I always wonder when recounting these things whether or not to go warts and all but that’s pretty much how I have done in the past and it’s the only way to honestly describe doing it! Its good for the soul too I reckon. So, Liverpool marathon October 9th. If I could describe it in one word I would have to say toss but there is much more to it than that and after a good nights sleep I can look back at it slightly differently. Running a marathon for a chubby amateur like me has a million components. You’ve got to want to, you’ve got to get your inspiration from somewhere, clothing, training, eating, drinking, sleeping, holidays, transport, mental attitude all play a part. Now the want and inspiration isn’t a problem for me, nor is the training and prep because I have such fantastic support from Mrs Brightside and everyone else.
The problem for me is mental. It’s the mental fight with myself, it’s the craving to better myself, to make me a better person. I overheard a conversation today ‘its not your legs that stop its your brain telling them to stop’. That’s entirely true. Its 80% if not 90% mental. So you all know how I had got on 5 months ago in Edinburgh, 4:42 for my first marathon in force gale conditions and I entirely won the mental fight! Liverpool my second and I had a stinker.
I cant blame the prep, I ran, I ran distance and was confident in myself that even pushing out to 11min/mile I would be ok! I’d run 19.35miles 2 weeks before at just over 10 mins/mile and could have easily done another 6 which would have been around the 4:30-4:40 mark. I’d relaxed Friday and Saturday eaten my carbs. I bombed up to Liverpool in the morning and parked up, had a chat with a guy running in a gorilla suit @runclimbmather and then got to the start with no rush. Said Hi to @movingalong79 chatted to a marathon first timer – who looked ridiculously fitter than me! – and then joined @100mara100weeks (Si) in the blue start pen. The plan was to run with Si and this was his 32nd marathon of his challenge.
So, at 9.15am I was good to go – no real issues. 9.30am kick off time passed and nothing happened. Still nothing at 10.00am when it was announced that they were awaiting clearance from the police get out of the pens and we will call you back 5mins before the off whenever that may be. Bloody frustrating but I can’t blame that either. It doesn’t affect the run! So finally we get called back in and we’re off at 10.20 ish! Sun comes out immediately and it was hot. Hotter for gorilla man, the soldiers in full kit and the firemen in full kit! Running a marathon with 15000 other friendly, supportive chatty people and bearing in mind I was running with Si, is a strangely insular experience for me. I thought I would run better running with someone but despite the great company Si was I think the lingering thought in my mind was that I was holding him back, burdening him with my slower pace. He had agreed to run with me and could not be told to crack on without me so as I slowed, I felt worse for him which made me negative which set me up for a much tougher mental challenge. With 90% of it mental that’s not good.
First few miles are out of a park, a few streets, bridges and industrialised areas and before you know it you’re down on Mersey front. Now I felt ok but not great but then its taken me a few miles recently to get into my running. An initial pace of 9.37 ish per mile has dropped to10 per mile by 6 miles but I am ok. As we start along the promenade I cant quite pick up my running and with a quarter done I am struggling. Not through pain or discomfort I just can’t get on it. Si has been having trouble with his calf recently but today it’s fine instead its his right knee giving him pain from about 5 miles in. He just gets on with it and we run down the 2.5mile promenade back through the estates, hit a horrible looping climb section to get to the tunnel. Gotta say the support was great from good crowds, Si is urging me on, I am feeling shitter wondering how the fuck I am gonna run this when I wanna finish at 10 miles. 10 miles! 10 miles is nothing it’s a get up have a glass of water go out and piss it on a Saturday morning run but today it’s so tough. It’s beating me but its not its me beating myself. I am not running with a positive attitude, I am looking too far ahead, I am allowing my thoughts to add weight, to push me down so my head is down and I am slumped instead of head up and running (that’s how it feels anyway).
Back to the tunnel, the first mile and a half is the only time I felt in the zone of all 26.2! Probably because it’s a long downhill section. Of course what goes down must go up or something like that and so the next mile and a half of the tunnel was a nightmare, I slowed considerably, Si had his first stop to sort his knee then caught me up but by the time we came out the tunnel I was plodding. More hills followed around the city centre, brilliant crowds helped in parts but I couldn’t get going, plodded a flat straight 14.5-15.5 turned a corner and 15.5 to 16.5 was the mother of all Hints hills x 5 whilst watching the elite runners streaming down the other side of the road at about 20mph! Plod plod fucking plod managed to get up the hill then you head into Sefton Park.
Now I wasn’t really mentally prepared for Sefton and Princes Park, it was like Children Of The Corn, whichever way you ran you couldn’t get out of the fucking park. Faster runners passing you one way then you’re passing the slower runners then same again and again and again. Si had made a couple of calls on his phone to update his web page for his challenge and he had talked of doing a quick video at some point for his podcast. Fine, I know I can stop and start again, but I don’t think I had ever done it from the position of plodding along so poorly and from a position of so wanting to stop anyway! Stopped to do the video at between 18-19 miles and walked a few hundred yards while Si dealt with the technology stuff. I’d like to say it was an enforced stop so didn’t count but I think I would have walked at this point anyway. Knowing this I am pretty furious with myself and everytime someone shouts ‘Go on Sid’ when I’m walking makes me just wanna hide. Feels like fraud!
Off and running again past a blind guy being led by his pal, a polish fella runs past and shouts ‘Sidowski (Sid-off-ski) are you from Poland’ ‘No I hail from Birmingham in the midlands sir (no oim a brummie mate)’ ‘this is my 123rd Marathon’ he leaves me with as he runs on. Plod plod fucking plod I cannot lift my legs. You could walk faster than I am running! The park is horrendous with its twists and turns, runners in all direction, no idea where you are in comparison to others running opposite you and no idea when you’re likely to hit the road home and the negativity is sat on my shoulders pressing down and smiling at me! Si wont run on he says he will finish with me and while he battles the pain in his knee the pressing gets a little more firm! It slashes it down in the park as well. Not a major problem really. So we finally pop out of the park. I had walked again somewhere around 21ish but only briefly. Bit of extra weight on the mind though! Whilst in there we’ve passed markers 18-22 and 4 miles left is nothing. Reasonable slightly faster plod along a road nearing 23 sharp right turn and bam back into the fucking park up a hill. I’ll be honest it whacked the fight straight out of me. Once you’ve walked anyway it’s easier to do again. Lets face it, it’s the easy option, the easy way out but a marathons not supposed to be easy. With all the will in the world I didn’t have it in me to run again in that fucking park. It had beaten me or rather I had beaten myself. So I walked the best part of 23-24. Cursing myself every step, hating myself, Si points out its about completing it not the time but that doesn’t help with my disgust with myself. If this had been a game of rugby I’d have taken me off at half time! All through the park was negative, ‘never again, just not good enough, who are you kidding, if you cant do this in which realm of fantasy can you attempt an ironman, whats Michelle gonna think, do I tell everyone that’s supported me that I’ve walked, does it still count’. When we finally definitely came out there was 2.5 miles to go.
I began plodding again easily 14 or 15min per mile pace but at least I am running not walking. Flat to 24.5 miles then the downhill that had so fucked me up when going the other way. Even got a bit into my stride past 25 – still great crowds urging us on and then the flat finishing mile a horrendously emotional mind bending mile until I crossed the line – angry disappointed and entirely not happy. Si had stuck with me and I thanked him for that – looking back I think I wanted him to go on without me and stay with me in equal measure. As he pointed out to me he does what he does for PTSD awareness in our armed forces – he suffers himself – and to raise money for Help for Heroes – he doesn’t do it for the times or the glory. I hope his knee is better for No.33 Amsterdam next week. So I get my medal, banana, protein shake (effin horrible) goody bag, piece of foil and t shirt, have my pic taken, lose Si and bump into Space who had been on the course but not seen me and was determined to greet me at the end. That put a smile on my face!
In Edinburgh I’d made the mistake of not having my phone. Mrs B waited 3 hours for a call to say I was ok! This time I had it in a strap on my arm but as I got it out to ring Mrs B and contact Ogden and George to meet up it was dead, fucking dead as a nail! Sadly Space’s was dead too so I couldn’t meet up with Ogden and George who had particularly put himself out for me. So I was feeling like a failure and now a let down. Brill! Trudged back to car, stuck the phone on charge, thanked Space for coming along, contacted Mrs B, unstuck my pants from where they had cut into my inner thighs, apologised to George and Ogden and set off home. Being stuck in traffic for 3 hours for a 1hr 30 min journey allows you time to think. The shooting pains in my buttocks, the chaffing and a good cry to Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls, only briefly interrupt my thoughts. A 5:10 marathon is nothing to be ashamed off but failure to give 100% is. It’s a war of attrition in many ways and I am the only enemy. The fact that I succeeded in beating myself only makes me more determined to make sure that next time I don’t! I’ll be happy with 5:10 again if I know in my heart I gave 100%. From that you’ll know that I will do another, I will do it better and I will not lose the mental fight next time!