I’m trying to decide whether to run a marathon in May. I ‘ve run the London marathon twice but we have a local one that happens around the little country lanes near where we live and I’ve never done it.
I feel in need of a running related challenge at the moment, but I’m not sure that need is 100% healthy. While I’m training I get fit, eat well etc., but I do become a teeny bit obsessed. A wise friend who has also lost a child said once, “Are you running? Or running away?” Hmmmm.
On the plus side, I get such a buzz from being able to do it. I was always the last to be picked for teams at school because I totally lack coordination, speed and, oh yes, skill. Lately, with all the babies I put on some weight too, but running that kind of distance makes you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. On the other hand I’ve already done it twice, and can I really justify all the time and energy it takes to train?
Steph started running a year or so before I did – he did a half marathon just after I’d had Celeste, then the London marathon a year later. I heard him telling someone that no matter how much it hurt, all he had to do was think about the pain Juliette went through and then he couldn’t give up. She was his talisman as he ran – always with a photograph or a message somewhere on his shirt.
I get emotional enough running those distances, so I do my best not to give myself another reason to cry. During the last few painful miles of races I remind myself that I’ve already lived through the toughest challenge of my life, and nothing could be worse than that. Running 26 miles is easy by comparison.
When I ran London in 2009 I was feeling horrible by mile 14 – I’d started getting cramps, painfully aware I still had 12 miles to cover. I was almost in tears when a lady ran behind me and touched my arm. She’d seen the photograph and Juliette’s name on my back, and realised that she’d read my book about her on the HarperCollins authonomy website. She started crying herself when she talked to me about what I’d written. It was utterly surreal amongst those thousands of people that a stranger was telling me she felt as though she knew my daughter from words she’d read on the internet. She ran on and I hung back so I could cry properly.
Running is a long and lonely meditation for me. It’s about pushing yourself to the limit, then going a bit further. With all the therapy I’ve been having lately (thank you BUPA) I do wonder whether there is a sneaky pay off in long distance running. Is there a little part of me that expects punishment because I have a physical body, when Juliette hasn’t? I really don’t know.