"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, 11 March 2013

What it feels like to run a marathon...

‘I’ve only done it once, so I don’t really have a very good frame of reference’

I could be talking about anything there really couldn’t I?! If I had to guess what 6 or 7 out of every 10 people’s line of thought was I probably could, wink wink, nudge nudge. (I'm obviously talking about having 'only' run one marathon)

Anyway, as I continue to overcome my injury woes I thought I would blog about 6 things you will go through, or will go through your mind during arguably the most difficult race you’ll ever run.*

1. You will feel like every rumbling of your belly will cause you to defecate in your pants

I get nervous for 5km & 10km races, even though I know I can complete the distance. Throw in you’re about to run a distance you have never run before and nerves go through the roof… Don’t worry though, worst case scenario this happens:

And let’s be honest; ‘I finished a marathon despite having shit my pants’ (whilst totally disgusting) is…. admirable!

2. ‘This doesn’t feel too bad’

Yeah, you’re only half way there Sonny Jim… I felt great at 13 miles, I felt pretty good at 16 miles, I fell apart after 18 miles. If you feel good, appreciate it, and don’t think it’s a reason to up your pace; it will always catch up on you.

3. Men WILL wear extremely tight lycra

I’m not against men wearing lycra, it has a purpose – I wear lycra shorts underneath my running shorts to stop chaffing (plus I like the way it makes my bum look - but that’s a different issue).

From my experience male marathon runners seem to think that just because they’re running 26.2 miles it therefore means they can wear skin tight lycra pants (which by the way, will show definition of any bumps or lumps!). This in my view is uncool, I don’t want to be bending over to tie my laces only to look up and see a cling film wrapped appendage bobbing along; just no!

4. Spectators

Oh they always mean well with their clapping, ‘you’re doing great’, and ‘keep going’, let’s get this clear though… If I want to stop and stretch the calf muscle that has been cramping up every time I move faster than a shuffle for the last 3 miles I will, don’t tell me not to give up – I’m not bloody giving up am I?!

5. It will hurt

Make no mistake about it you will suffer – the amount you suffer will depend on how much training you put in… The quote ‘the more you sweat in practice the less you bleed in battle’ is definitely true when it comes to marathons.

I got cramp in my right calf after 18 miles, form then onwards it crept into every muscle in both my legs, and by trying to stretch out one muscle it would only cause another to spasm into cramp. However, looking back the memories of the pain from cramp aren’t the over-riding feeling – so accept that at times it will be very tough and you won’t go too far wrong!

6. You will feel bloody ace when it’s done

There is no feeling like having run a marathon; you will never again (until the next time at least) walk like you’ve spent a night in prison having dropped the soap in the showers (and goofily wear a medal to let all and sundry know about it!).

You will never again be able to consume 5,000+ calories in one sitting and not feel guilty about it.

You will never again breakdown in tears because you’ve completed something which has taken months of dedication, training, abstinence from drinking and eating excessively. (What? Just me?!)

On a slightly more serious note; spectators and the crowd are great, they are a huge help and they will help you at the lowest of your lows (like giving out jelly babies)… If you’re really lucky, they’ll make you carry on running no matter what and you’ll look like this:

Sex face / dying face / out of body experience / have I just shit my pants face / thank f@ck that’s the finish line face… You decide!

I feel very proud and privileged to say I have completed a marathon – in many ways the race is the easy part… You get people handing you drinks and energy gels, cheering you for running a stupidly long distance, and a nice bit of bling afterward. It’s the days, weeks and months leading up to it which are difficult; the lonely 20 milers in the pouring rain, the tempo runs in the blazing heat, the torment of injury and 'will I be able to finish?'

The decision to run a marathon should not be taken lightly; it is a massive undertaking; when I signed up for it I made a conscious decision I would prepare for it properly and put my all into it. I wanted to complete the marathon in less than three and a half hours (I ‘only’ managed less than four hours) and to not stop running at any point (I didn’t manage that either). I commend anyone who has the guts and dedication to complete a marathon no matter how long it takes – 3 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours, or 6+ hours.

You find out a lot about yourself when training for a marathon, and on the day when you are running it. It is in many ways an analogy of life; 'life is a marathon not a sprint'. Will you give up when it gets tough? Will you fight for it and make it through the tough times? Nothing worth having comes easy and if you want it, you have to work damn hard for it and earn it - there are no free rides in the marathon (or life).

*Most of the observations in this blog are tongue in cheek though have an edge of truth!!!

"In anything in life; sport, love, family, friendship, you get out exactly what you put into it... It is always better to have put too much into something, to have given your all, despite running the risk of burn out or over exposure, than be the person who is afraid to put their complete effort in for fear of failure or not wanting to stray out of their comfort zone."


  1. Fab post and I love this quote: "the more you sweat in practice the less you bleed in battle". I'll have to remember that on my last couple of long runs ...!

    1. Thanks :) I love a quote and the practice/battle one is a really good one!