2015 was shaping up to be the year I’d give a marathon a crack. Except my hip cracked.
Eight weeks into the 16-week training program I got a stress fracture which dropped a full stop to my plan. Regular running sessions were replaced with remedial pilates, weird massages, and lots of sitting.
All healed in 2016, I had a choice of races in front of me. I targeted the Perth Marathon in June, kickstarted my training and was ready to go when the day came around.
Setting out, I was well accompanied. I set off with my RunClub friend, Steve, at the start and was met early on in the race by our running coach, Simon, who offered pointers, wisdom and encouragement. At 15 kilometres we collected a random fellow runner; he wedged himself between us and settled in for the journey.
As I entered went passed 30 kilometres, another RunClub friend sprung forth from the sidelines to join me as things got more gritty. Up to 33 kilometres, things had gone well. Then my head started to struggle. Denying the sweet temptation to break into a short walk was one of the toughest mental battles I’d experienced. Every fibre within me was protesting against my need to run. My body searched my brain for any logic or productive reason it could cling to justify the turning of my legs. Few were forthcoming.
Sometime after that, a haze set in while I remember a growing thirst. My vision got a little dark and I hit the deck at the 37km mark, 5 kilometres short of the finish line. It was a bit messy. I was a little disappointed.
A day later, Simon suggested we run the remaining distance together. The proposition was to close the gap on the pesky 5kms I never saw. To finish the thing. We’d follow the same course and reach the finish line. We did it that week. It was a sweet feeling.
Three months later I gave the full distance another go. No organised event was scheduled, but a normal Saturday morning at RunClub was earmarked.
The morning was still and the sun had just risen as I left Burswood and started to run. I contemplated the chunky time of solitude ahead and was grateful that my body was giving me another go. Or at least it had forgotten about what went down last time.
About 1500 meters in, I saw the figures of four men running towards me. Getting closer, four became eight. Most of them, in white, were dominating the footpath. As I positioned myself to get around them, the pack suddenly changed direction. I jumped in fright and looked up. The angelic hosts were friends!
Through an instigator spreading the word, my RunClub crew settled in beside me. We ran together for 21 kilometres – commonplace for many of those blokes on a Saturday. We chatted about common lessons gained from our running experiences and I shared what hindsight had revealed from my original marathon attempt. I continued alone and was later met by another friend who had been planted at the Narrows Bridge to meet me as I entered the last chunk of the run. My spirits had momentarily waned, but his company was invigorating.
Throughout the marathon distance, conversation, drinks and pacing had been coordinated. Finishing, I felt strong and light. My original marathon errors were corrected with regular hydration and a tighter control over my pacing with the help of those around me.
As I reached the finish, expecting nothing at all, I was met by cheering children and adults stretching out a homemade finishing ribbon. One of them presented me with doctored medal and hang it around my neck.
If something was warm and fuzzy, this was it!
When I’m asked about my best runs, it’s these two events that get the nod.
What overwhelms my thoughts above any hardship, failure or achievement is the warmth and community I knew in action on those two days.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I love that my God is the original giver of endurance and encouragement and that His supply is endless. In Him, I can run and live, filled with hope, and do it alongside people. And in Him, I can return the favour that I experienced so assuredly in my first marathons.
This weekend, the same race is on. I was on the sidelines, cheering away.
I’m thankful to everyone who helped me realised my goal. It was blimmin’ great and I’m very thankful!