Just over a year ago I wrote a blog saying that I’d never run another marathon. Well, that didn’t last very long as I’m about to go back on my word. Through my regular volunteering role at the London Marathon I was recently offered a place to run in 2024. If truth be told, I didn’t even think about it. I just had to say ‘yes’. It’s a golden ticket. How could I possibly turn it down?
But then again, maybe I should take a minute and remember what I wrote? Marathons are really hard. Marathon training is really hard. It’s even harder if you’re carrying injury and have virtually no running base when you head into training. As I am now. I have never run a marathon completely injury free – ever. I keep thinking that this time will be the one, the one where I’m not injured. But I’ve thought that before. And look where it got me!
I’m under no illusion that as the self-proclaimed Perpetually Injured Runner getting to the start line injury-free is extremely wishful thinking on my part. But I’m still optimistically holding out hope. In October 2022, I ran London Marathon with stabbing plantar fasciitis in my right heel. Of course, that’s not a pleasant experience. So, this time it will be different. This time it will be better. Right?
You might say the odds aren’t in my favour. Four marathons, four injuries - not counting the marathon I didn’t do at all, pulling out just three weeks before, due to an ankle injury. Right now, I’m currently negotiating with the physio each week to let me run just 5K. I’ve had patellar tendinopathy since March. It’s not severe, and I have been running on and off, but the knee pain is just not shifting. In an attempt to knock it on the head, I’ve just undergone another series of shockwave therapy. In a previous blog I talked about the science (and the pain!) behind shockwave therapy. It’s my third time experiencing this treatment and I have generally found it beneficial but on this occasion it’s yet to yield results.
I’m also back in the gym. Doing those all-important conditioning exercises and strengthening those glutes. As a regularly injured runner, I can assure you that you can never go wrong strengthening those glutes. Whatever, the injury, it will earn you brownie points with any physio!
For most, getting injury free round a marathon course is desirable but it’s not why they do it. For the first-time marathoner it’s often simply about the achievement, but then why do so many go back for more and do multiple marathons? Although I know some runners that have left the marathon behind, sticking with shorter distances and seemingly pretty happy about it. But I also know many who absolutely love running marathons. Or is ‘love’ just a euphemism for addiction? Perhaps I’m addicted too, but addicted to what? The runners high? But that’s not limited to the marathon distance. Maybe it’s some kind of social status by being able to say I’m a marathon runner?
I think the answer is in the challenge. Because it’s so hard, requiring all that time-consuming training, the goal is massive and so the feeling when you achieve that goal is also massive. Even the word marathon is often used more broadly to describe something very hard, long and/or difficult. The Cambridge dictionary definition for ‘marathon’ is ‘a running race of slightly over 26 miles’ but also ‘an activity that takes a long time and makes you very tired’. Ain’t that the truth!
Our best-selling running card for the marathon celebrates that ‘Less than one percent of the population have run a marathon’. Runners and card-givers alike seem to enjoy the rarity of marathon running amongst the general population. Like David Bowie’s lyrics ‘We can be heroes, just for one day’. It certainly feels like that when you’re waving at thousands of well-wishers as you run through the streets of London or any big city marathon.
Conversely, our best-selling running mug makes a joke of those who run marathons, calling us ‘mugs’. Would I recommend running a marathon to a friend who gets as injured as much as I do? Would I call them a ‘mug’ for even considering it? Perhaps I would. But I would also understand why they wanted to do it.
So, as we creep towards the end of the year, and the marathon memories of October 2022 fade even further into the distance, I’m grasping that golden ticket with both hands. Marathons are indeed hard. For the time being, maybe I’ve simply just forgotten how hard. Or maybe I’m looking at the massive challenge and thinking about the potential massive reward. But I’m fully aware that I might regret my decision come April 2024. In the meantime, if you bump into me, feel free to call me a ‘mug’, I probably need to hear it!
I would really love to hear why you run marathons, or don’t run marathons – drop your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you and happy running.