The night before your first Marathon

On Sunday a Twitter friend of mine is going to run her first Marathon in Florida. Following her tweets describing her preparation has brought back all the wonderful memories of training for and completing my first Marathon in London almost a year ago. The motivation, anxieties and excitement of the occasion were captured in this blog post that I wrote the night before I ran. I hope it helps to inspire my friend and everyone who is running their first Marathon on Sunday.

This was originally posted on 20th April 2012

“Every journey has a beginning and this journey started on the streets of Camberley, a town in Surrey, where as an 11-year-old I would run around the town centre on errands for my Mother. I ran because it got me where I was going faster and I enjoyed it. In my teens and twenties I ran because I found I could compete. And now I am a born again runner whose love for the sport has never been greater. I am a runner. Not because I have a certificate that says I am. I am a runner because I run and I run because I love it.

I also run for another reason. I run because I can. Time has taught me not to presume this is my right. None of us know what is round the corner. My Father, once a proud and charismatic man, sits in a nursing home surrendering to the onset of dementia. My beautiful 11-year old niece suffers with Chrone’s disease and faces days of constant pain. My Wife is asthmatic and struggles to draw breath every day. My friend Phil will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair after a tragic car accident. What wouldn’t these people give for this gift I take for granted.

Each of the 35,000 runners who start Sunday’s London Marathon will have their own motivation for taking part. Some are driven by the will to win, some by the clock, some to help causes close to their hearts and for many it is simply about challenging themselves. The London Marathon has given me the opportunity to challenge many things in my life. That I am still athletic. That I can still take on a challenge. Some would call it a mid-life crisis – I would call it one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. But most of all it has allowed me to prove to myself that I won’t be complacent and take my gift for granted; that I will not let age be a barrier; that I will not let time be an excuse, but that I will make the most of the gift I have because I can.

Standing on the start line on Sunday will be a group of people bonded by this incredible event. A group of people who have committed themselves, in some cases to the point of obsession, to achieving their goal. They have lost count of the times they have risen from their beds in the dark to train while most people slept. They have run hundreds of miles braving Arctic temperatures and all kinds of weather. They have spent countless hours on long lonely runs. Only they will understand how much of a challenge this has been. Only they will know that the bravery of the Marathon runner isn’t about crossing the finish line, it is about having the courage to conquer the fear of standing on the start line. And above all they will understand that Sunday’s London Marathon isn’t about the 26.2 miles that a million spectators will see, but about the hundreds of miles they haven’t seen.

My London Marathon journey has been far harder than I ever imagined it would be. But is has also been the experience of a lifetime. I wouldn’t have missed a moment of what has gone so far. Yet the hardest part is to come. As a continuous endurance event, I have no doubt that my 26.2 mile run on Sunday will be one of the toughest things I have done. As I run beyond 18 miles and into the unknown, I don’t doubt that my spirit will be challenged and I will need to find something that I haven’t had to find at any stage in my training. But at that moment I will remind myself of every step I have taken reach this point. I will think of those people I have listed above, draw on the inspiration that their determination gives me and remind myself that I run because I can and I run because I love it.

Tomorrow I am going to run the Virgin London Marathon.”

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5 responses to “The night before your first Marathon

  1. Reblogged this on afleetfrancie and commented:
    Thank you so much Peter for sharing this with me and everyone else who is running this their first full marathon. As you eloquently described it, the fear the would be marathoner must conquer is to stand on the starting line! I am ready for tomorrow!

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  2. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation leading up to your first marathon. I think your post captured a lot of how I felt before my first, too. Thinking about it now just gets me more excited for my upcoming race!*

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  3. Hello Peter, I hope you won’t mind if I mention, apropos of your little niece, my daughter who had years of gut misery with colitis/crohns. The doctor was no help, not a clue, buscopan was only a slight help. It calmed for some years using home remedies but came back in her teens. I switched her to lactose free dairy products, by way of experiment, and that’s been the end of it for the last three years, I wished I had done it before. It’s such an easy adjustment for grocery shopping. Now, she can have normal dairy products containing lactose now and then, and get away with it, no pain. Perhaps this has been tried already for your niece. If not, I hope it helps. It was my husband who pointed this blog out to me, your father was the commandant of the School of Ordnance when he was a young officer. He says he’ll email you a pic from 1974 if you’d like. His name’s Don Hazeldine.

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    • Thank you for the comment Katie and the kind tips. I will certainly pass them on to my sister who will be most grateful. What a small world that your husband was at the school when my Father was there. I remember that time well – I was about 12-13 at the time. Sadly my Father died last year at the ripe old age of 86. He remembers his time at Deepcut extremely fondly. It may have been the highlight of his long Army career. I would love to see a photo. My email is pwhent at yahoo.co.uk.

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