Run Forrest Run!
Quite possibly by the time you read this I will be running the London Marathon, or will have finished/collapsed/given up (delete as appropriate). A little whisper goaded me to do it, telling me I was past it and I would never ever be able to surpass the fitness I supposedly had Before Children (B.C.). I’ll show you, I said. And I’ll do it for charity* too. That put paid to the voice in my head.
But as I clocked up the miles, the doubts set in. The aches the pains. The why’s and what the hells …
16 weeks to go
Longest run: 8 Miles
A piece of cake. I could run this distance backwards, in my sleep, and still ace my time.
15 weeks to go
Longest run: 10 miles
I have wings and I’m soaring through the air. I could be the ethnic minority poster child for Red Bull. Never mind the wind howling in my face and the blue tinge to my fingers. I think to myself: I am at one with nature.
13 weeks to go
Longest run: 12 miles
It’s freezing. I need gloves. But I’ve bought these wireless headphones and Ed Sheeran’s just released his new album and I LOVE his songs!!!! I could listen to them again and again and again.
10 weeks to go
Longest run: 16 miles
I add Eye of the Tiger to my playlist and I’m like Rocky Bilbaoa running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Except I’m running up hills. Lots of them. But I don’t care. It’s freezing but I have GLOVES. I even wear a hat I’ve pinched from the Better Half. I look like a convict on the run. One of my best friends fails to recognise me as I trot past, waving madly at her. Did I tell you how much I love Ed Sheeran?
9 weeks to go
Longest run: 18 miles
I think I’m lost. My trainer, Gerrard tells me about a loop I can do so I don’t have to double back. I just need to follow the tow path down by Hampton Court. I keep running and running and running. It should be picturesque. But it isn’t because right now I’m so done with Ed Sheeran and his broken leg and castles on a hill and his shape of you. And I hate Taylor Swift for that matter. I want to shake her and her songs off. Even Eye of the Tiger fails to pep me up. My feet are on fire. But not in the Mo Farah sense of the word. My soles burn with each step. I realise I’m not lost. 18 miles is just a long way from home.
‘I’m too slow,’ I moan to Gerrard.
‘You just need to run faster,’ he says.
8 weeks to go
Longest run: 18 miles
I ditch the music. I hear birdsong. Spring at last! Daffodils in bloom! How perfectly delightful! I admire the beautiful houses as I run along the river. Then I start to worry: what if the river floods? What if these lovely houses get wrecked? The cost! The insurance! What if there’s an elderly couple living in one of them and their wonderful home is destroyed? I’m close to tears just thinking about it. Or maybe I’m weeping because my feet really hurt. I hate the river. Why am I doing this? It’s all in the name of charity. I’m raising money for a Good Cause. Think of all those other runners running for good causes. Are they weeping? Are they? Are they? I embrace the five hills that greet me on the last 10km. Actually, I decide embrace is too negative a word. I’m going to Hug a Hill. It’s a bit Hygge, I think. And for a minute I feel all warm and cosy.
5 weeks to go
Longest run: 21 miles
I have new trainers. They’re French. Hoka. I’ve never heard of the brand but the girl in Run and Become in Victoria told me they’re good. She’s fierce. Like a Russian secret agent from a James Bond movie. I listen to her advice for fear of incurring her wrath.
‘You’re quieter when you run in them,’ she barks at me in thickly accented English as I prance up and down the street like a ninny.
I tell her they’re ugly and she gives me The Look. I buy them. They may do nothing to enhance my image but they are light and cushiony.
I do my 21 miles. It’s pi**ing down with rain. The wind swipes the baseball cap off my head. It’s freezing. The trainers help. I run a little faster. Running faster means my feet hurt less. Victory! But then I realise I have to run faster for all of 26.2 miles. Excellent.
4 weeks to go
Longest run: 21.5 miles
My feet hurt. My body’s tired. My nose is streaming. I’m running so slowly a 90-year-old granny could overtake me. My feet are back to burning. I’ve got cramp too. I think I see smoke coming out of my soles. It’s a mirage. On Hampton Court bridge I take off my shoes and stretch my feet. Bliss. Then a dog comes nosing by and stops to pee by my trainers. I set off again. I think of my friend who recently turned 50 and last year ran the Berlin marathon in 3hrs 37mins. She’s inspiration personified. She’s also built like a runner bean. Sticking with the vegetable analogy, if she’s a runner bean then I’m a sweet potato.
I fall ill. Head feels like it’s about to explode. Chest heaves like I’ve got a 60-a-day habit. Coughing up green slime. It’s disgusting.
3 weeks to go
Longest run: 7 miles
I should’ve taken a bucket with me as I’m coughing up litres of phlegm. It’s sunny. It’s 18 degrees. I’m shivering. After seven miles, I call it a day.
‘You shouldn’t have gone running,’ my Better Half tells me. No sh** Sherlock. I should be buying medication, but instead I buy two pairs of compression socks – I’m told my feet hurt because my calves are tight.
2 weeks to go
Longest run: 10 miles
I’ve just driven back from Scarborough. That’s four-and-a-half hours in a small space with three kids under the age of six. I have to lie down. Except the kids are making such a racket that I can’t sleep. It’s sunny. It’s warm. My virus is almost gone. I go for a run. I wear my new compression socks. Long socks, ugly trainers do nothing for my look. A man in a van toots his horn at me. I’m beyond caring. And my feet still hurt. ‘There’s nothing much you can do,’ says Physio Sam as he pulverises my calves and hamstrings.
I bulk-buy beetroot juice because it’s meant to be high in potassium or something. I hate beetroot but I drink it anyway. I eat a banana everyday. I hardly ever eat bananas.
‘You should be eating bananas because you’re a monkey,’ the Better Half quips. Clearly, if I wasn’t married to him, I would have slapped him. But I let it go. The man’s so restrained by his firm’s approach to political correctness that it comes undone at home.
1 week to go
Longest run: 6 miles
We’re in Marrakech with my in-laws. The mother-in-law stresses about the toilet situation during the marathon.
‘What do you do if you need to go?’ she asks.
I tell her about Paula Radcliffe spending a penny by the kerbside. The mother-in-law looks appalled. She stresses more about the toilet situation. Now I’m starting to get stressed. I order a beetroot juice in a cafe in the Medina. The mother-in-law blanches at my boldness. Everyone thinks I’m going to get ill. I don’t. I eat more bananas.
1 day to go
I feel one part excited – like I’m going to see Madonna in concert, to two parts jittery – like I’m about to sit an exam. There’s not much more I can do. I have run more than I have in a long time. I’m stronger than I was B.C.. I’ve guzzled so many bananas that maybe the Better Half is onto something. I’ve downed pints of beetroot juice that I think I’m turning pink. I’ve eaten my final bowl of pasta.
All I need to do is run.
*I’m running on behalf of Walkabout Foundation, a non-profit organisation which focuses on funding research to find a cure for paralysis and donating wheelchairs to people in need around the world. Thank you to all of you who have sponsored me. It really means a lot. For those of you who would like to, please click here.