Prior to the first lockdown I can’t remember having run for a bus, now I proudly sit here with my first finishers medal signalling the completion of Elche’s Half Marathon. The oldest event of its type in the world!
The day started as any other Sunday morning, I woke early and prepared myself a hearty breakfast of porridge mixed with a generous spoonful of Golden Syrup. After checking my running kit for the thousandth time, both myself and Cristina (my partner) left for Elche, a 30 minute drive from our home. We were late, of course, and the vomit inducing journey only served to add to the impending dread of having to run 21 kilometres, in a row, in public…for the first time in my life. I was nervous!
We managed to find the car park and exited the underground structure into an explosion of noise and people. Spain really knows how to do parties. I immediately felt my nerves dissipate and started to prepare myself mentally for the race. Who am I kidding, I had no idea what to do! I was a complete novice. Cristina suggested a few light stretches so I attempted to copy the actions of those around me. Anything would be an improvement from my usual pre run ritual. Walking down the two flights of stairs from our apartment to the front door.
We exited the holding pens at 10:00am. There were 1,973 runners. 74 would not finish. I found the first 5 kilometres really difficult as I picked my way through the dense crowd of people. An impenetrable wall of lycra, the likes of which I had never seen before.
I had my sights set on the 1 hour 50 minute pace setter, who was wearing a flag announcing this task. As I watched the flag move further into the distance I started to pick my way through the swarm of legs. Trying to maintain a steady rhythm. It was not until the 10th kilometre that I managed to catch him. By this stage I knew I was going to finish. My legs felt surprisingly fresh, I had just taken one of my energy gels and as I frantically made calculations in my head based on current pace I knew it would be a good time.
So I put my head down and the next 8 kilometres flew by. Fuelled by another energy gel, two water stations and fleeting appearances of Cristina in the crowd I was feeling good. Too good in fact. As I approached the 19th kilometre I hit a wall, no a cliff, no a cavernous vortex into the ether of space. Whatever it was – it did not matter. I had made a mistake. I am not a runner
Then the most amazing thing happened. Cristina’s face
appeared in the crowd. As she ran beside me for the next 200 metres, shouting volleys of encouragement, I was back. The pain was still there but my head was different. I resolved to finish, whatever it took. The distance between the 19th and 20th kilometre felt infinitely bigger than every kilometre I had ever run in my life combined. Yet still it was eclipsed by the final kilometre. But I did it, I finished! 1 hour 44 minutes and 23 seconds. Easy!!
Needless to say the event was followed by hearty celebrations with friends. As I drifted off into a drunken stupor I allowed myself to dream – I wonder if I could do a marathon? I never learn!