The Quick Decision
Steve phones out of the blue and tells me he’s got a place in this year’s New York Marathon via his work if he wants it. Would I want to do it too? Completely un-Andy-like, I make a snap decision and agree. Before I know it, I’m looking on the web to see the best way to get in. Within two days, I’m booked and confirmed. Do I know what I’ve let myself in for?
I made the decision because I wanted a challenge. With most of my life just ticking over as normal and nothing much on the horizon, this could be something to kick start me. Also, it’s a great time to commit to something like this, in all but work. I didn’t know whether I could really do it, but was about to find out.
After researching schedules, getting new gear, dusting down the treadmill that had once promised a new fitness regime, it was time to put one foot in front of the other and get down to business. How far could I push it and how soon?
My shins spend two weeks in constant pain after a three mile run on concrete. Confidence is shattered and I feel hopeless, useless and pathetic. The road to 26.2 miles stretches out before me like a poisonous snake, haven taken its first bite and leaving me scurrying off to lick my wounds.
Recovery and strengthening
The frustration of rest flows into the relief of recovery. Little by little I make my comeback and start to feel like a proper runner. Soon, I’m clocking sixes and even an eight with a bad hangover from an indulgent night out in Cambridge. With months to go, I’m looking good.
My optimism lies shattered around me as I can only hold to a few small shards of hope. One hard run led me to knee problems that I cannot shake. Weeks fly by but the pain lingers. I watch friends with envy as they take up running, turning down numerous requests to join them. I feel the doubt surround me, suffocate me. Sponsors hesitate, family and friends look on with understanding in their eyes, almost waiting for the inevitable. I will not quit, though, and stand defiant. I see two specialists and a doctor and I start my exercise regime. Alcohol: none shall pass my lips until the marathon is done. I dig deep and believe. Slowly, I am rewarded.
My new schedule is strong and so am I. Weekly mileage ticks into twenties then thirties. I pound the dark, leafy streets on my own with the moon high and breath misty. I recite my mantra and push on and on. A half marathon brings clenching fists and defiant yells. The snake will be tamed.
I learn to run through pain, and pile on further exercises. The race is coming too soon, though. Only fifteen is reached, and that at a struggle. If only for more time! A practise race, and the preparation is almost done. New York looms as I stride around with an air of confidence to lure in more sponsors. Bet on me – this boy doesn’t quit, you know.