On the day my knee was feeling fine(ish) but I was very worried. Standing next to the colosseum, a few dozen rows back from the elite runners, I was thinking, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready”.
The crowd began a countdown from ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Graham and I wished eachother good luck. Four. Three. Oh shit. Go! The crowd moves hurriedly in a solid block. The three hour pace balloons shoot off into the distance as Graham and I keep pace with the 3:15 balloon.
10K goes by in 43:52 with no complaints from my knee. I’m thinking, “Holy crap, I have to keep going for another two and a half hours!”. We head past the Vatican and out towards the northern parts of the City. Graham has left me and went on ahead, I ‘decide’ to keep my pace constant – there’s a long way to go. Towards half way I see a Yellow ‘G’ getting closer and closer to me. It’s Graham! Paying for his earlier speed.
We both cross the half marathon in 1:34:51. I’m feeling okay at this point. A few miles down the road and I’m feeling shit. Lost in the running depression of, “why am I doing this to myself? I could just stop. I feel horrible. I could make it all go away so easily”.
At 25K, while I’m feeling pretty low, my left hip yelps out in pain. I stop and pull over to the side of the road. Graham stops and heads towards me, “keep going Graham, just leave me” I shout out, as if I’m in a war movie. He heads off as I stretch my leg. After a few seconds I get going again, pain-free. Weird, I think. It only took another kilometre to almost put me out the race.
At 26K my knee injury reared its ugly face. I’m passing by a first aid/water station so I stop and ask for an ice pack. Sitting on the pavement watching thousands of runners go past I feel as miserable as I’ve ever felt before (2nd place to break-up of a long relationship I’d say). After 50 minutes (that’s right FIFTY), I thought the Quitters bus would never come and get me so I began to slowly jog down to the next water station 4K away. When I get there my legs have loosened up a bit so I keep going. It’s only a teensy tiny 12.2K left to go! So I kept on going. Even at a jog I was streaming past everyone (later it turned out I’d past nearly 2000 runners on my way to the end).
At 40K the end was near and I stopped to take on some water. It was hard to get my legs going again and my knee was feeling a bit worse for wear. I revved up with a fast walk and started to run slowly. The Colosseum, at last! I crossed the line and thought, “for fuck’s sake, what was the point in that”. Three and a half months of training to achieve a pear shaped marathon. Brilliant. My final time was 4:19:31. I don’t feel like I’ve run a marathon. I’ve raced 26K, taken a large siesta, then jogged 16K. Two entirely separate runs linked by the fact that I wore the same sweaty gear and did them on the same day.
In the muster/exit area after I’d received my medal and thermal tinfoil blanket I found a flatbed truck to sit on the back of. By ‘sit’ I mean ‘collapse backwards onto’. My legs had ceased to function. After fifteen minutes I shuffled slowly back to my hotel to meet the more successful of my marathon companions. Oh well, next time…