I think running a marathon is something on many peoples bucket list. Just something you should do, an achievement. The thing with a marathon is once you’ve got a place, you feel you have to tell everyone and anyone that you meet within the first ten minutes of your conversation. Society starts to treat you like royalty, like you are some elite athlete and walk among the Mother Teresa’s of this world.
I’m joking, but your friends start acting weird and suddenly you’re the diamond in the family, the one they’re proud of. But in reality, you’re just a person, doing something that is slightly bonkers, but you don’t feel like you’re saving the world…not until you cross that finish line!
Admittedly, I didn’t train half as much as I should have. I barely scraped by, but mentally I had prepared myself for “the wall”, the tears, pain and the worry of “what if I need the toilet?”
Leading up to the marathon I was greeted by dark nights, storms, flooding and lots of rain…so that meant I stayed inside and assumed jumping around for half an hour would be of some sort of benefit to me. Truth is, any exercise leading up to a marathon is good. Those who over-exercise, i.e. are always out running, are so much more likely to develop an injury (or so I kept telling myself as I scoffed down cake number 387!)
That’s the other thing, suddenly you believe you’re entitled to eat anything and everything you see, because, after all, you are running a marathon! But eventually, somewhere in mid-December – a year from the date my dad passed away (19th December) – something clicked and I decided that it would be a fantastic idea if I actually followed my training plan from Run Lounge.
Typically, I chose a level that was too high for me, but I thought ah what the heck, I’ll just finish in a faster time than I thought. I spent Christmas Eve running miles, freezing cold, worrying about the second Christmas without my dad. The cold numbed the pain, the rain hid my tears I suppose, but this felt like the first real Christmas without him as I was barely functioning the Christmas before.
Winter training has its benefits, its dark, and so no-one sees your wobbly bits, you look like an absolute nutter facing the elements and somehow get brownie points for that! But the best thing is jumping in a hot bath to relax.
In mid-February I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely staff I had kept in contact with from WWF for a pasta party. As soon as I saw the word “Pasta” in my inbox, I was there! It was an amazing day meeting some truly inspirational people, it made me feel humbled that I would be racing (pfft, watching them overtake me more like) these people from all different corners of the UK.
The staff became friends, we spoke often and they really supported me. I even got a beautiful bunch of flowers. Raising money became something that I loved doing because of all the lovely feedback I would get from the organisation. I also got some smart photos from the pasta party and even got my own video! (I made myself cry even though it was me doing the heart-warming speaking!)
We also got to meet a running expert and did a short training session. Suddenly, I started judging strangers on their running technique: chicken arms, too stiff, looks like a wally. Then I realised I probably run like a chicken that’s just lost its head and has bricks for shoes, but ah well, I was still doing better than those couch potatoes.
Marathon day quickly approached, I spent the day before at Brighton Exhibition Centre and got greeted by the team with the wonderful news that I had been featured in the Metro. I’m sure it was something about the sexy spandex running gear in my photo that prompted the generosity of absolute strangers to text my justgiving page. Before I knew it I was lying in bed, attempting to sleep, knowing the next time I would get to sleep, I would have hopefully run a marathon.
Marathon day arrived. I had everything packed and ready so all I needed to do was get dressed, eat and write the names of all my family and friends who are no longer with us on my arms so that if I hit “the wall”, I could look down and remember that they can’t run a marathon.
I am not one to get nervous so I probably appeared cool, calm and collected. The truth? I was still worrying about needing the toilet. The race -haha, I say race – the attempt to get to the finish line began. I high fived Paula Radcliffe and off I went!
I see photographers and then pose and eat a banana.
Oh there’s runners going back the other way, so there must be a turn soon. I continue running, vainly hoping I would start matching the pace of someone, but alas, other than a crazy singer next to me who was interrupting my flow, I continued running alone. By now was like – seriously – I’m still not up to the place those people were who passed me at mile seven. I’m still eating, starting to wonder about needing the toilet, but every toilet I passed had such a huge queue!
I’m mentally preparing that I am going to wet myself at any minute. Calculating whether I could pick up enough water to douse myself in it so no one would know! Everyone is cheering and screaming and I’m thinking, god no I can’t wet myself I won’t be able to talk to anyone once I’ve finished.
There are toilets and no queue, yipeee! I dive into the toilet and the world is spinning, I’m not really sure which way is up to be honest, but all I knew is I shouldn’t stop for long. I start slowing down now, walking then jogging.
My hip starts to hurt, so I stop and stretch it. Some kind person gave me jelly beans and people are continuously shouting my name as it is on the front of my top. I start welling up, thinking of how my Dad says my name and then a peacock runs past. Not a real one, a lady dressed as one. A peacock was running faster than me and as she runs past she says “your dad will be proud”. I had ‘RIP DAD’ on the back of my top, I wondered if it was a good idea and at that moment in time I genuinely thought I was going to break down.
I avoid crying and keep pounding the pavement, someone asks if I want banana bread and before they even finish the sentence I’ve eaten the whole thing. I reach mile 20 and make a huge mistake. I begin to realise the inside of my feet are hurting and so I take my shoes off. I walk along the double yellow lines (socks on tarmac hurt!) feeling defeated, my hip is in agony and I realise that at the pace I’m walking I have around another two hours left.
This took an eternity to get to, I felt so alone, defeated. It was hard out there, it was an industrial estate and there were no supporters, no crowd, nothing, just you and pain (and needing the toilet again).
Some kind of strength washed over me (and the looks from other runners) and I decided I needed to ‘man up’ and put my trainers back on. So with them on, I went to the toilet and then I would run! The hip said no, so I decided I would walk. Then a storm trooper and man with a model tiger on his back over took me, I was at rock bottom.
Mile 25 – the finish line
Something just clicked. All of a sudden crowds are screaming my name and I’m running, I’m actually running! I pass Team Panda on the bridge and knowing they’re supporting me all the way, I just have so much adrenaline. I looked behind to check my hip hadn’t fallen off, phew, I was still intact and I was still running. Before I knew it, I’m crying my eyes out, someone is talking about me over a microphone and I can see the finish line.
I ran as fast as I could and finished in 6 hours, 21 minutes and 26 seconds. The best way to describe it is like a rainbow:
• Red – was anger that my beautiful Dad got taken away from me, why him?
• Yellow – was sunshine, happiness because I knew he would be proud
• Blue – was tears – and lots of them
• Pink – was love and I had never loved my Dad as much as I did then
The tears were uncontrollable and my hip was throbbing. Part of me was angry. For moaning about pain when it was only temporary (that reminds me about a sign at mile 16: pain is temporary, pride is forever) because I saw true heroes running alongside me: Someone pushing a wheelchair, a husband on crutches following his wife to the finish line screaming her on. Really, in the grand scheme of things I’m just a little dot. But I’m still a dot that had run a marathon for the most amazing charity.
After the marathon I was greeted by Team Panda. All I could do was cry. So much had lead up to this moment and they were so familiar to me. I know I touched their hearts, but it was only because of the work I do that I blossomed. I got a free massage and more food, yay! I also got to cuddle my very own teddy panda.
But seriously, I may have not been able to walk for a week, I have almost definitely damaged my hip as even now it still hurts, but I don’t care. I’m running the marathon again, not for me, not for my Dad, for WWF. See you at the finish line!
This blog is written by Katie Crossley, one of our amazing events fundraisers.
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