Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Marathon Man - Part 4

Perhaps the best way to start this blog entry is to answer the questions posed at the end of the last one. Here goes...

Will I have made it?
Yes. Yes I will. Just about. I've got the medal, the finisher's t-shirt and the photos to prove it. 26.2 miles in 4 hours and 29 minutes. Done.

Will my legs and lungs hold out?
The lungs will. The legs, not so much. Towards the end every major muscle group in my legs was cramping. That's not much fun. Especially in the quads. I have never had cramp in the quads before. Turns out it sucks just as much as anywhere else.

Will I soil myself around the 20-mile marker?
No I won't, and any rumours to the contrary are unfounded and malicious. I haven't washed my shorts yet, you can check them.

Will Brooklyn Decker be waiting at the finish line to give me a really long congratulatory hug?
No. Bang out of order. What's that? Your professional tennis player husband, modelling commitments and blossoming international film career got in the way? Whatever. So selfish...

So there you have it, I have officially run a marathon. At this moment in time, just two days later, it's hard to say exactly how I feel about it. The strongest memories at the moment are probably the negative ones! As I sit here typing this, my legs are in pretty much constant pain. Going up and down stairs poses real problems. I walk like I've been the victim of a brutal, leg-based, gangland attack. It's like someone dressed my legs up as a Crip and drove me into the Bloods part of town. Yeah, that's exactly what it's like. I guess that's how a physiotherapist would describe it too...

Don't get me wrong though, I am over the moon I've done it. No more training for it! I'm so relieved that I can now go for a jog when I actually want to and not because I have to! And it's nice to not have something scary looming on the horizon any more. But in terms of the actual achievement I don't think it's set in yet. I'm still finding it hard to believe that I actually ran 26.2 miles. Doesn't seem real yet. Hopefully that will come when the pain subsides!

Nonetheless, despite my overriding memories being of pain and physical suffering, there were moments that were amazing. In fact, if I think about it, the first 14 miles were really enjoyable. And even though I was in pain, I've never been so fucking happy to be standing still after crossing the finish line!

The positives:
+ Seeing familiar faces in the crowd dotted around the course cheering me on. That was brilliant. It was nice when strangers offered support, but nothing beat seeing friends cheering me on. That was awesome, so thanks to everyone who came to support.

+ Getting a high-five and a shout of "Come on, Andy!" from Gus Poyet. That was pretty funny/cool.

+ The feeling of taking part in something so big and so challenging. That was pretty overwhelming.

+ Raising so much money for such a good cause. Thank you again to everyone who sponsored Dan and I.

+ More than anything, running it with one of my oldest and best friends. Oldest in as much as he's been my friend for a long time. He's not 90 or anything... Seriously though, not only was it great to share the occasion with him, but he also pretty much carried me over the finish line! Those last few miles would've been a hell of a lot tougher without you champ!

The Negatives:
+ Everything after about 18 miles was gruelling and painful. Running the final stretch should've been joyous, but to be honest I was in such pain I couldn't enjoy it!

+ The training.

+ Blah blah blah, stop being a moany old bastard and enjoy it.

So there you have it, my marathon adventure is over. I bloody did it, and I'm glad I've done it. But if anyone hears me talking about doing another one, you have my full permission to hit me in the testicles. Talk to me in about a month if you want a sunnier opinion on marathon running...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Marathon Man - Part 3

Probably about time for an update I'd say. My last post painted a very gloomy picture indeed. I was at a low ebb. Ravaged by flu, lacking energy and clinging to shreds of hope, I was like the A-Team BEFORE they escaped. Now, like a soldier of fortune freshly sprung from unlawful incarceration, I'm a far more positive animal. I'd like to stress, however, I'm not available for hire, I'm not big on plans and I don't have a secret cache of powerful firearms. But, I can run.

Yes, since my previous post I have been putting in the miles and suffering for my efforts. Just yesterday I ran 18 miles. 18. 18 miles. If my run yesterday were a human being, it could legally stroll into a public house, purchase and then sup an alcoholic beverage. In those terms, quite staggering. I managed this without any devices to harness the wind, without any illegal stimulants and without an internal combustion engine. As Paula Radcliffe once said, "I just fackin' ran it up."

So, to cut a long story short, with little over 13 days to go, I now feel far more confident that I will complete my marathon goal. Thanks to my period of illness setting me back a month or so, I'd say it's now going to be more of a horrible slog than an enjoyable challenge, but I'm going to do it nonetheless. As such, I'll probably be pestering you for sponsorship shortly.

Anyway, I thought now might be a good moment to share with you a few things I've noticed during my time pounding the pavements and towpaths of Surrey...

1) In general, I've found that if you're running towards a group of people, most will shimmy to the side at least a little bit to let you get past. I always say thank you as a courtesy, even though, let's face it, they don't own the ruddy pavement, so why should they have any more rights to it than I do simply because they're walking and I'm running? Anyway, I digress. What I've noticed is that most people move quite happily, but two distinct groups stick out by a mile as the least jogger-friendly: chavvy kids and women over the age of roughly 50. I realise the age thing is pure guesswork and it's a sweeping generalisation, but I think it's fairly accurate. Now, with the chavs, I fully expected it of them. In their adolescent mind, somehow being rude and taking the mickey out someone who is both relatively fit (see 'jogging') and twice the size of them is a good idea. That's because they're demented. Fair enough. But the women of a certain age, I just don't get it. Nine times out of ten they just look at me angrily as if jogging is the visual equivalent of a shit-smeared wall. If they've got hiking poles with them, there's absolutely no fucking way they're budging even so much as an inch. Even if it means I have to run several metres submerged in the Basingstoke canal. If anybody can offer any possible explanations for this bizarre trend, I'd love to hear from you.

2) Lots of people have fires. Seriously. It's like every third garden is home to a blazing inferno. When you're gasping for air, you really notice when it suddenly thickens with plumes of dark smoke. And it happens a lot. Can the residents of Surrey please stop setting so much stuff on fire? It's like that guy on Friends. Not Tom Selleck; the other one.

3) Hills are horrible. Going up them saps your energy, and coming down them forces your hips to make a beeline for your armpits. Unpleasant. And it turns out roads I've traversed hundreds of times before in a car are actually far steeper than I'd ever realised. Bummer.

4) Dogs are awesome. I already knew this, but regular jogging has reinforced my view times ten. They are such happy animals. They just love running and playing. There's nothing that lifts your spirits 10 miles into a run quite like being joined for a few strides by a furry pacemaker. Bless their tiny little happy faces.

5) Tree roots are the evil wooden offspring of Peter Sutcliffe. And apparently my ankles are Yorkshire-based prostitutes.

6) There aren't many bins. Yesterday, 18 miles, predominantly on public pathways. I passed one bin. Keep Britain tidy, kids...

So, my next post (quite possibly titled 'Marathon Man - Part 4') will be written after the big day. Will I have made it? Will my legs and lungs hold out? Will I soil myself around the 20-mile marker? And will Brooklyn Decker be waiting at the finish line to give me a really long congratulatory hug? Only time (and this blog in a couple of weeks) will tell...