I do love a challenge. Although, there are challenges, and then there’s running two marathons in six days, 3,200 miles apart. Nevertheless, in a moment of madness, that’s the monumental mission that I set myself earlier this year. But, I’m pleased to say, I came, I saw, I conquered!
My journey began last year at London 2016. I’d been running for several years, and in this, my fourth marathon, I surprised myself by achieving a qualifying time for Boston 2017, and a ‘good for age’ place for London 2017.
Boston – the oldest marathon in the world – is notoriously difficult to get into, with 80% of participants needing to achieve the qualifying time, based on their age and gender. On our side of the pond, only 15% of London’s participants need to qualify through ‘good for age’.
So, feeling fortunate to have places in both major events, I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to take part in both. As I say, I do love a challenge! But, it was also a special opportunity to raise some money for two charities close to my heart (Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Macmillan).
The Boston marathon was truly amazing. I arrived four days prior to race day, and the build up was like nothing I’ve experienced before. Everywhere you go, people stop to ask if you’re taking part. It’s heart-warming to see how proud Bostonians are of their event, especially since the terrible atrocities that happened on marathon day in 2013.
When it came to race day, the weather was unseasonably hot – my four months of winter training weren’t exactly the ideal preparation! The atmosphere, though, was even hotter! Fellow runners offered encouragement at the start line. All along the 26.2-mile course, marshals gave their support, volunteers handed out drinks, and thousands of spectators spurred us on!
Running wise, I struggled more than I expected. The Newton hills between miles 16 and 21 should have been nothing compared to the Yorkshire hills I’d been training on! Maybe I was overcome by the emotion; too immersed in the atmosphere; overwhelmed by the heat. Who knows? At 3hr 57 mins, Boston was my slowest ever marathon, but – for once – I didn’t beat myself. I’d stayed under the magical 4-hour mark. What mattered more was simply being able to experience this fantastic event first hand.
Looking back, those 4 hours flew by. My strongest memories are of the crowd, and how loud and supportive they were, bellowing out ‘Sweet Caroline’ at numerous points and urging us on with some truly unforgettable banners and placards:
“You’re running better than our country”
“Run like United Airlines want your seat”
It’s those little things that can keep you going, and keep you smiling, in a marathon!
Long-haul to London
Fast-forward six days, another country, another city, another marathon. I was back in London. My legs, surprisingly, felt okay. Back on home soil, I felt far less apprehensive than a few days earlier in Boston. Before I know it, I was making my way to Blackheath, along with 40,000 fellow runners.
Once I crossed the start line, I seemed to find a spring in my step. One that had eluded me in Boston. Running felt comfortable. In fact, a bit too comfortable, all things considered. As I passed each mile marker, I was conscious that I was running at a pace much quicker than I had anticipated. But, I decided to push on, and get as far as I could at this rate.
One of the highlights of the London marathon is running over Tower Bridge at 12.5 miles. As one of the major landmarks of the course, the crowds are overwhelming; it can’t fail to bring tears to any runner’s eyes. The jubilation was short lived, though. At 15 miles my wheels fell off. It was time to pay the price for going out too fast. But I powered through, urging myself to get to 17 miles, where I knew members of my running club were marshalling. It’s amazing how much familiar faces can lift your spirits.
After that, though, was just a disaster. In my head I wanted to run, but my legs had other ideas. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter how slow I shuffled, I just had to keep moving. So I walked, I jogged; I did all I could just to keep going. On and on I went. I passed Big Ben at the 25 mile marker, made it to Buckingham Palace and endured the final 385 yards down The Mall to the finish line. My time? 3hr 49 mins. Again, not my fastest, but I did it! Mission accomplished!
This was the third time that I’d run this race and the atmosphere seemed to get better each and every time. Passing by London’s landmarks, with the crowd cheering you on, is incredibly special. And I’m delighted to have completed two of the World Marathon Majors, both under 4 hours, in the space of six days. It was a complete emotional rollercoaster, but it was definitely worth it.
So, time to reflect…
You can learn a lot about yourself when you set yourself a challenge. Stray outside of your comfort zone and you’ll see how far you’re willing to push yourself. You learn how to pick yourself up from low points along the way, and in the end you’ll experience the joy of achieving something that you weren’t sure that you were capable of.
So, set yourself a challenge – no matter how big or small – and see it through. Whether it’s a hobby, an interest, or a target in your working life. Give yourself the opportunity to experience that feeling of accomplishment, of belief and self-confidence that can make such a difference. Day in, day out, whether it’s at work, or the weekend, we can achieve so much without giving ourselves the credit we deserve. So, set a challenge. You will see it through.
No amount of experience in life should ever stop us from learning. At Cherry Tiger, no two campaigns are ever the same, just like no two races are ever the same. It’s about taking the experience, the ups and downs, and using them to progress ourselves. As the proverb says, ‘knowledge is power’ so do more, inside and outside of the office, and learn from it all.
Work hard, play hard, enjoy life, and achieve your goals!