Less than a year after I wrote this post, I proved it wrong.
Yesterday, I proved to myself that I can run a marathon. After six months of insisting that I no longer wanted to, four months of foot-in-mouth training, and 24 hours of pre-run anxiety, I ran 26.2 miles through the Hunter Valley.
Jared and I were supposed to run it together; two weeks before the race, after our last long training run, he got a stress fracture in his foot. It’s not something that you can run through (although he attempted an 8-mile training run), and it put him out of this race. He took on the role of support crew and we drove up together from Newcastle at 5:15 AM.
I was preoccupied with using the bathroom. Should I go one more time?
“You literally just went,” Jared said. This wasn’t an incorrect use of the word ‘literally,’ as I was still shaking water off my hands from the Port-a-potty sink.
“I know,” I said, “But then I drank some water.”
The announcer called all marathon runners to the start line for a pre-race briefing. My bladder constricted in fear.
“I’m going to go,” I said, and dashed back to the Port-a-potties, leaving Jared with an armful of coats, a bottle of water, and a bewildered look on his face.
When I came back, I surveyed my fellow marathoners. There were about 150 of us, and most everyone looked faster than me. “Crap,” I said to Jared, “What if I come in last?” I hadn’t thought of that before.
“You won’t be last,” Jared said. “Just focus on your race.”
Still, I started at the very back of the pack, the final runner to cross the start line.
Inside the Mind of a Marathon Runner
200m: I. Am. Running. A. Marathon. Right now. In this very moment. It’s really happening. Don’t cry. Do. Not. Cry.
300m: (Tears wobbling behind eyeballs) Pull yourself together. You have 42 kilometers to go, don’t lose it now.
2km: A kangaroo! Holy heck, a kangaroo in the vineyards, watching us run. I feel like I’m in a Tourism: Australia promotional ad.
3km: Something just burst in my foot. I’m sure of it. Is that blood? Can I see blood through my shoe? No. No blood.
4km: How can my calves be hurting already? They don’t hurt in training runs. Why are they hurting now, of all days?
6km: Jared! It’s Jared. Wave to Jared but keep running.
8km: It feels like I’ve been running forever already.
12km: The distance markers for the second lap are messing with my head. It says 32 kilometers but I’ve only run 12. I have…what!? 20 kilometers to go before I see that sign again?!
13km: Why is someone sprinting past me? We’ve got 3/4 of the way left! Oh…it’s the half-marathon leader. The one who started his race a full 30 minutes after I started mine.
16km: It’s Jared again! He has food. Give me food. Do I want a banana sandwich or a homemade energy bar? Banana sandwich.
17km: Eating a banana sandwich while running is hard. Why aren’t other people eating? How do they survive? Maybe I should offer that girl some sandwich. Would that be weird? It’d probably be weird.
20km: Do not think about how you’re not even halfway through. DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT. There’s Jared! And Allen! How did they get here so fast? Oh, right. They have a car. Hi Jared and Allen. Keep running.
21km: Pick up your food baggie from the aid station. Where is it? There! There! Eat your energy bar. In just over two more hours, I will be here again, but this time I’ll be going through the finish arch. TWO HOURS. Don’t think about it.
23km: I am still eating the energy bar. Remember: if you don’t eat it, you will die. Who cares if you have to chew with your mouth open and spray crumbs everywhere and that course marshal is giving you a weird look? I don’t care.
24km: Why was that course marshal listening to “Brick” on his van radio, anyway? That’s the worst song possible right now and I can’t get it out of my head.
26km: There’s Jared. I don’t need any food. Actually, YES. Snakes. Give me snakes. I’ll get a drink at the next aid station to wash it down.
28km: The aid station! Do I want water or electrolyte? IT’S TOO HARD. Give me both.
29km: 13 kilometers to go. What’s that in miles? 13×1000 is 13,000, 600 x 10 is 6000 plus 600 x 3 is 1800 ugh, I don’t know. I’m lost.
32km: This was the distance of my longest training run. From this point onwards is officially the farthest I have ever run. Now, my marathon starts.
32.5km: I’m a brick and I’m drowning slowly.
34km: I’m not even sure I’m running anymore. I’m just sort of…moving forward. Maybe I should lift my knees higher. Huh. Nothing happens when I try to do that.
37km: It is going to be so good when I get to 40 kilometers and there are only TWO TO GO.
40km: I was wrong. It’s not good. Nothing about this feels good. Picture the finish line. Nope. Not working because I don’t believe I am ever going to get there. I am going to be running FOREVER.
41km: If one more person tells me I’m almost there I will elbow them in the face. Almost there is not THERE.
42km: I’m not going to sprint to the finish; the important thing is to finish. Wait. Is that a girl right behind me, sprinting? Is she trying to BEAT ME? Oh, hell no. Do not incite my wrath or I will race you to the finish and I will win.
42.2km: YES. I finished AND I won the mini-race.
It turns out that the girl at my shoulder wasn’t a marathon runner at all. She was the overall winner of the 5km, and my sudden burst of speed confused her and the announcer, who thought it was a race to the finish for the 5km title.
No. It was just a marathoner who got a little bit out of control; apparently running for four hours and 20 minutes doesn’t kill your competitive spirit.
Afterwards? I wandered in circles. I ate lots of food. I stretched. I scraped dried salt off my face.
And I became a marathon runner.