26.2 "An affair to remember"

Why we love the Marathon distance :-)

It all started sometime ago when a colleague of mine asked, "Do you fancy popping over to Rotterdam and running the marathon?" and my response was quick and simply, "Why not?"

To be honest it's a long distance and you must respect the distance! Because if you do not, you will come to realise those 26.2 miles will swallow you up and make sure you feel the #pain and #hurt

So why did I jump on the 26.2 running train?

My running journey began in 2008 when I decided to train for a local 10km run after deciding that I had enough with football and getting injured all the time! What started as a little challenge to run under 50 minutes soon became a passion and I began to want more from my running journey. I loved the sense of belonging to a sport that only required a pair of trainers, a bit of clothing and whole lotta heart. Oh and the challenge of running against yourself and the dreaded stopwatch!

In my first 10km I surprised even myself and knocked out a 45 minute time coming quite high up in the field which left me hungry for more. In the following years I soon started to sample the longer distances, first the 10 miler and then the much talk about half-marathon distance whilst being part of the successful Salford Harriers Club - here I made good friends, gained more confidence and began to run much quicker with designated sessions specific to running development. Fast forward to 2010 and Rotterdam was on the horizon, I remember the initial registration process of signing up and paying online - at the time this was one of the hardest and most fearful things I was about to do; all I could think about was, "Shiiiiiiiiiiiit, this just got real".

The week before. SHit! The day before. SHit Shit! The morning of the race. SHit SHit SHit!!! I can tell you now, the nerves, the countless toilet trips and the butterflies in the stomach sensation were all too consuming but coupled that with the excitement and anticipation of the achievement that was to come and the adrenaline I was more than pumped and ready to go.

The first 10 miles of the race were a blur as I was trying to hold back and maintain the pace I had been working on in training. Come halfway and just after 13 miles I started to experience cramping in my stomach - could this be a stitch or the likelihood I needed a poo? I can now confirm that latter is true and maybe my choice of breakfast did not help (I'll be honest I struggled to digest anything substantial due to nerves).

I got to 20 miles feeling as good as I could have expected and knew the real part of the marathon was about the start. Next mile in and I was limping with cramp in my right calf #SHit I managed to get through the next 2 miles with a limp run taking on as much fluids and nutrition as possible to make sure I was topping up on my energy levels. The crowds for the final miles were unbelievably motivating and made the final miles less about the pain and more about the accomplishment of running 26.2 miles. That final 400m stretch to the finish was one of the most emotional charged experiences to date and I knew then that this was the start of the love affair with the 26.2 distance.

I've had the pleasure of running this distance a fair few times now and I can safely say it never gets easier, but it's the 'training process' that I enjoy and the chance to pit yourself against a variety of training sessions whilst measuring your ability/effort to want to improve.

Fast forward a further 9 marathons (some completed in the Ironman distance), good for age timing, personal bests, disappointments, reflections and a diagnosed medical condition unbeknown to me has left me wanting to embrace the 26.2 distance again. So.......Manchester 2021 here I come. An October marathon means only 1 thing - the chance to train over the summer. Lighter nights, more vitamin D and more time during the summer holidays to train as and when required can increase my chances of running another PB in the Autumn.

"Remember don't let the fear stop you from running and racing the 26.2 distance, take a leap of faith and you never know, it might start the love affair you never knew existed!"

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