And here's the awful, painful truth that I almost didn't want to confess. I couldn't finish it. I hit the wall at mile 18 and the next three miles were achingly slow. My legs felt like lead, my insoles had apparently shrunk during Tough Mudder- something I might have realised if I hadn't had to take weeks out of training for illness related reasons- and I could feel a line of bleeding blisters along both sides of my feet. I hit mile 21- 5 miles to go and well over an hour and a half in which to do it in. Easy.
No. I was broken. I was a shell of my usual jubilant self. The relatively small size of the marathon (under 500 people) and the ridiculously slow pace between mile 18-21 meant that my worst nightmare was realised. I was in last place. The recovery van that went around the course to pick up runners who had damaged themselves was literally on my tail. Every time I looked around they were there. I have described this in a number of ways- the Top Gear failure car for example, or *my personal favourite* the komodo dragon stalking his prey for days after that initial venomous bite. I sobbed and sobbed and hated every moment of them following me. I gave the driver an earful about how awful it was having him there. He looked down at my left ankle (my stupid inherently damaged ankle) and said 'I'm sorry miss, you're doing incredibly but that ankle is just making us all a little nervous especially with the next hill.' Oh god. A hill. JOY OF JOYS. Stubborn as ever I stomped up that hill just to show him. I got to the top, looked at my running watch thinking that I MUST be near that 22 mile mark. 21.2 miles. I called my mum and cried. I told her I was a failure and that this was HANDS DOWN the worst thing I had ever attempted. What was I even thinking?! The pain was overwhelming when I finally let the failure wash over me. I turned to the recovery van, nodded at him and hopped in. I didn't speak again for the 20 minutes it took for me to get back to the race village. I couldn't; it would've destroyed me. I kept getting told how well I'd done, the other runners in the car (they'd all picked up injuries and were en route back with me) commended me for getting past them. One chap was on marathon number 8. He vindicated my feeling that the New Forest Marathon is a lonely marathon. Beautiful scenery but there are so few people that you literally fall into your own little bubble and that's it.
It was not what I'd imagined a marathon to be. I've watched the London Marathon and the Great North Run (I know it's a half- calm down) and said to myself, it'll be that atmosphere that keeps you going when it gets tough. It's the other 40,000 people all achieving something very great who will keep you motivated. It was otherwise a perfect day. Not too hot, not due to rain and the perfect level of cloud cover. I ran through little villages where small children handed out sweaty handfuls of jelly babies (little boy from Brockenhurst- you were my rock!) and I started ludicrously well. The first 10 miles came smoothly and easily and I was at the half way point in just over 2 and a half hours. I could come up with countless reasons WHY I couldn't do it but quite honestly there is no point. And this is actually very important for me.
My greatest fear has always been failure. I sat in the back of that van and was a failure. And then I started to think. Being a failure would have been never having the bravery to try in the first place. Being a failure would have been continuing on clearly over taxed limbs to the point of real and significant damage. Being a failure would have been not learning something from the experience. And as painful an experience this was, my god did I learn.
I have learnt that sometimes I need to be nicer to myself. If you had told my younger self that I would be fit enough to run a marathon -ever- she would have laughed and thought something along the lines of 'even the 100m on school sports days hurt'. That sometimes I need to do things for the process rather than some arbitrary final point that I've set myself. I'm actually quite looking forward to just training- for nothing in particular. I learnt that (no pun intended) I can't run before I learn to walk. A marathon WILL happen. I WILL eventually be able to tick that off of my 'to do' list and I will finish a hell of a lot stronger than I could have this time.
The reason I know this is because I truly can overcome all fears. All it takes is the bravery to try.