‘I’m never doing a marathon again’

Blotting out the pain and physical and mental exhaustion post-marathon seems to be the main reason I continue to do them

Daniel Stewart: “Marathons: why do I do them?”

Daniel Stewart: “Marathons: why do I do them?”

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“What’s so funny?”

In the midst of professing my plan of attack for the Eden Project Marathon, my girlfriend’s giggle soaks away the conversation.

For a moment, she gives her sides a rest: “Do you not remember what you said after the last one?”

Dublin Marathon, 2017. Five miles in, motoring along. The three-hour-marathon pacer a distant pea behind. I steamroll over every incline with ferocious determination. Fellow runners are magnets: attractive on approach, repellent once passed. I smile at the thought of my father, absorbed in his smartphone, but bewildered at the live splits the screen confesses to him.

I’m doing him proud. I’m doing myself proud. A mental note is recorded so I know to focus on the sheer ecstasy of this moment when writing my Irish Times post-marathon article.

Fifteen miles later, the note is promptly filed and buried into my mind, forever.

Should I walk? I don’t think I should walk. But I do want to walk.

I’m boiling and I wish I had some water to pour over my head – I do have water! It’s in my hand, but not my control. My arms are by my side and they’re staying there.

Where am I? What am I doing? Just keep going. Don’t walk . . .

Before utter delirium sets in, I spy a portaloo to my left. Bundling in, all effort is invested in keeping myself upright within the enclosed space. Rancid smells of pain, plastic and waste look up from the floor of the cubicle. Heart, eyes and lungs thump, pop and heave, desperate to crawl out of my body and into a more sedative, relaxing one.

Failing the core use of the cubicle, I work towards pepping myself up to run the remaining five miles to the finish, but in reality, it translates to a caveman language of slurs and belches.

Now Neanderthal, I fall out of the cubicle to hobble to the bitter end of my Dublin Marathon. Trees, buildings, people, cheer me on the excruciating flat of the Northumberland Road, but it’s all just noises and colours and the white line of the middle of the road.

In reality, soon after, but in experience, utter centuries, I complete the marathon.

Riddled with land mines

The finish area is riddled with land mines: bodies are everywhere, groaning, exploding and collapsing as the marathon effort finally takes them. I wait for my girlfriend and parents to find me, ignorant to the hordes of people, most likely doing the same, totally compromising this rationale.

Slumped against a gate, I am robbed of all sanity. I am utterly and completely, mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.

Miraculously, they discover me. And after congratulations, I recall the line that all her current laughter stems from: “I’m never doing a marathon again.”

If perspective was my child, it would soon grow into a hateful, destructive teenager after a childhood devoid of care, love and acknowledgement.

During marathons, perspective is not only the uneaten greens on my dinner plate, they are the vegetables which will never be uprooted from the earth. Blotting it out post-marathon seems to be the main reason why I continue to participate in them.

But, why? Impatience? Exhilaration? Or simply to give me something to write in these Marathon Diaries?

On October 14th, I will be clambering up and down Cornwall’s dramatic clay country in the Eden Project Marathon. Three months ago, I started with the ambition of finishing the feat in three hours, but now I find myself begging to complete it.

I hope I won’t require any TED talks in the toilet.

In the next entry, we will find out.

Part 1: 3 months for a 3-hour marathon
Part 2: Sweat and suffering
Part 3: Ale was the only answer
Part 4: Back-end of a donkey
Part 5: ‘Ice baths! Take plenty’
Part 6: Laugh about it
Part 7: Never again

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