That statement still doesn’t feel quite real to me. I trained hard (although I'm investigating how I could have done it differently), starting to increase weekly mileage from November into December to get me ready for proper training. At the expo on 7th April I was itching to go - I posted this Instagram:
I couldn’t wait to get out there and put my work to use.
Alas, the universe had other things in mind. The start of the marathon itself was quite stressful but for the first 5k I was over the moon to be running with my friend Rosie, this picture shows just how delighted we were:
At some point we lost each other. I kept my goal pace for the first 10k, benefiting from the shade as much as possible. At 15k the heat started to get to me. I hadn’t run in weather this warm in as long as I could remember. I was thirsty, which meant I was beyond dehydrated already and if I’m honest, my legs felt tired as I stood in my starting pen (what the hell was that about?!). At 20k I was still on for 03:30:00 and then something happened. There were too many people, I was hot, thirsty, my left hamstring was pulling. And then came the weird ‘ghosts of asia’ tunnel. Complete with surround sound effects and a ‘welcome to hell’ banner. I sure felt like I was crossing the river Styx by this point. I took my first walk break. And then my second one. And the painful feelings of failure started to constrict my throat.
I thought of my friends running, I hoped they were OK and they weren’t suffering like I was. I tried to distance myself from the pain - pain is just pain, it doesn’t have to hurt. I make it hurt.In my head.
This worked briefly but eventually the suffering felt unbearable. Seeing the GoodGym cheer squad at 29km I lost control. I signed to them that I was having a terrible time and a few steps later started to hyperventilate. I pulled myself off the course to calm my breathing (a feat I surprised myself by achieving quite quickly - all that mediation practice came good!). I turned around and started running BACK THE WAY I’D COME, ducking into the crowd. The relief of going back for support hit me when Jess noticed me and the look on her face change from excited elation to concern. Cue sobbing, snotting and whimpering. The words that ring in my ears still a week later are Katie’s - ‘Just fuck it. Fuck it. Just do it. Just fucking do it. Who cares.’ Katie’s marathon experiences have been like this - she’s acknowledged that she’s put pressure on herself to the extent that she’s not enjoyed the moment at all.
So I knew what she was saying to me. Fuck your expectations, fuck all those things you’re telling yourself about how you’re failing and you’re not doing what you thought you could. Fuck them, fuck everything and do this fucking marathon. I heard you Katie. I fucking heard you!
The last 12km were run-walked with Paul who took it upon himself to get me across the line - bringing me food and water and telling me how my friends were doing. Hearing that they were happy and running well gave me courage. I stopped trying to work out why it had all gone wrong and began to enjoy a stroll in the Bois de Boulogne on a beautiful day in Paris with this wonderful man.
Finally the 42km marker came into sight. It was nearly over. Rounding the corner with Paul I saw the GoodGym flag and my heart leapt. I wanted them to know I was OK, I was doing it and I was OK. That’s where Steve got this amazing photo:
This gave me an energy kick and I actually tried to push the last 200m - just the knowledge that I was trying made me smile. The relief of crossing the line was palpable. It was over. I had finished.
I hobbled through the finish zone to bag collection where Rosie was waiting for me with a much needed hug.
Running a marathon is incredibly special, however it transpires. Equally as special is supporting others through this endurance feat. I’m still working out exactly what the takeaways are for next time but until then, I hope you find something in my story that tells you that you can do anything. Impossible is nothing.