“Oh, well done, running a marathon is an achievement,” is something a lot of people have said to me to which I generally reply, “Meh, getting out of bed is an achievement too”.
On race day, I find that the hardest bit is, literally, getting out of bed at stupid o’clock to go and stand in the cold for an hour before running around the road for a few more hours. I’m not a person that’s interested in finisher medals but I think I’d be partial to the idea of getting one for getting up early of a Sunday morning and standing, semi-naked, with a few thousand others of the same persuasion who, for some reason, seem rather cheerful about the prospect.
While this may, god forbid, seem a little bit cynical at first glance, and it probably is, I find my cynicism evaporates once I actually arrive at the start line. It’s like a line from a Noel Gallagher song that goes: “Come outside and feel the light, it’s cold outside but it’s lonely in your bed”.
Once one gets over the absurdity of the whole affair, including all the neon coloured outfits, hydration tubes sticking out all over the place like something from a Batman movie, and the occasional complete nutter who thinks shoe companies are a conspiracy theory and we’d be better off without them (and yet wears sandals or some other weird looking yolks that look like feet. WTF? They call themselves “barefoot runners” but I never actually see any of them barefoot, the fake news feckers), then one starts to feel a kind of joyful lightness and even, somehow, a sense of purpose. They say “misery loves company” but I find nutters seem to enjoy company too. However, it gets kind of hilarious when one nutter starts to point out how nutty some of the other nutters are and nobody actually likes to think they are nutty, and generally find the suggestion deeply offensive, but the fact is that everybody is nutty in their own sweet (can nuts be sweet?) way. And once one realises one is a bit nutty then one is a whole lot closer to not being nutty than someone who proclaims themselves to having a nut allergy, even though they are constantly surrounded by nuts.
Anyhow, after a few hugs, fist bumps, and careful observations of body language between certain members of the opposite sex (more on this later), the race starts and I’m running again, naturally.
I have my running shoes on today (I almost always wear barefoot shoes training. Yes, I am aware I just described this idea as nuts above) and decide to trail along behind the 3:30 pacer.
I’m not overly fond of trailing pacers though, because people tend to hover around them in a similar sense that cholesterol piles up inside an artery, clogging it up, and leading to the demise of some poor unfortunate. But trail them I do.
It quickly becomes apparent that I’m not very adept at trailing pacers though. And after about 5 miles of white balloons stuck in my face, and several times nearly rear ending various runners in front of me, I decide it’d be better to either pull back or push on a bit, and so I push on.
Lots of people seem to be wearing €250 Nikes today, which always kind of amuses me. They apparently shave minutes off of one’s time, but even if that’s true I can’t see any justification for buying them unless that few minutes might, for you, be the difference between getting a podium or not. But each to their own, I guess.
One leg follows the other and I feel myself in a comfortable rhythm today. Sometimes my knees or hips feel a bit iffy on race day but today everything feels a-ok. My legs feel strong from the previous weekend where I ran the Connemarathon in my Luna sandals. I drive confidently through my hips, landing mid foot, something barefoot running helps me focus on, and have the extra bit of bounce that my Saucony Kinvaras provide.
As I’m plodding along, I start pondering why people run marathons. I know that, for me personally, I do it because I feel a heightened sense of euphoria for an entire week afterwards. Everything feels clearer, self doubt evaporates, thoughts are more lucid, and life kinda feels more worthwhile. I’m told I tend to be a bit bad tempered afterwards, which is always funny to me, because psychologically I feel fantastic. I wonder if this is from fatigue or some kind of uptick in testosterone or something else, but I have no idea really.
I suspect that, for a lot of people that run these distances, that they are in pursuit of something. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism to deal with life’s stresses; perhaps it’s a journey to better health; perhaps it’s a man or woman hunt for some; or a way of finding virile partners to indulge physical desires; perhaps it’s a way of coping with alcoholism, sex addiction, drug addiction; or perhaps it’s a way of trying to find god; or perhaps people don’t even know why they do it but they do it anyway because it just feels fucking good!!! It seems strange to me in any case, even while I am a regular participant in this sort of sub-cultural neurotic behaviour.
The mile markers zip by. Many spectators call my name and tell me I’m doing well and to keep it going. Limerick put one’s name of the bibs, but all the same it still feels kind of funny. There’s a feeling of being recognised and well known when people call your name in an encouraging way, and it feeds one’s ego and confidence is some strange way.
Today, I have resolved to avoid looking at my watch and to simply clip along at a pace my body feels is right. As it turns out, my body feels today that an average pace of 7:55 is right and I cross the line at 3:27, which isn’t bad for a fatty. It’s the fastest time I have done this year and also the fastest I have run a marathon when being a bit of a fatty. Previously, when I ran this race, I was several kilos lighter and ran a four minute slower race.
Once over the finish line I do the usual “how did you do? how did you do?” stuff and I get and give congratulations .
One always sees people wrapped in tinfoil blankets at the end of races and so I ask one lady who is wearing one if she is one of those tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists. She declares that she is into “all the conspiracies” and I take an instant liking to her.
“Conspiracy theorist” is a funny phrase really. If someone calls you one it’s usually in a way that questions your mental health unflatteringly, but I think most people turn to theories in the absence of feeling like something could logically be true. For example, if a woman is expecting her husband home from work at 5pm but he doesn’t arrive then she might ring the office to see why. She might start theorising that he is stuck in traffic. But when 6pm comes and he is still not home she may ring the office, only to be told he left three hours ago. When he eventually rolls in at 10pm and tells her he was working late at the office she knows straightaway that he is lying and may begin to suspect he is having an affair. Obviously, there could be some other reason, like perhaps he was organising a surprise birthday for her or something, but when she finds him lying to her repeatedly she may be inclined to start making accusations of infidelity. After all, why else would he keep lying about his whereabouts? Nowadays, such a man, or indeed a woman (it’s important to be gender inclusive nowadays), doesn’t have to worry about being caught out. He can just call his wife a “Conspiracy Theorist” and that’ll shut her/him/them up.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed reading and to see you somewhere “on the road” soon. I’m going to finish with a quote from Jack Kerouac, from his novel “On The Road”, that I love:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!””
Pic courtesy of Íosla Breathnach. I completely forgot about taking any. 🤷♂️