I’m currently well into training for my second marathon. I vividly remember struggling over the line to finish my first ever half-marathon and experiencing a feeling of undiluted horror and disbelief at the prospect of this just being ‘half way’ for those brave/foolish/insane enough to tackle The Full Marathon. Yet a mere 14 years later in 2013, I was lining up for the big ol’ 26.2 miles myself. And lets just say that – like childbirth, I imagine – I’ve needed a little while to forget just how torturous it was before subjecting myself to it again.
Aside from the day of the marathon itself – that painful, painful day – what really sticks in the mind was the training. And being well into my training plan for 2015, it’s all becoming horrifically familiar again. Rather than opting for the traditional 12 or 16 week plan, I’ve gone for the bespoke ’22 week Taylorson plan’. And by ‘bespoke’ I of course mean ‘cobbled together from bits of other plans that didn’t have me clutching my chest and declaring ‘How much running? Pfft, I’m out!’’ Why 22 weeks? Well the answer to that quite straightforward really. Some weeks ago the old inner monologue decreed ‘you know, if we don’t start training for this marathon RIGHT NOW we’re going to die come October’. Its difficult to argue with that kind of logical rhetoric, so in the midst of a sweaty panic I worked out I was t-minus 22 weeks from marathon lift-off and put together THE PLAN. And now I’m hitting the part of the schedule that decrees the runs are what I affectionately refer to as ‘joke distances’. 20 miles? Hahaha! Wait, you’re serious?!?
What I’ve found are there are certain ‘truths’ that you only find out when you commit to training for a marathon. There are quite a few of these, but I’ll concentrate on just five this time out.
1) Pain. I believe it was R.E.M. that once declared ‘Everybody hurts, sometimes everybody cries’. Clearly Michael Stipe* had just gotten back from 18 miles over hill and dale and was referring to the fact that his undercarriage was chaffed red raw when he put pen to paper on the lyrics. And in addition to being chaffed in new and exciting places, there’s also THE CRAMPS and THE TWINGES and THE UTTER EXHAUSTION that are all part and parcel of upping those miles. And lets not forget the delightful prospect of waving goodbye to your toenails…
2) Time. It’s an equation so simple even I can manage it: more running = more time spent running. And with commitments away from running, be they family, work or smuggling pandas, it soon becomes a logistical challenge to fit in the regular ‘long run’ alongside ‘all the other runs’ whilst maintaining a healthy running/life balance. To the point where later next month I’ve pencilled in a couple of days off from work in order to fit in the last 2 ‘ridiculously long runs’ as part of the Infallible Training Plan.
3) Boredom. Running’s a great opportunity to clear your head, mull things over or contemplate the day ahead. But when I’ve had ample chance to do all of those things in the first hour of the run, but I’ve still got two more hours of running left to do, it all gets a bit…monotonous. Watching the miles tick by on the Garmin whilst attempting to maintain something vaguely resembling a steady pace provides a small degree of distraction. And I’ll admit to being someone who is largely unable to think about anything other than running whilst running (there must be a name for the condition I feel…Runner’s Brain? Oof, or how about ‘Medula Jog-longata’? Hoho, you’ve done it gain, Taylorson. Anyway, the obvious solution would of course be music. However, I can’t get away with wearing an mp3 player or similar whilst I run, for three reasons:
a) All headphones I’ve tried fall out of my funny ears whilst running. And I’ve tried several different types.
b) Being a super-sweaty runner means even if I can keep headphones in for any length of time, I effectively drown them.
c) I’d fiddle incessantly with playlists and the like, meaning and semblance of pacing would be affected and the distraction could well see me run straight into a dog waste bin/bus/pensioner
4) Routes. This could well be regarded as the epitome of a First World Problem, but as the miles are upped it becomes more and more difficult to find a route that isn’t a set of soul-crushing loops where I find myself thinking ‘Urghghhgh…I’ve still got to pass that same postbox another 8 times…stupid running’ or similar. Plus, part of the complex psychological process that keeps me going during the long run is ‘knowing vaguely where I am and where I’m going, but not exactly where I am and where I’m going, thus I can assume I’m closer to the end than I really am even though the Garmin is telling me exactly how far I’ve gone so it makes no difference really’. So, rather than just pulling on the running attire and blundering out of the front door, I actually have to give some thought to where I’m going to ensure a route of ample mileage. Gah.
5) Expense. It costs, this running lark. And more running means more cost. Just this last week I had to ‘retire’ my last pair of running shoes (picture them on a reclining armchair in front of Countdown) and invest in a new pair owing to them being so worn down I could feel every stone/pebble/grain of sand through the soles. And more running requires more washing of the multiple sets of kit. Not by me, I should add. As, despite being 34 years old…*whisper it*…I don’t know how to use the washing machine. I can put it in and shut the door, but then it’s a confusing array of little wheels with numbers and letters and little pictures. Luckily, I have and understanding** wife.
Well, ‘Well if it bothers you that much, why do I do a marathon, whingebag?’ I hear you cry. And, you know, part of me doesn’t really know why. I swore ‘never again’ back in 2013, but here we are again at the foot of Mount Painful. But then there’s the challenge and the satisfaction…and the fact I missed out on a sub-4 hour time by a mere 12 minutes. Let’s be honest – that’s why I’m going back. And besides, all the training fills the time in. I mean, what else could I be doing? That 1,000 piece Richard O’Brien jigsaw? Pfft, you don’t get a medal for that.
* – The song was actually written by former R.E.M. member Bill Berry. In case any of you are super-pedantic…
** – Read: wonderfully tolerant.