Near the end of the marathon I am a total maniac, as my soul separates

At the finish line no one knows it took me more than an hour longer than I’d forecast

A perfect day: Daniel Stewart

A perfect day: Daniel Stewart

 

The 2018 marathon playlist:
1. The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary.
2. Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy.
3. Lou Reed – A Perfect Day.

Driving down into the clay pit, wicked weather flexes monstrous muscles. Winds wail, rain spews and still vested joggers mill about and chatter excitedly about what is to come. From the dryer, warmer side of the car window, I am struck by humanity’s madness.

I embarked upon a challenge: to allow just three months to train for a three-hour marathon - the Eden Marathon in Cornwall. Even before the announcer mentions flash floods, a wooden bridge that might be in use and the small mountain that must be crested, I know this will remain as an ambition.

Then again, Icarus flew too close to the sun, and no one can blame him for that.

Cruising but holding back, gravity is on my side on the first downhill mile. It feels good, awakening an energy when one feels they can give more but don’t need to.

On to the first clay trail.

[Three minutes, 17seconds into track 1]

“…heyy yeeaahh! heyy yeaaahh…”

Dodging stones, puddles, tree roots, I am Daniel Craig in Layer Cake. Cruising, not in a sensible RS6 but on two feet, up Helman Tor. Floating from reality, I look down on myself, ascending the Tor.

I imagine myself smiling.

Tumbling down the other side, I’m on to a nature-themed monorail: uneven marshy greenery surrounds a narrow boggy trench, filled with weeks of rainfall.

Continuing to smile, perspective starts to flicker. A realist’s sour view starts to leak into dilated eyes, from a lightening head. No runners in front or behind, I am alone. Cornish countryside’s deathly silence begins to dissolve into … synthesisers?

“De-dum, de-dum-dum,
de-dum, de-dum-dum…”

Seeping through sodden hedges, sung by passing trees. Daniel Craig is dead. He was a hallucination. Is this an imagining also?

“…runaway, turn away, runaway, turn away, runaway…”

Grasping on to sanity, I learn the Bronski boys sing from a drinks station jukebox. Slopping water in and around my mouth, I enter the twenties of my Eden Project Marathon, with mind still in my control.

“Just a perfect day…”

Mile one tumbled into two, making three zoom on to five. But in marathons the odometer always sticks. At Eden mile 22 did not come, but 21.1, .15, .2…

Descending towards Eden’s Biomes and finish; crumbling roads gnaw at shoe soles; dragging them closer to the ground, slowing down time.

“You just keep me hanging on,
you just keep me hanging on…”

I am humbled

The end can be smelled but not seen. Now a total maniac, my soul separates: I witness an empty runner following spinning paths to the finish, a sight to bring me back to childhood, following a coin down spiralled lines into the black hole at the bottom of a donation box. Where did that generosity really go to, was it any use?

Passing parents and girlfriend metres before the finish, just present to see me on this stretch, I am humbled. Welcomed to the finish with a valiant cheer, none of the crowd knows who I am. A handful may have read my diaries, but no one will know this inept hooligan completing the course in four hours six minutes is the same scoundrel who has spent the past three months writing about how he is to complete it in three. They cheer, regardless.

Medalled and moved on, I perch on a grassy verge, alone. Looking up at the sky, transformed to a perfect blue from the morning grey, grass tickles filthy, exhausted legs. Oscillating cheers of a phenomenal finish-line crowd resonate around the site.

Closing eyes, I absorb the fact that I have just conquered the feat only my mind was telling me I couldn’t do.

“You’re going to reap just what you sow … ”

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
Part 8: I am a total maniac, as my soul separates

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