I’ve never done this before. About a month ago, I ran a virtual half-marathon and finally achieved my goal of getting the time under two hours. I even won the women’s race, which surprised me. I’m usually middle-of-the-pack, and there’s usually plenty of women in my age grade who’re much faster than me. Plus, it wasn’t even a graded race. I had six men faster than me, probably those kind of lean, leggy guys who run like gazelles.
Anyway. Since then I’ve been thinking I might be ready for a marathon.
I nearly didn’t sign up. The window for sign-ups was 24 hours, with limited places for the race next year. Depression has been making decision-making hard, and there was this other thing: it’s on my 43rd birthday.
First thing: I’ve got no idea what the world is going to be like one year from now. Zombie dinosaurs could easily have taken over, or we could be run by a cabal of internet cats. We might not be running marathons any more but chasing down our food with spears.
ANYWAY. I signed up for the marathon.
I’ve got this thing about birthdays, too. Since I stopped drinking altogether, birthdays have been this weird cultural no-man’s land. If you drink, birthdays are easy. You go out with some friends and drink. Or you stay in with some friends and drink.
If you don’t drink, that gets boring.
A few years ago, I decided instead of trying to conform to social expectations, I’d do something I really wanted to do each birthday. One year we went to Knowsley Safari Park so I could look at the animals. This year we’re going to do Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Next year, I’m running my first marathon.
I got more confident about distance because T bought me one of those special vests. Once I could carry enough water with me, I felt safer going out for longer.
Thing is, I haven’t figured out food yet. I run my half-marathons fasted, and I don’t eat anything when I’m out there. The idea of eating food on a run is still weird to me. I can’t have gels because they’re packed with sugar, and I don’t eat sugar.
So far, I’ve run as far as 18 miles fasted, using only water with a hydration tablet. I’m going to have to work out all the details as I go along. Marathons are that first distance where you really have to start thinking about extra things. Like whether you need to take a picnic lunch.
You know you’re also supposed to tell the organisers how long you think you’ll take? There’s a whole calculation you can do to figure out how long you think you’re going to take. If you do a half-marathon in just under two hours, then you add some numbers and take some numbers away and then you say “Oh, I can do this in about four and a half hours.”
I mean, I love half-marathons. It’s a great distance. You run for a couple of hours, watch the scenery go by and listen to an audiobook. Currently: Russian political history. So if I run by you, saying “He did WHAT?” then that’s why.
ANYWAY. I said five hours because while I feel ready for a marathon, I’m not that confident to think I can do it in that kind of time. Four and a half hours is a long time to be on your feet trundling along, even if you’re listening to a really good audiobook.
Also, I picked the Manchester Marathon because I don’t have to travel to it. I once did a really stupid thing and entered the ballot for the London Marathon, without ever thinking logistical thoughts like: How will I get there? Where will I stay? How will I cope running with three million other people when I’m not even comfortable with three people normally.
I’m really, really glad I didn’t get through the ballot because back then I was very sick and could never have handled trains and hotels and London Underground and that many human beings.
It’s not perfect. Basically if you live in the UK travelling three hundred miles to somewhere else often takes less time than getting across the city you live in. The start isn’t that far from home but we gave up the car after lockdown, but we still have to get two buses.
Also also, I say “we” but this is a “me” thing. I talked to T about it before I signed up and he said it was up to me what I did with my birthday. He just has to stand there and cheer. I’m the one who decided I wanted to spend my birthday running for five hours. I’m probably going to regret this later, but hey, at least I have some kind of plan for next year: mostly running.