Sometimes I feel like I'm invincible. I've run a dozen marathons this year, I've run four ultras, I've run all day in scorching heat, I've fallen in a swamp, I've lost half a dozen toenails, I'm badass.
Here's what I learned this weekend..
1) Do not go on holiday and do absolutely no running for the two weekends prior to your race
2) Do not work all week in a busy hospital and then drive for 7+ hours on a Friday evening
3) The night before your marathon, do not have no food until 10pm and then carb load on a Filet o' Fish and chips at Maccy D's (the face shows exactly how thrilled I was)
4) Do not arrive at your hotel just before midnight
6) Getting up after 5 hours sleep at 5.45am is not conducive to feeling fully rested
Apart from that, I was absolutely raring to go! Here I am at the start line looking absolutely thrilled...
There wasn't too much waiting around before we set off - first along a boardwalk section with grassy reeds on both sides. The reeds were so high that at times I couldn't see where my feet were landing. I found myself breathing hard - it takes concentration to run like that - and hoping the whole route wasn't going to be along similar lines! Soon it opened out onto the only truly 'coastal' section which involved running a short distance along a beach:
I sighed and gritted my teeth. This was going to be a long day.
The demon was only just getting started. "You're shit!" it cackled. "You might as well drop out at the next checkpoint. Then you can go home and have a rest, you're much too tired for this!"
I considered my options. I could put on my headphones and drown the demon out. This does sometimes work, but other times it just shouts even louder.
Instead I decided to invite it in. "Hello demon," I addressed it. "Can I offer you a drink?" "A DRINK?!" screeched the demon. "Yes! I'll have a large glass of wine," it sneered, wickedly, knowing full well that I'd only given up drinking alcohol a week ago. I rose above it. "So. What is it you came to talk to me about?"
"You're SHIT!" shrieked the demon. "You're a slow, rubbish, useless runner and you're already struggling. GIVE UP!" I reminded the demon that I'd run two marathons last month and that I'd pushed through plenty of difficult races before. Silence.
A few moments later, the demon screeched, "You're fat though!" I was taken aback, but calmly replied, "I could do with losing a couple of kilos, but I have just come back from holiday. There's plenty of people heavier than me have finished marathons. And there's no way that's going to stop me," I told the demon.
The miles passed. The demon produced ever weaker excuses; I shot them down. Nevertheless, I was tired. My preparation for this race was suboptimal and it showed. I tried to work out which of numbers 1-7 above was having the worst impact (answer: number 6).
At checkpoint 3, a lovely volunteer shouted at the top of her voice, "COME ON RUNNERS! YOU'RE ALMOST AT THE CHECKPOINT!!! YOU'RE DOING BRILLIANTLY!!!" which was hugely motivating. I ate jelly babies. I plodded on through the woods. As usual, it took until 30k before I felt sure I would finish, and after that it was (mostly) plain sailing.
There was a particularly unpleasant gravel section just before 40k at which I finally accepted there was no chance of finishing under 5 hours, followed by a horrible deep sand section.
pièce de résistance was coming across a sign that said, "1 MILE TO GO" just as my Garmin ticked over to 42.2km. So I'd run my marathon, and now there was a mysterious extra bonus mile. Oh deep joy. I finally finished in 5:23, almost exactly an hour slower than Berlin a month previous. Terrain, temperatures and demons were all difficult today.
Mandatory finish photo (oh yeah, and the medal was TEENY TINY and exactly the same whether you'd done 10k or an ultra - a pet hate of mine. Grrr!)
Drove back to Dunwich, had a shower, ate a giant portion of fish and chips and an ice cream, had a nap, then got back in the car less than 24 hours after arriving and drove all the way back to Liverpool.
I learned this weekend that I'm not invincible. Here's a little piece of post-race wisdom: