So, I know I’ve been quiet on here of late. And the original plan to document my journey from lounger to 26.2 miles went out of the window.
Not because the words weren’t there. Far from it. There were lots of words and most them ended in ‘-ucking’.
But the last few weeks have been a blur of tiredness like I’ve never known and pure emotion. One week, the week I ran my longest training distance of just under 19 miles, I cried 12 times.
I cried at an episode of Scandal that I’d already watched twice. I cried because I met a really sweet middle aged man, but I was really worried that he had nobody at home and I didn’t want him to be lonely.
Wait for it, I cried because it was my birthday and I felt really bad that people were spending time and money on me.
I WAS A WRECK.
And all whilst I do think I was shot, fatigued, fully fucked, I was mainly crying because I was worried.
Running has done nothing but wonderful things for my mental health over the last six months. I’ve felt super positive, I’ve had more energy, I’ve stopped being hella awful about myself everyday. It’s been a huge saving grace for me that I will continue to write about and encourage others to take up.
But as those miles ramped up, so did the pressure.
Not from anyone else, but pressure from me.
I was plain scared that I wouldn’t do it. That I would bail out. That I would fall at 6 miles because I’d missed one stretch session 6 weeks and one 22 minute run because I’d worked a 14 hour day, and those two single things I’d missed, in a 6 month training schedule, would be the reason I would fail.
I was worried that actually I hadn’t worked hard enough for this. That I would get caught out for those two runs I missed in January. The same old depressed person song – I didn’t deserve to do well.
I was being SO hard on myself.
I’ve never had a feeling like I did on Sunday morning. It was like getting ready for a massive job interview, a super exciting first date and sitting your final A-Level exam all at once. But with 40,000 other people. All of whom appeared far more capable for the task ahead than I.
The dreaded mentally ill comparison tendency was rife at the starting pen. They’ve got a better running belt than me, they must be much more prepared. Oh my god, that woman over there said she did 20.5 on her longest run and that’s 2 miles more than me so I’m shit and I’m going to fail. She looks better in a cheap, shit, charity vest.
It was relentless.
But not as relentless as the heat.
40,000 people trained for this marathon in one of the coldest winters Britain has seen in years. This year’s marathon turned out to be the hottest on record. What the actual fuck?!
So I started running. My first EVER race. And I chose this one.
I kept my pace for 4 miles. I was doing well. Everyone was annoying me and I was sweaty as shit but I was doing it.
But then midday approached and all of a sudden every drop of water I’d pre-loaded during the week evaporated in the heat and bam!
Every bit of training, early morning, late night, snowy, rainy, my leg feels like it’s going to fall off, don’t-want-to-but-have-got-to run went out of the bloody window and I knew I had to change my game plan.
This was nothing I’d prepared for and there was nothing I could do but grin and bear it.
My attitude changed. I didn’t need to do it in 5.5 hours. I didn’t need to tell the world how great it was via varying hashtags and stories on the way round.
I just needed to do it.
Not for anyone else. Not even really for my chosen charity (although that helped).
But for me.
6 months ago I got the call inviting me to join the marathon and whilst I was nervous, I did it as I knew I needed to push myself.
My anxious mind has always made me worry so much that I got myself into a place where I was convinced I was incapable of doing anything very good.
I’ve come a long way in 5 years but a mighty distance in the last 6 months. I’m in a lighter, better head space.
And 2 hours in on that sweaty, severe Sunday afternoon, I had a very serious word with myself.
Get round, even if it takes a fortnight, and tell those voices in your head that actually, Jo Irwin can.
I hobbled, I ran, I jogged, I walked, I stopped dead still at points and just cried with my head between my legs. Finest of hours.
I clung onto mates and family that had come out to support me, gently balling into their necks about how I couldn’t carry on. It hurts. Everything hurts.
At mile 18, I genuinely considered if people would realise if I jumped down the tube, because I was taking so long anyway.
At mile 22, I really thought that my hips were coming away from my legs.
At mile 25, I saw a sea of my mates and cried my fucking eyes out listening to Crowded House. It was like something out of a Richard Curtis film. No lie.
Shortly after that I realised I’d be running/walking/moving just short of an entire working day.
At mile 26 (not .2 just yet) I saw my Mum, Dad and Sister cheering me on my last few metres, I turned to my Mum, red, sweaty and broken and mouthed;
‘I did it. I bloody did it’.
Then I cried some more.
The whole thing is a haze. A haze of wondering if I had heat exhaustion, a haze of wondering if I’d be the last one to finish (close but not quite), a haze of having no clue where in London I was at any given point.
But for a short moment as I crossed that finish line, nothing hurt and I looked up and thought, ‘I did it’.
Me. The girl that was good for not a lot, that thought she’d give up the day before or hadn’t tried hard enough.
She bloody did it.
And if she could do that on Sunday, she can do anything.
This post is in respect for Matt Campbell who sadly didn’t make it on Sunday. You can donate to his chosen charity here.