty torturous, and I got very grumpy and needed a lot of cajoling. I gulped down those energy gels that taste like pulped Jelly Babies, determined not to lose face. Still I couldn’t figure out how the heck a normal person – who spent pretty much her entire 20s and early 30s in the pub, and had gin stashed in her office desk drawer – could ever hope to run 26 blinking miles. I pictured myself being bundled up in a foil blanket, like a turkey, and carted away sobbing on marathon day. Running can make you feel great – but there are risks, obviously. At Parkrun last weekend, I heard a fellow runner announce to her friend, ‘And then he had to have his spleen removed!’
It’ll be okay, everyone kept telling me. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Jimmy kept urging me to run at a slow, steady pace, instead of scampering ahead and trying to show off – and a friend advised, ‘Treat it like lots of 5ks all joined up together’. I read numerous accounts from ‘normal’ women who’d done it; they reported blackened toenails, and their nails actually falling off, plus copious crying/vomiting. Weirdly, nothing terrible has happened to me yet. I managed what was (to me at least) a mammoth run of 30k, through the streets and parks of Glasgow. As our own street came into view I experienced a wave of euphoria. Bloody hell, I’d just run 30 kilometres!
Something strange seemed to be happening. While I have never considered myself a ‘natural’ runner I seemed to be able to just plod on and on, albeit slowly – without any bits falling off, or anything terrible happening to my inner workings.
Last weekend I met a friend, Heather, who ran her first marathon (London) last year and convinced me I’d ‘smash it’, as she put it. She impressed on me that it wasn’t about ‘time’ but about finishing and enjoying the experience. It started to feel very real, and even… exciting. Weirdly, I’m not scared anymore. I’m still not entirely sure why I’m doing it, but I do know that running balances out the fact that I spend hours at the laptop every day, writing books.
To run, all you really need is a pair of decent running shoes, a sports bra (unless you’re a bloke, obv) and the will to stagger through those first few runs when you feel like puking and detest every moment.
After that, it does get better. I still resent it sometimes – ‘Bugger, I really should go out for a run’ – when I’d far rather curl up at home and stuff my face with Kettle Chips. But running is part of my life now, and hopefully on that last Sunday in May I’ll stagger over the finishing line and stuff a banana in my mouth, and perhaps vow to never do it again, as running that far is an utterly mad thing to do.
I shall report back.