Diary of a Slightly Scared Runner: 17 miles, “things” and other thoughts

Happy after my 17 mile run…and a lot of thinking…

“Don’t you get bored when you go running?” A question I’ve been asked a lot since I started my mad marathon challenge.

Funnily enough, whilst many things flicker, fleet through and pop into my brain, feeling bored has never been one of them.

This, in itself, got me thinking: Exactly what do I think of when I run?

On Friday I completed my longest ever distance of 17 miles. Feet pounding the pavements of north-west London through sun, cloud and (considerable) rain for three hours. The end. Shattered, sore and delighted.

As well as the physical impact, the mental toll is also significant. Here’s a wee insight. And yes, I am a bit crazy.

The beginning: Start off with an easy jog, feeling chipper. All is good in the world. Thinking about what I’m doing at the weekend, the new role I’ve got at work and my forthcoming wedding.

After a while you start to notice what’s around you more, whether it’s visually appealing or not. Little slices of everyday life; the postman trundling his mail bag along the moss-covered street, the workmen trying to balance the ladder, positioned precariously against the side of the house, the wheels of the white van ploughing indiscriminately through puddles as the man in the driving seat goes full throttle, either late for his next job or simply living up to his well-known reputation.

The old man, hunched with paper under arm, walking at snail’s pace, unsure which way to move, as I dodge past him.

The comradeship between you and other runners. You know nothing about them or their lives, nor they about yours, but you’re bound by a common love and goal. You share their determination and their pain. Acknowledged with that slight nod/smile as you zip past: that’s all you need.

The middle: Once the run really begins to take hold, memories start to kick in. Bizarre, random things: What was the surname of that girl that used to live across the road from me when I was five?; The day I posted the pound note instead of the letter and tried to pay for a chocolate bar with an envelope; The fancy light in our old front room with the dimmer switch…

This may all sound ridiculous, but believe me, when you’re running and running and running your brain has room for it all.

Towards the end: Circa 13 miles and I’m struggling. Why is that woman in front of me walking so bloody slowly, can I get round her without getting run over? Am I a bad person for wishing them out of the way… sod it, I’m too tired to think about it…keep going, keep going.

Then the words of my father. “Come on now, you can do it, just one last stretch…” “But I’ve got FOUR ****ing miles to go, I’ll never make it..”

Suddenly, I remember what it’s all about. I hear my late grandfather’s voice: “Come on lassie, you can do it…” Spurs me on, but can’t think about it too much though in case emotion overtakes purpose and I collapse in the gutter.

Mile 15 (ish) I turn to my music, willing inspiration from the lyrics. I start singing them out loud “You gotta get up and try, try, try…” No doubt scaring numerous members of the public as I appear, red-faced, drowned rat-esque, fist-clenched Andy Murray-style, shouting “come on!!” to myself every few seconds like a punter at a football match.

Eventually I can take it no longer. I wrestle my mobile phone from my sweat-drenched pocket and bring up my running app. 16.6 miles. Now I know I’m going to hit 17. And all at once I’m smiling, it’s mixture  of delight and sheer, unbridled relief. I feel like Luke Skywalker after the destruction of Death Star One.  Nothing like a bit of dramatic license.

I feel like throwing my hands up in a victory run as I pass through the gates to our flat. I’ve done it! Except, hold on a minute, how long is a marathon again?

Ah yes, only another nine miles to go…..

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