It’s the night before and I’m as prepared as I’ll ever be. I am also so anxious. I am not an anxious person, I so rarely feel like this but this race has done it to me – difficulty falling asleep, occasional panicky racing heart.
Why am I so anxious? I think because I have no idea what to expect. I know it will be hard, but I don’t know how hard. I know it will hurt, but I don’t know how much. I don’t know if I can deal with it, I don’t know if I can finish.
When I ran my first marathon, it was similar but slightly different. I didn’t know what would happen after mile 18, because I’d never run farther than that. But I did know, because I’d watched marathons, that people who looked far less fit than me managed to get round. Slowly, of course, but they finished. So me finishing was never really in doubt.
This time round, I have absolutely no bloody idea. I know I don’t tend to give up easily, and that I enjoy running slowly. I know my mum will be out there supporting me and she won’t let me quit unless I’m almost dying. But I still don’t know if I can do it…….
Which brings me to my final point. Whenever I read ultra marathon tips or get advice from any one of the lovely people I know who have actually done this sort of thing, they all give the same tip: you have to really know WHY you are doing it, to keep you going when it gets tough.
And actually – I don’t know why. I don’t have that one big reason that explains everything. I laugh it off at work when someone asks me what I’m training for. The conversation tends to go a bit like this:
“I’m doing an ultra marathon”
“how far is that?”
“I’m running 50 miles.”
Silence as the person just stares at me. I laugh nervously.
“I know, it’s a bit ridiculous…..”
And that is as far as I go. But I am not sure that’s good enough – I am not sure “It’s a bit ridiculous” will get me through those last few hours (what will they feel like?! How hard will it be?! Will I be able to keep going?! I don’t know!!!). So I’ve been doing some soul searching, and here’s what I’ll keep in mind tomorrow:
– because I love being outside. I spend so much of my life indoors, at work, on public transport. And when I am outside, it’s busy roads, traffic lights and pollution. The longer I live in London (although I love it), the more I get out of those moments of difference – the views of green rather than grey, rolling hills instead of office blocks.
Running an ultra marathon is an opportunity to spend a whole day outside, in the country, in a beautiful place. So what I have to remember is that I wanted to do this. When I’m at mile 40 and it feels I’ve been outdoors forever, I just have to remember to keep looking at the views around me. That I chose to do this, I am lucky to be able to do this.
– Because I love running. I really do. When I started this process, I thought I just loved running long and slow. Now it turns out I love running fast and I like pushing myself for tempo miles and I like gasping for breath at the end of intervals and I just really enjoy the process.
– to push myself to something new. If it were easy, I wouldn’t be doing it. The thing that is making me most afraid, the unknown, is one of the reasons for doing this whole thing. To see how my mind and body react when they are completely out of their comfort zone, to (hopefully) learn that things can be hard and difficult but still enjoyable at the same time.
– for the look on people’s faces in the lifts at work when I tell them I’ve just run 50 miles 🙈