This year, I decided to run a half-marathon, and a friend asked how far I’d ever run?
I didn’t know. I’ve walked 20 miles with back packs and run 5 miles fairly regularly, but my furthest… maybe ten miles? Probably less?
‘If you can run ten miles, you can run a half-marathon,’ said several running mates.
So I figured, I’d run ten miles today. Now.
It sounded easy; lots of people do it, so I didn’t do any prep or training. I figured it wasn’t very far and I wouldn’t be going very fast. Yesterday I did a bit of exercise so I felt a bit achey but I guessed I could run that off. I ate some cereal for breakfast but didn’t bother with lunch because I wasn’t hungry.
So, at about 2pm, off I went, with Dog.
Dog, it turns out, was in more of a sniffing mood and the first two miles were painfully slow, with a LOT of stops. This got a bit wearing so I dropped dog back at home at 3.2km and carried on alone (just me, Christine and the Queens, and Freddie Mercury). It took me another 1.7km to remember to turn Strava back on, so by the time my legs told me I’d done a Parkrun, I’d only run two slow miles and one unrecorded mile, and already my body was reminding me that I’d had a cough and cold (and eaten like a baby elephant) throughout the holidays and… couldn’t I just stop and go home and drink tea?
And, you know, eat cake?
But I’d actually booked the half-marathon and couldn’t cop out on the first training run, so I turned on Strava, abandoned the unrecorded third mile, and decided to run 18km (11 miles) today, instead.
The next 8km (5mi) were actually lovely, a gentle lollop-along to music. It was sunny day, I was alone, there was no time pressure, and the landscape was of course breathtaking. I went really slowly (6-7 min/km) – pottered up one little Cornish hill and then around a village and down to the coast path, which is deliciously flat. But by 14-15km, I was done. My body said very clearly that it was tired and would like to stop.
One of my toes hurt.
Both of my knees hurt.
I felt a bit faint and my muscles seemed to have run out of oomph. Plus I was all sweaty and the wind had messed up my hair.
But most of all, I was HUNGRY.
The last 3-4km were an exercise in stubbornness, and involved a sad hobble along the coast path, a couple of grimacey grins at passing friends, and some selfies that were all about taking a rest rather than actually wanting a photo. And finally, remembering the hill that I went down to reach the coast, the last kilometre was a steep, uphill shuffle.
I made it. My toe hurt. My calves hurt. I had cramp in my left thigh, I was covered in sweat, I looked like a monster, and my stomach was snarling. But I reached my front door.
I barged into my home like some crazed, windblown bush-creature and dived into the fridge. I filled half a loaf of tiger bread with Brie and heated it till it melted into a fat, gooey heaven (did my leg stretches with my face pressed up against the oven door, smelling hot bread and melted cheese… awwww…), then covered the hot, goopy loaf with pickle and ate it with a banana, two plums, two hot chocolates, and half a pint of some orange pop. Then I boiled myself in a bath, and put on my largest, fluffiest clothes to eat dinner. (The brie/bread thing was just an hors d’oeuvre.)
It took about two hours for my body to forgive me enough to feel OK again.
‘You’ll feel better, once you get used to it,’ said a friend. And that’s when I realised, I was going to have to do this AGAIN.
Oh. My. Eyes.
Conclusion: running eleven miles is not quite as easy as I’d expected. I mean, it’s enjoyable, but if you’re not used to it, it makes you really tired and ridiculously hungry and thirsty, and you have to not mind that bits might hurt.
Plus, if I do a half-marathon, it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to need to take a snack.
Still though, I loved it.