I run a bit. I say a bit, I mean every day, a lot of miles. But still, I’m not a proper runner. I never stretch or warm up, my trainers are falling to bits and when it rains, I stick my iPod up my sleeve so it doesn’t get wet because I don’t have a proper waterproof iPod cover thing that you can strap to your rippling bicep. So when I entered the Edinburgh Marathon at 2:27am on New Year’s Day, drunkenly, on my iPhone, because someone else at the party was running the marathon too, I knew a hilarious blog post was in the making. Sort of.
My training in the run up to the marathon consisted of doing exactly what I always do, nothing more, nothing less. This is: run 7 miles every day, the exact same route, at the exact same speed. This is a terrible routine and doesn’t prepare you for the trauma you put your body through when you run 26.2 miles, so don’t bloody do it, ok? What you’re actually meant to do is a proper, structured training programme for months before the race. You know – switching between a long run, a short run; fast run and a slow run; proper days off. Also, you’re meant to eat a good balanced diet, with plenty of low GI carbohydrates for energy and plenty of protein to repair your damaged muscles.
I really did mean to carb-load the week leading up to the marathon, and I meant to not drink at all. Instead, I just ate lot of Haribo, and because the week leading up to the marathon was that beautiful, mental week of sunshine and scorching temperatures hotter than sodding St Tropez, this meant that I was pretty hammered on Tuesday, Wednesday, and a bit tipsy on Friday and Saturday, the day before the run. I don’t even drink that much usually, so this meant that for the week leading up to the marathon, I was dehydrated and fairly hungover, yet continuously topping myself up. Perfect. Oh, and I kept running every day, even though you’re supposed to “taper off” at least a week before the run so you don’t, you know, fuck up your body entirely. Again, don’t do this.
My lovely chum drove me through to Edinburgh on the Saturday and let me stay with her and her parents, who fed me fajitas, G&Ts and on Sunday morning, some marathon-recommended museli. I was a bag of nerves that morning. “Is that really wise?” my qualified doctor friend asks warily as I knock back the Imodium Plus like they’re jelly beans, convinced I’m going to do a Paula Radcliffe and shit myself mid-run. “Look, if you think you’re going to shit yourself, please just stop running, ok?” she begged. “It’s not like there are toilets everywhere!” I wail. As one wise runner tweeted at me a couple of weeks ago, “That’s what no one tells you about running. Long distance running is just a massive game of Hope I Don’t Poo Myself.” It’s far too early on a Sunday morning to be chatting about defecating, so my friend is no doubt delighted to drive me to the starting line for 09.30.
Friend: How will I find you at the finish line if you’re not bringing your phone?
Me: Umm, I’m sure you’ll just see me. It’ll be fine.
F: Maybe you should, I don’t know, write my number down? And phone me somehow?
M: Excellent idea!
I get ready to write her number down on my arm.
F: Will that not be gone by the time you’ve finished a marathon?
She’s right, of course, so I write it on the back of my number taped to my t-shirt. I’m not doing great so far am I? She wishes me luck, I make a scared wincing face and get out of the car and follow the hoards of people around me to my starting pen. I start queuing for the toilets as I’ve drunk about 2 litres of water by this point and my small, ill-equipped-for-a-marathon bladder is beginning to realise it’s got a fucking tough day ahead. I do some half-hearted rudimentary stretches against a tree, trying to look professional. A local radio DJ bellows out advice over a loudspeaker, helpfully explaining what colour your piss should be before running a marathon. My frayed nerves are shot to bits as I realise I don’t know what colour my piss is. It’s supposed to be straw-coloured but I haven’t even looked at it and I don’t even know what colour straw is. Is straw hay? Isn’t hay bright yellow? That doesn’t sound good, does it? I start panicking, imagining that I haven’t drank enough water and I’ll collapse in a dehydrated mess after 2 miles. I’m regretting the G&Ts the night before. Mr DJ also helpfully reminds me that I’m an idiot for not putting on any sun cream as the sun is set to be merciless and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Why didn’t I put any on? Am I literally an idiot? I think I just assumed there would be no sun, despite a week’s worth of evidence to the contrary. Oh well, maybe I’ll run so fast the sun won’t catch up with me! Tres optimistic.
After utilising the horrible festival toilet I get into my pen and instantly need to pee again. Can’t go again though, can I? The race starts in 10 minutes and everyone around me looks professional, they’ve probably run a thousand marathons prior to this one. Some men are creaming up their bikini lines. I have no idea what this means and look away uncomfortably. They’ve all got proper running gear on, like branded socks and utility belts holding at least 10 carb gels. I look down at my black Primark t-shirt, perfect for soaking up the sun’s beating rays, my 3 year old leggings with the hole in the knee from the time I fell about a year ago, and my 2 pitiful car gels tucked uncomfortably into my wrist band. I utter a desperate prayer.
The starting gun goes and “I Gotta Feeling” blasts out as we all shuffle to the starting line, everyone else setting their watches as they cross the line. Predictably, I have forgotten to wear, or own, a watch.
I’m running a bloody marathon! Look at me go! People are cheering and I feel like a chuffing king. Three miles go by and I feel like I could run around the world a million times. Good old adrenaline, eh? It does that to you. My awesome mood ebbs away a bit as men start running to the side so that they can take a quick piss and casually start running again. I’m filled with hatred and penis-envy. It’s not like I can just go to the side for a quick piss, is it? Whoever invented the vagina is a total idiot. I want my money back.
The runners around me are called Lisa, Adrien, Dicko and Andy. I know this because every few minutes some spectator shouts, “COME ON, ANDY!” “YOU GO, LISA! etc. I wish I’d worn my bloody name on my shirt so people would cheer for me like they loved me. I get to 13 miles, the half-way point, and from now on, this is officially The Furthest I’ve Ever Run. I’m surrounded by men and I start feeling weird and insignificant, like I’ve accidentally wandered into a Masonic jog. Where are all the women? My kingdom for the sight of a runner who can understand the discomfort of running in a tight top with erect nipples whilst being watched by hundreds of people! Urgh. I pass the 16 mile marker and my legs are beginning to ache horribly. My stupid cheap socks are chafing my feet like nobody’s business and I’m wishing I’d bought those £19.99 socks I saw in Run 4 It. Why didn’t I spend £19.99 on socks? I’m such a fucking idiot! I run by many children who gleefully fling water over my head. Normal people would be grateful for this but all I can think of is that my blusher and eyeliner will run down my face and I’ll look like a mental tranny being run out of the village. Perhaps the makeup was a bad idea.
I pass the 20 mile marker and I start going a bit mad. I’m thinking of the film Marathon Man, with Dustin Hoffman, and I can’t remember the name of the crazy Nazi dentist. What’s his bloody name again? The White Angel? The Angel Dentist? The White Dentist? Argh I can’t remember. Why does Dustin Hoffman’s character run a marathon every day anyway? Oh God, that scene where his handsome brother gets garotted with wire in his pants by one of the bad guys in a room overlooking Manhattan. Oh God, it’s horrible; why am I thinking of this? The stupid sun is beating down and I’ve got a weird trapped nerve sensation in my left arm that makes me yelp. I fling water over it. It doesn’t help. I drink water at every water station even though I don’t want it. I squeeze gross carb gels into my mouth, imagining that they are delicious and not FUCKING HORRIBLE.
Somewhere in between 23 and 24 miles I start to have a wee self-indulgent cry. I don’t want to do this anymore. How am I even still running? My kneecaps are like firey tennis balls and my feet have ceased to be feet and are now just 2 giant blisters, covered in hundreds of other blisters. With no watch on, I have no idea how long I’ve been running. It could be an hour, it could be a month. Time is nothing to me, I’m not sure I’m even alive. My bladder doesn’t ache any more and I fret that this is because I’ve actually pissed myself. Could I have pissed myself and not realised? Is this a dream? Oh the DRAMA.
I pass 26 miles and I know I’ve gone mental because I start laughing and shaking my head, like a nutter. Only 0.2 miles to go! I see the finish line and I sprint like there’s no tomorrow. Maybe there is no tomorrow and this is bloody IT. Remember, I’m still delirious. I’m the fastest person in the world and I overtake a million people. Then some douche crashes into me as I pass over the finish line. The finish line! That means I’m finished! And I did it with dignity, I tell you. I didn’t shit myself OR piss myself! I didn’t even spit like all the other disgusting yobs around me! I’d like to hug someone but there’s no one to hug, so I just hobble along, herded into a pen with the other finishers. I’m handed a pitiful goody bag containing a t-shirt, a bottle of water, 2 magic pills to stir into your water that promise to make you feel OK again and a sachet sample of Dove moisturiser. Someone puts a medal around my neck like I’m an Olympian and I go and sit for an hour in the shade, waiting for my friend. The medal looks like a penis, frankly, and it hangs heavy around my sunburnt neck. I don’t stretch or warm down, naturally.
I queue for the festival bogs and I spy my friend when I emerge:
Me: I really didn’t need to see what people had for their breakfast in there.
Friend: Oh no, was there vomit too?
F: Oh. Oh? Oh! :(
And so ends my marathon adventure. I get a text that tells me my official finishing time was 3 hours, 31 minutes and 42 seconds. We drive back to Glasgow and I have a cider in the shower, because I’m a bloody champion. I’m instantly hammered. I’m about to tweet a smug picture of my penis medal when I realise I’ve left it in my friend’s parents’ bathroom. Livid.