26.2 miles, 42.195km, 50,000+ steps, 4,689 laps around your sofa or 46,112 yards. However you measure it the marathon distance is one of the toughest and most rewarding things you can put your body through. Ever since my first at the London Marathon back in 2016 I have been well and truly addicted to the highs and lows that sort of distance takes you on.
Rasselbock’s Spring Sherwood Pines 6 hour event marked the big 3-0. Sadly not in age, that was a few years ago, but in marathons run. 30 marathons through cities, up mountains, around my bloody sofa (ah lockdown was fun wasn’t it?), across deserts and along rivers.
The race itself was wonderful and doing a 6 hour looped event meant that I could relax and focus on the experience without clock watching. My 30th should have been at Manchester, a PB potential sure, but on the trails surrounded by friends felt far more fitting. So to mark the occasion during the run I tried to think of 30 things that the 26.2 mile distance had taught me. It wasn’t hard to think of them as honestly distance running has taught me a lot but what would you add?
1. Drink stations are more like watery gauntlets. One bottle of water held out by a volunteer, four runners heading towards it, let the fight commence.
2. That gel-like substance the medical staff have on their fingers is vaseline, do not try and eat it off their fingers. It’s creepy and tastes just as awful the second and third time you do it.
3. Never underestimate the power of a good sign. My favourite sign was from the Chicago Marathon: “Slow down I’m trying to count you all”.
4. Having your name on your shirt is the closest you might ever get to feeling like a celebrity when it comes to big city marathons.
5. Be prepared for anything. I have had so many random things happen to my body, my plan or the route itself during a marathon. Don’t go in with a set idea of how it will all go down and more than likely something will crop up. Just hope it isn’t armed police like the Dead Sea Marathon or torrential rainstorm like Rome Marathon.
6. While trail marathons may seem scary in reality they are the most relaxed, friendly and enjoyable marathons I have ever done.
7. Never wear something you haven’t worn lots of time before. It will come back to bite you on the ass or chafe you on the nipples.
8. A well curated playlist is far more effective for performance than any carbon plated shoe.
9. There is no shame in walking. A marathon is a marathon regardless of how long it took you to finish.
10. Getting overtaken by someone in fancy dress is hilariously demoralising. Bloody Minons, stupid Spiderman, holy crap is that a man with a washing machine on his back?
11. Everyone running has their own amazing story so at the start line, or during the race if you’re feeling chatty, ask people theirs.
12. Accepting candy from strangers is not only ok, it’s encouraged.
13. If you have a beer at the end you will get drunk. Fast. Everything after the Copenhagen Marathon is a hazy blur, how I ended up on a strangers hen do is still a mystery to me.
14. Prepare for your mind to take you to places you didn’t want to think about while running; “remember that time when you were 16 and got turned down by a girl you fancied? Lets think about that for a few miles”.
15. Sleeping well in the lead up to a race is just as important as hydrating.
16. Trust in your training, the start line of the marathon is your victory lap after months of training. Go out and enjoy it.
17. Try not to get a song stuck in your head. It will stay there forever. “Wake me up before you go-go” Damn it Wham!
18. Work on your pacing and trust in it but most importantly don’t beat yourself up if you fall from it. My first marathon I had everything planned out for a 4:55 marathon, I finished in over 5:30 but I still felt just as proud crossing that finish line.
19. Work hard on your fuelling for a race, it is really going to make all the difference come race day. How you carry it, when you take it, what it is, etc. Don’t grab what is on the route if you haven’t tried it or you’ll be running into every loo on the course to the finish line. Thankfully Paris Marathon had a lot of well stocked loos….
20. Race expos are usually a massive let down and very far away from any public transport.
21. Visualise finishing and feeling that medal around your neck. It’s coming and the pain you’re in now will feel infinitesimally small in comparison to the pride you will feel.
22. If you try and high five someone and miss, it will feel like the most awkward thing you’ve ever done.
23. Trying to do maths while running is damn near impossible; “11 minutes over the next two miles followed by 10 minutes over the next three I will finish in….4 days?!”
24. You always used to think that people wearing those foil blankets after the race look ridiculous, until you get one wrapped around you and you feel like Superman’s tin-foiled cousin.
25. Find a mantra to pull you forward when the wall looms large overhead. Mine has been always forward, forward always since almost day one and it is simple but so affective when I am struggling.
26. When you are old and grey the time you finished this race or that race will be irrelevant as the experience is what truly matters so enjoy the view, the crowds, the atmosphere as that will be what you’ll remember. I don’t remember what time I finished the San Francisco marathon but I will remember running across the Golden Gate Bridge until my dying day.
27. Use those the doubt that people have cast on you being able to do this as fuel to prove them that you can. You are capable of more than you know.
28. If you see someone in need, help them. I have done it a few times and I have made true lifelong friendships from it.
29. Running friends will talk about bodily functions a lot. Like an uncomfortable level of openness when it comes to crapping in the woods or how many wees you have had before the start.
30. Running a marathon is one of the greatest achievements, challenges and milestones you can go through in life so if you are debating entering one just do it. It was the best decision I have ever made in my life. It may only be 26.2 miles but it could set you on a new path in life, it has for me.