5 years ago we finished our first marathon and our first Dopey Challenge. There’s a string of blog posts about that experience starting with this one. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the marathoniversary this year. Partly because I am not really running and partly because we were supposed to be there now and should have run the marathon in Florida today. But the universe had other ideas and as things stand I am grateful that we are not there and that I did not have pull out of or cancel the marathon because given the health issues and lack of running I wouldn’t have been able to get ready anyway.
So, all in all it has been a positive day full of happy or at least positive memories and thoughts. Every now and again I have got a bit grumpy or sad. I have felt annoyed at myself for losing fitness and not building on the Dopey and marathon experience but then I reminded myself that I have built on it, that I have learned a lot and that I didn’t lose it all. I completed another 3 marathons after that including another Dopey in 2019. So most of the time I was thinking about the sense of achievement. I still have a sense of wonder at the idea that we ran 48.6 miles over 4 days only about 12 months after not being able to run 100 metres and being so unfit that walking any sort of distance wasn’t really fun. My memories from Dopey 2 are more fun in a way. It was less overwhelming, I was fitter, I knew what was coming, the conditions were better (less hot) and I kept my sense of humour through ESPN Wild World of sport, the sense of achievement from Dopey 1 is something special.
Before Dopey 1 and that marathon I had absolutely no clue whether I could do that distance. In fact the safest assumption based on a year of running, was that I probably couldn’t. When stepping up the distance during that training cycle I had so many fails at the new distance the first time round but on marathon day there was no second chance, no having another go tomorrow. I also never really believed. I didn’t believe I was going to finish, never mind finish within the allowed time for the challenge until I actually did. And on that first attempt I had nothing to draw on. I generally don’t really believe I have done 4 marathons, if you asked me run 5km tomorrow I am not sure I would believe I could do it. Running still very much is something other people do. I am not quite sure what it is I think I do. I just struggle to see myself as a runner, as a marathon finisher, as a Double Dopey. I have to actively remind myself that I did that and that it is a big deal. I have to force myself to remember that I worked for it, that it took lots and lots of little steps that eventually, collectively took me to the finish line. Now, though I have that memory bank. I can force myself to remember what it took to finish the marathon. I can remember that one foot in front of the other really does get you there. I didn’t have that on the first one. It was just step after step into the unknown.
Reflecting on that first marathon today made me realise how often I go back to it, how often I draw on it. Sometimes it isn’t the memory as such but the emotion linked to the achievement. There is something so powerful about knowing that you did something impossible. There is an unshakable calm that comes with knowing that nobody can take that achievement away, that you made a point that wipes out decades of negativity about what your body looks like and can do from others and from yourself. There is something special in knowing that you can just keep going, that it’s ok for things to get tough, for things to hurt and for things to seem impossible. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes it is fun to do the impossible.
And running has felt impossible lately. I really wanted to get going after our run on the 1st January but then it got really icy and I just don’t do ice. I think Covid-19 added another layer of anxiety about the possibility of slipping and hurting myself and putting pressure on medical services. I also didn’t really have any long pants that fit well. So that was another excuse not to go out in the cold. I ordered a bigger pair of Alpkit Koulin Trail tights and they arrived the other day so no excuse there anymore. I’ve been doing my Body Coach App workouts so I wasn’t as worried about not running as I might have been but still, I wanted to be able to go out and enjoy running again. So today, with the ice mostly gone and the roads definitely clear I decided I wanted to try my 2 mile run in spite of not having done any of my runs during the week. Kath came with me. The first mile is all downhill so I decided I would see if I could run it all. I did give myself permission to change my mind though. But I didn’t need to. The first mile felt lovely. I didn’t feel like I was taking it easy as such but I also didn’t feel like I was pushing the pace. I was just running. It was almost exactly a 12 minute mile. It’s been a long time since I have run that mile in that time.
After the first mile I was just going to turn round and run/walk back up the hill but the road was quite busy so we kept going to run a loop instead and dropped into run/walk intervals of 30 seconds each. I managed the intervals to the bottom of the proper hill and walked up that while Kath ran up and had a rest at the top and then we ran home on the intervals. The last bit was quite tough but I just kept thinking about that marathon and the fact that I only had another couple of minutes, not another hour or more to go. If I could get myself through ESPN Wide World of Sport and finish from there, I can do another couple of 30 second intervals. It worked and I am very happy to have run today.