Only days left until the third Tralee International Marathon, and all the work is done now. It will also be my third time running it, and, if I manage to avoid injury between now and Sunday, will be my first time doing it uninjured – last year I ran it with a dislocated hip bone (ouch!) and the year before I had a slightly less serious knee injury (but I was a lot less fit, and it was my first marathon!).
I really look forward to Tralee, as, not only is it my hometown marathon, but it was also the first marathon I ran, and little did I know, as I suffered and cursed my way through that first one, that it would kick off a love affair with distance running that only gets stronger as I go on.
I hated every moment of my first marathon – I hated the training, I hated the short runs, I hated the long runs even more, and I hated pretty much every mile of the marathon itself. I couldn’t understand what kind of masochists did this stuff for enjoyment. I struggled in last and forlorn in my training group on every long run, and was in constant pain, even when I wasn’t running. Every week threw up a new muscle to strain, and I would have to crawl out of the car and into an epsom salts bath after I had run any distance. My knees, feet, hips, and toes were sore all the time. On the day of the marathon itself, I felt like crap from early on, and spent most of the race on my own, my training group having gone far ahead and out of sight. Many times I considered quitting. The only thing that got me to the line was the knowledge that my sons were waiting to see me finish, and I feared letting them see me as a quitter more than I feared going on. That, and the thought that, as soon as I finished this, I would go home, burn my runners, and never, ever, run again.
When I eventually got to the finish line, 6 hours and 3 minutes after I started, I collapsed into the arms of one of the Red Cross medics.
Then I went home and signed up for another marathon. I’ve been running them since, with a couple of ultramarathons thrown in for good measure. It’s like one of those awful Hollywood romantic comedies, where the two stars hate each other, but you know they are going to end up falling in love.
I don’t know when I went from hating running to loving it – it didn’t happen in some sudden, Eureka moment, though it did happen quite quickly. I think it was when I started to train for my second marathon, and I began to get a little bit fitter, and a little bit quicker, so that I ran with people instead of behind them. I started to see the runs as a challenge rather than something to be endured, and finishing them in a decent time as an achievement in itself. But it was when I trained for my first ultra that I really began to love running. My form improved, and the pain of the long runs went. I began to feel like a real runner rather than a pretender, and my whole outlook changed. Now running is a big part of my life, and something that I truly love doing.
I hope that many of those who run their first marathon in Tralee next Sunday come to feel the same way.