As a child, I was one of those kids that couldn’t nail down a specific interest or hobby if asked for a favourite. I had many, each equally exciting to me, and that made it difficult to imagine what I’d be doing when I “grew up”. I use this term loosely because one of the nice things about working in tech and remotely is the flexibility it’s given me to continue participating in pretty much all of the hobbies I enjoyed as a kid. After finishing university with a film theory degree and minor in music (perhaps the least employable combination I could have ended up with), I was still no further ahead in determining which direction to go, but I still had all of those activities I enjoyed to keep me fulfilled. One of my favourites that I focused on, and a lifelong passion, was cross country running.
A flurry of jobs from farms to factories to landscaping to technician work to teaching English abroad followed, and the hectic and often nocturnal schedules that came with them were not exactly conducive to regular practice or participation in running quite as much as I would have liked, but a goal of mine had always been to run a full marathon – a feat that I had placed on a pedestal for myself as the greatest running accomplishment I could achieve. I recently celebrated a milestone birthday so the “gift” I gave myself was this experience that I had literally been running after for years.
I registered for my area’s IAAF marathon, and even before registration I knew that I was going to register and had been training for months prior. For two thirds of a year, I ramped up training, to the point where I was running 12-15 kilometres on a strict, 48-hour cadence. Despite distance running being pretty much a lifelong experience, in the previous 5 years I had been plagued with a host of knee injuries, both external and internal, that took many months of physio to recover from each time and prevented me from accomplishing this goal earlier. It had also been a frustrating roller coaster because seemingly after just recovering from one injury, another would take its place, and at times it seemed a hopeless endeavour to expect recovery to the level performance I knew I was capable of without injury.
I also had to learn in-depth the things I had been too afraid to learn about running before, and the relatively shorter distances I ran had not yet required it – fuelling and hydration. At times it felt like an overwhelming goal, but creating and adhering to that strict training schedule as well as doing a lot of research through books, the internet, and speaking with experienced marathoners at running clinics in my area made me feel like it was achievable.
When I went to pick up my race kit a few days before the race, I had my photo ID prepared at the counter as in my past racing experience they will verify this during check-in. They didn’t ask me for mine, just my name, and they gave me my kit.
“Aren’t you going to ask me for my photo?” I had asked, thinking it odd that they wouldn’t even check and I could just make off with someone’s kit if I wanted to.
The person at the counter waved their hand dismissively.
“I don’t think there are too many people that would bluff their way into a marathon.”
The race went as well as I could have asked for. The weather was clear and cool, I had gotten the opportunity to fuel exactly as I had wanted to, gotten an excellent night’s rest, and had woken up with time to stretch and mentally prepare before heading to the starting line. Despite waiting at the starting line being one of the most high-pressure mental strains I have ever experienced, as soon as the race began, I got myself into the running zone and had meticulously prepared a 4-hour playlist containing a wide range of energy levels to get me through.
I can honestly say that it was simultaneously the most exhilarating and awesome experiences of my life, as well as the most painful. Upon finishing, I was hardly able to walk but crossing that finish line with a grimace on my face and screaming out in pain was also one of the most empowering and euphoric moments of my life – knowing what I was capable of.
I am looking forward to new challenges in the other areas that I devote my time and energies to, and know that with this experience under my belt, I can approach each future one with the confidence that I can accomplish even the most difficult of undertakings if I set my mind to it and persevere!