26.2 things I've learned from my first marathon
After more than 600 training miles (that’s Malin Head to Mizen Head return, almost), here goes . . .
1 A tiger cub’s gestation period is 16 weeks. This is the same amount of time it took me to drag my gluteus maximus out four times a week just to tick something off the old bucket list.
2 Stick to the training plan. I can safely say, hand on heart, I didn’t miss even one of the (rest) days and am an expert at carb loading (on a daily basis).
3 Crowd support really does make you go faster, particularly when alone on dark nights when supporting crowds drink flagons of cider on the boardwalk and hurl words of “encouragement” at you.
4 Pacing/stalking – what’s the difference? When else can you chase men for miles on end, while breathing heavily, and (usually) they don’t call the cops?
5 Wogging. Before training for this marathon, my only experience of “running” was either for the bus or the last round. I’ve now found my “race pace”, which I’d like to call “wogging” – somewhere between walking and jogging.
6 If I can do it, anyone can do it. I am more couch potato than skinny fry.
7 My womb did not fall out, despite someone saying it might happen. The ole baby maker is still in full working order.
8 Black toenails are like little badges of honour – and black toenail polish is an essential investment for any holidays/ weddings that are scheduled three months before the marathon.
9 Never apply fake tan the night before a race, unless the look you are going for is white “go faster stripes” down the side of your legs to complement your black toenail polish at that family wedding.
10 Body parts that should not be exposed to chafing can, and will, chafe. Along with black toenail polish, Vaseline should be a girl’s best friend.
11 Running does not make you thin. Instead it’s like having tapeworm with an insatiable appetite. Who knew that chowing down on chocolate bars after a 16-mile run could make you put on weight?
12 The word “undulating” should NEVER be used to describe a race route. When I looked it up (AFTER the torturous hilly event), words such as “heaving” and “rippling” were suggested.
13 An Irish summer usually falls between April 1st-3rd and October 12th-14th. Wear sunscreen on those days. On all other “soft” days, wear waterproof undies. Oh, and lots of Vaseline.
14 “Come on, you can do it, you’re NEARLY there” . . . is still ringing in my ears, 20 miles in. Nearly? There’s still six (undulating) miles to go.
15 True friends will tell you the important stuff. If not, buy Ruth Field’s book Run Fat Bitch Run.
16 Drinking gels while running is likely to make the bottom fall out of your world, if you get my drift.
17 Fartlek is a real word – and it’s not what happens after trying gels out for the first time. Real runners can say it without giggling. I still can’t.
18 Get some running buddies. Misery loves company. Fellow runners are a captive audience for your rants.
19 Getaway cars. There is no graceful way to exit a Smart car after driving home from a 20-mile run.
20 Race face. 99 per cent of people manage to look all fresh-faced and happy, with perfect hair, when crossing the finish line. I, on the other hand, end up like a greased-up Quasimodo on the verge of a heart attack.
21 Visualise. Hang a picture of the route at your desk. Better still, hang the Quasimodo pic of yourself on your fridge – works wonders for the diet.
22 Maraphobia should be a recognised condition. The week before the Dublin Marathon, I avoided all red-nosed friends, children and colleagues and was one step away from sleeping in a bubble and buying a pet chimp.
23 Positive thoughts will get you through the long runs. My favourite was thinking about not dying – this was reinforced on Marathon Day with signs saying “Look Alive, Morgue Ahead”.
24 Discover new things about yourself. After 16 weeks and over 600 training miles, I discovered that I need to get a new hobby.
25 There is no “I” or “ME” in Marathon . . . but there is a NO. Practise saying it so you are ready next time someone suggests you sign up for one.
26 Stay hydrated. You will need it for all the tears of pain and relief shed at the finish line!
26.2 The official distance is 26.2 miles. Never underestimate the importance of .2. On crossing the finish line, for .2 of a second I actually contemplated signing up for another one. Maybe it’s like labour – you need to forget the first time, to even contemplate a second time. If I am struck down with a bout of amnesia, I might see you all again at the start line next October.