The time of my life: Deciding to run that first 10km
Emily Glen: ‘We sign up again and again, in the quest for better, faster, longer’
Emily Glen presents Fair Game, a podcast focusing on Irish sportswomen.
The Time of My Life is a weekly column about a moment that changed someone’s life – for the better or the worse
One average weekday about 10 years ago, I signed up to run the Mini Marathon. After college, I wasn’t a runner, I was barely a walker. I’d become more accustomed to sitting hunched over a laptop than anything else. But I made the mistake of telling a friend, who said she’d do it with me and sure enough, for the sake of my ego if nothing else, then I had to actually run the thing. I downloaded a programme off the internet and managed my first 10km. My friend is one of these “naturally fit” people who does the odd park run once or twice a year, but I was hooked.
I think one thing runners have in common is an eternal optimism – “if I had just done X, then I could shave Y minutes off my time”. We feed ourselves these stories and sign up again and again, in the quest for better, faster, longer.
A couple of years later, I signed up for my first half marathon. Clontarf, I was told, was ideal because it’s flat and easy enough to get to. Exactly two hours after I set off, with a medal around my neck and a jam donut in my hand, I thought if it wasn’t so hot then I would definitely have made it under 2 hours. So I signed up again, and again.
Then came my first marathon, a long slog around Longford in early August. If you’re the type to read books with titles like Eat and Run or Run or Die then you’ll be familiar with a thing called “Runner’s High”, a fabled state of zen that is the perfect state of elation and exhaustion. That was my experience in Longford, just the feeling of being completely peaceful.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and I was among a couple of hundred runners who were lined up at the start of the Forest Ultramarathon in Portumna. A 50km race which would see runners do 10 laps around a flat 5km course, tracing a trail through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful countryside Ireland has to offer. More important than the finisher’s medal was that feeling of being thoroughly at home, completely gathered up inside.
Almost a year later, as a birthday present, I bought myself a trip to the South Downs National Park in England to run in the Serpent Trail Ultra Trail Marathon. Over 50km of rambling trails, overlooked by a treetop canopy and then straight into beating sunshine, through wild fields dodging grazing cows and then into woodland hills where wild ferns grazed your shins. I loved every single step, it was serene and calm and completely freeing. And I was the 16th female finisher to boot.
It’s a niche sport, ultramarathon running. There is no county final or trips to the national stadium, and most races are through obscure country or mountainside. It’s the pursuit of endurance. When you get to a place that you thought was your limit, and you keep going, it’s proof that you’re stronger than you thought, that you can achieve something you didn’t think you could, that the limits of your endurance are further away than you thought.
Emily Glen presents Fair Game, a podcast focusing on Irish sportswomen