On Sunday 39,000 people will be lining up to run the London Marathon. Crazy, brave, determined, (and possibly insane!) people, all running 26.2 miles to raise money for charity, get a personal best, or tick something off life's bucket list. The race will be watched worldwide. But for those runners, whatever their reasons, their journey to the start line has been a long, arduous and tough. Here's some things you'll only know if you're about to run your first marathon.
1. What was I thinking?!
Whatever inspired you to sign up for your first marathon, it’s long since forgotten. Even if it was watching your 70-year-old auntie crossing the finish line of the Virgin Money London Marathon, or to raise money for a charity close to your heart, in the lead up to race day, there are moments when you curse yourself and wonder what the hell you were thinking signing up to this insanity.
2. Marathon Obsessed
All you can talk about is the marathon, or running. Mostly because for the last 16-weeks at least, it has become your entire life. It has dictated your social life, your diet, your sleeping habits. Every decision you’ve made has been made around your next long run. You’ve bored your mates/colleagues/other half to death banging on about missing toenails, weird hip pains, calf cramp, pace, stretches, chaffing. Your poor other half has been tasked many time with foam-rollering your aching muscles. Like you, they can’t wait for your first marathon to be over, either!
3. You’ve become a great judge of distances
OK, so you got a bit lost at first. A few times actually. Perhaps you ended up running through a marsh, a bog, being chased by geese, stranded a few miles away from home. But by 20-miles, you finished bang outside your front door.
4. Running expert
You thought it’d be a case of strapping on your trainers and going for longer and longer jogs. You were wrong. You’ve now read so much stuff about electrolytes, pacing, gels, trainers, clothing, diet, rehydration Phizziology, muscles blah blah blah, that you’re now an expert on running. Who knew it was so scientific?! But you don’t dare go a day without a banana, since all that extra potassium seemed to cure your calf cramps!
5. Taper Blues
For months you’ve been focused on running further, increasing your mileage. Then suddenly, three weeks before the big day, you start doing the exact opposite. Reducing your distances to allow your muscles to recover for your first marathon. It’s great at first. Only, then the taper blues kick in. You’ve been working so hard for so long, you haven’t had time to process all that work you’ve put in, just what you’re gearing yourself up for. You feel emotional, overwhelmed, wonder if you’ve trained enough. You repeat the mantra drilled into you by your training plan/favourite running website. ‘Trust in you’re training. You have done enough’.
Or marathon paranoia for those who don’t speak marathon. A week before, you start panicking about getting ill, or injured. Every twinge has you diagnosing yourself with a torn muscle/ligament/stress fracture. Every sneeze is the flu, or a ratty cold. The nerves bubbling in your stomach – that’s food poisoning – even though you haven’t dared eaten anything even slightly risky in weeks. Maranoia is the irrational belief that some last minute disaster is going to take you out of the race.
7. But it’s not actually a race
Those seasoned pros with their championship qualifying times can call it a race. You’re mates can call it ‘race day’ all they like. But you realised very early on that you’re not going to be racing anyone. Except maybe the sweeper bus picking up the injured and the stragglers. Well it is a famous saying: It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
8. Marathon dreams
As the day gets closer, the nerves creep in. They take over, especially at night. You start having weird marathon dreams. Being late, missing the start, forgetting your kit, running barefoot, or running past the crowds totally naked! Running but not getting anywhere, getting lost, desperately trying to follow the blue ‘fastest route’ line on the ground, ditching the marathon altogether to go into politics (that was a strange one).
9. Being overtaken
Let’s face facts. If it’s your first marathon, you’re more concerned about making it round at all, than how fast you do it. Your first marathon time will automatically be your personal best anyway. So you’ve accepted that at some point, you will be over taken by a pantomime horse, a Minion, or Big Bird. Or even a pair of testicles.
10. Running buddies
Speaking of which, you’ve made a mental note to check who you’re running next to. If it’s Mr Testicles, there WILL be a lot of unflattering photos of you running next to a giant scrotum. You will never hear the end of it.
11. You expect pain
You’ve prepared well. You’ve trained with gels, carbo-loaded, cross-trained, perfected your pace, got all the right kit – and trained in it. Done everything to stop yourself hitting that dreaded wall on the day. But, while you may not quite hit the wall, at some point, probably around mile 18, it is going to start to hurt. A lot.
12. Finish Line
But you know, crossing that finish line will feel like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You’ll feel like a superhero, invincible. The pain – by then it’ll all be worth it. Probably won’t be thinking that during mile 23 though…