If you’ve ever watched a marathon, you know there’s something magical about 26.2.
It’s the stride of the winner, cruising down the finishing strait, looking like they’ve barely broken a sweat. It’s the kids on the sideline, willing someone to give them a high five. It’s the person you see trying to run that last hill, and never, ever giving in.
Inspired, this year, you’ve got your spot, and you’re going to be doing it. Running a marathon.
Hours go into standing on that start line. In the thousands of feet waiting to run, are thousands of miles, already been run.
Thousands of early mornings. Thousands of skipped Friday night drinks. Thousands of Sundays given over to ‘the long run’.
You’re now the runner, standing, waiting for the starter to let you go, and you can’t help but think back to those sacrifices, and how you know so much can happen in 26.2 miles. You can’t help but worry you’ve not done your shoe laces up properly, or that your gels have fallen out of your pocket.
Then the start gun goes, and there’s a surge forward. Unless you’re right on the start line, you’ll probably gently edge your way to the start, smiling at those around you and rubbing your arms with nerves. But suddenly you’re over the line and away… you’re doing it! Those first miles will seem like you’re in a dream; all you can do is grin and think ‘I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!’ Quickly 5KM comes (a Parkrun), then 10 miles, and, suddenly, you’re at half way and you’re ever so nearly there.
The next few miles will feel a bit harder – this is where you might need those ‘high fives’ or to ‘touch here for power’. You’ll take those jelly babies from kindly strangers you’d been ignoring and have to check your Garmin that you’re not dropping the pace. Here’s where you’ll really soak up the cheers, and someone cheering your name will spur you on to push that little bit harder. The 20 mile marker looms, and you’re in uncharted territory… you’ve never run further than this before. But you know you can do it. Only 10KM left, and you’ve worked so hard to cross this point.
The miles will now get further apart, and the water stations with their ever cheerful volunteers more welcome. People will start walking around you, looking tired and like they have had enough. But you’re going to be OK. You know you just need to keep moving forward. Even if it’s slower, you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As you start nearing the finish, you can feel the crowds getting deeper, and more welcome than ever.
23 miles. Just a parkrun to go. You can do this. You calculate how long you know it takes you to run 5KM and you know you have got this. Still the crowds get louder and runners around you start to pick up the pace again, will smiles on their tired faces, knowing that there’s not long to go know. 25 miles – it’s all done now, you just have to get to the line. Then you can see it. Your watch ticks over into 26 miles, and there’s just that .2 to go…
And, elation. You’ve done it. You’ve done a marathon. All those miles. All that planning. All those sacrifices.
The smiling volunteer hangs that medal round your neck and you can’t help but hug them and you wonder how you’ll ever walk normally again.
You’ve felt the magic of the marathon. The magic of the human spirit and the joy of reaching a goal you’ve wanted for a long, long time.
When will you go back?