When I started running seriously a few years ago I’d often be asked by runners I met or interested friends and family whether I had run or planned to run a marathon. My answer was an unequivocal “No. Never!” I say this cautiously, and in hush tones, but I think that today has changed my mind.
Many of my friends are non-runners and openly admit they don’t understand why I run. That’s fine; running is hard. Why run when you can stay at home. It’s an effort. It takes discipline. It usually involves sacrifice.
These are just some of the reasons that make it so rewarding but you can’t ever explain that to non-runners. People have to find out for themselves. Even as a runner there are things you don’t understand and close yourself off to. For me, the legendary distance of a marathon is one of those things.
Seeing some of my close friends torture themselves through massive training regimes and the unpredictability that the 26.2 miles can throw your way only to fall short of their aim made it easy for me to discount the marathon distance from my running aims.
Two years ago I stood on the sidelines of the London Marathon for the first time. I’d watched TV coverage sporadically over the years but this time I was going to be there in real life, supporting my close friend attempt to beat his sub 3 hour demons.
It was amazing to see the speed of the elites. It was inspirational to see the tens of thousands of people, in all shapes, sizes, ages, colours & costumes stream past us. It was uplifting and emotional. But I was still happy to be watching rather than running.
Training for 10k and half marathon distances has happily held my running interest and, since the Olympics, I’ve helped others to start their own running adventures as a UKA Running Leader which has given me further satisfaction.
As I embark on a year of study and practice to become an endurance running coach I feel there is a hole in my running experience. There is no obligation or need to have run a marathon in order to coach road running, however as I like to know what I’m talking about, it might help to have that experience. Still talking myself out of it, “let’s focus on getting qualified first” I told myself.
Today I was on the sidelines in London for the second time. This time supporting another friend, tackling her first ever marathon.
We’d picked Canary Wharf as our backdrop. I’d heartily recommend it: there was a great atmosphere from the crowds but still plenty of room so it didn’t feel claustrophobic. The course winds it’s way back and forth so there’s also opportunity to see runners more than once if you’re lucky.
Watching the kaleidoscope of runners flow past, starting with the national vests of the elites, then colours of clubs up and down the country before the tidal wave of charity t-shirts and fancy dress, was truly inspirational.
The sweat-stained names proudly displayed on many of the strangers’ chests offer both spectator and runner an unusual opportunity to bond. I don’t think there is any other situation where two complete strangers make an instant yet fleeting connection. There is something uplifting about cheering, clapping and shouting encouragement to thousands of strangers.
There were moments I found myself fall silent in awe of what I was witnessing. The torrent of sweat, smiles, agony and determination flowing in front of me made me well up. More than once. I’m doing it again just writing about it. Is it sadness and sympathy? Absolutely not. Admiration and pride? Wholeheartedly.
These people are awesome. Every single one of them. All tackling a different challenge for a different reason whilst at the same time creating a surge of positivity.
After missing my friend at mile 18, we luckily managed to catch up with her at mile 19. After a quick chat, she set off for the last 7.2 miles looking fantastic.
As we waited for a couple of friends who we’d been spectating with earlier my wife turned to me and, with slight trepidation, asked me a question that I could tell from the look on her face that she already knew the answer to:
“Are you going to run next year?”
How could I say no this time. I’d seen too much. The tipping point? Seeing my friend Natalie with a smile on her face. It wasn’t about the time, it was about the experience. It was the missing link.
Now I know it’s just not that easy so I shall refrain from declaring that I shall run the London Marathon in 2015. However, my mind is no longer in the “No. Never” camp.
I will enter the London ballot. If I don’t get a place I may consider raising money for charity in return for a place. In any case I’m going to start working on my cardio, strength and, most importantly, technique now. Just in case. 😉