29 September 2013.
The sign was not clear. A marshal repeated his mantra “half marathon straight on, marathon to the left.”
I heard my mum say it was fine to finish the half marathon.
Despite the pain I had eliminated that option before the race.
I took the turn, away from the crowds.
Away from the finish line.
Away from my comfort zone.
I stopped to use a port-a-loo. My legs stiffened as I descended into the country park. A large lake appeared. I was to run three quarters of it.
An ambulance soon passed me, forcing me and other runners onto the grass. My calves were so tight I was reduced to jogging and walking. My muscles threatened to cramp.
The sports drinks and water did nothing to help.
When I caught up with the ambulance a runner was sitting on the grass, his race finished.
I knew it could be my fate.
I had to dig deep to keep moving forward. I tried to count seconds to establish a rhythm but I could not concentrate for long.
I started to doubt myself. I feared I would not finish in the allocated time and be disqualified. I was unaware of the cut-off time and could not work out what my projected time would be. The mile markers were also further than my Garmin recorded.
I continued along the River Trent, passing people enjoying the sun.
Every step was another shock to my body.
I soon had to squeeze through pedestrians and marshals as I went over the final bridge.
My mood worsened as I felt the race would never finish.
Yet I sprinted the last metres to the line. The fatigue was tangible as I forced back tears.
Fear got me through the race. Fear of the unknown. Fear of letting myself down, and my family who supported me. Fear that I may need a medic to take me to the finish.
Fear also got me to the start line. I had imagined running a marathon for some time and I worried I would never achieve it. I had forced myself to enter the race a month prior; evidence that I was unsure of the challenge.
I had convinced myself that with less training I ran better. But I was wrong.
It was my greatest achievement to date because I used all my mental resolve to overcome severe physical discomfort. I reminded myself I had chosen this, that I wanted to run because I enjoyed it, despite the pain.
Best of all I learnt a great deal about the person I am.