Sunday 9th October. The date that has been etched into my brain and dominated my thoughts ever since that one glass of wine too many led to me signing up for a marathon all the way back in April. Six long, long months of thinking about pretty much nothing else other than running, sweating, weeping, eating and sleeping.
So, finally, after 80 training runs and a ludicrous 577 miles, the day of reckoning has nearly arrived. Tomorrow at 0930 hours I will attempt to run 26.2 miles in one go for the first time in my entire life. 10 kilometres further than my stupid, spindly little legs have ever carried me before. A half marathon either side of the River Mersey intersected by hellish-looking tunnel excursion half way through, finishing on The Strand and then straight into an ambulance, via the nearest pub for the customary pint of congratulatory Stella. How on earth did it come to this.
I don’t feel like I am ready for it. I feel like I haven’t done anywhere near enough practice, which is weird because I almost definitely have. 80 training runs in less than half a year, at an average of just under seven miles per run is clearly a lot of running. But I just don’t feel like it’s enough. Part of this is because of the fact that my training has tapered off so severely; two weeks ago I ran 53.9 miles, this week I have done 14. This is obviously to make sure that I’m not knackered come start time tomorrow, and actually have the best chance of making it round without keeling over in front of hundreds of people and and smashing my pathetic face into the Scouse concrete. But it still feels inadequate.
I’m also getting paranoid about injuries. Any little niggle automatically, in my mind, is going to lead to a cataclysmic failure tomorrow morning. Any part of my body, be it knee, ankle, hip, face, anything, is getting me worried. I sneezed earlier and felt a twinge in my back; instantly my mind wandered to a scene somewhere on Merseyside, an ambulance with several paramedics strapping me onto a stretcher while my watching friends and family turn away, disgusted at my feeble effort and thinking how best they could ask for their sponsorship money back. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.
All that’s just my crazy, pessimistic mind running away with me, although having said that, I do have three genuine concerns about tomorrow. Firstly, making sure I don’t hare off too fast at the beginning. I’ve done this wrong all summer and it’ll be a long day if I don’t stick to my target pace early on. Secondly, the hills. I know I keep going on about them but really, the tunnel and the hill after that are giving me The Fear; not just the inclines themselves, but the fact that I have to run 13 miles to get there first.
Finally, the weather. I know doing a marathon in the North West of England was asking for trouble, and lo and behold, tomorrow is forecast to be heavy rain with 20mph+ winds. I don’t mind the rain; it can be refreshing, and I’d rather have that then the sub-Saharan sweatfest that was randomly served up last week. But the wind could be a killer. Liverpool is pretty much on the Irish Sea, and a lot of the route is pretty exposed, miles 6-8 in particular are literally right on the riverfront. I ran along there when I did the Tunnel 10k back in June and that was bad enough with the wind behind me; if it’s in my face it’ll be hell.
In terms of everything else though, I think I’m ready. I’ve broken my new shoes in. I know what clothes I’m wearing (luminous yellow Barcelona shirt, again). My number turned up this week along with a magazine which is full of quotes that make the thing sound like it’ll be a nice scenic tour or Merseyside rather than one of the greatest challenges of my entire life. They even describe it as a “magical” 26.2 miles – the only thing magical about it will most likely be the amount I am vomiting as I crawl over the line in a complete daze. The best bit is where it describes the second half of the race as “captivating and inspirational”. By captivating I assume they mean that people won’t be able to take their eyes away from watching me struggling, miles out of my depth, a bit like the “disturbed” individuals you see in early rounds of reality TV programmes, and by inspirational I would imagine these same people seeing me will be inspired to never put themselves through such an ordeal.
I do hope that people continue to do things like this though. By putting myself through it all I’ve raised an incredible amount for The Children’s Heart Association, and I’ve got you lot to thank for that. Now all that’s left I guess is for me to go and run the bloody thing. 24 hours from how I should be over halfway and hopefully running (crawling) around Sefton Park with a few miles to go down to the finish. I have no idea what state I’ll be in. I have no idea if I’ll even be there at that point. I may even be still in the Queensway Tunnel, hiding away and weeping to myself, hoping I never have to face daylight, and my loved ones, ever again. It’s all brave new territory. I’ll see you on the other side.