I’ve heard that describing why you run a marathon is like describing a rainbow to a blind person … they never quite get it, but I’ll give it a go. Proper training to run the 42.2km (26miles) takes about 12 weeks, roughly 3 months. That is about 90 days of running come sun, rain, wind, cold or dark – whether you feel like it or not. Roughly about 70 km a week. The last two weeks before the big race, you take it a bit easier but have to watch carefully what you eat and try to stay away from people with colds! Really hard to do if you teach 6y olds who cough and sneeze on you on a daily basis! I ran the Rotorua Marathon on Saturday the 4th of May – around the big lake. I drove down to Hamilton the day before to pick-up Vicki and her boyfriend, Simon. They were to be my support crew along the way.
I booked a room in a backpackers almost a year prior, because Rotorua is bursting with runners and supporters during marathon weekend. After a pasta dinner I tried to go to bed early (before midnight) but sleep stayed away and whenever I dozed off, nightmares attacked me. Will I be at the starting line on time? Did I pack everything? Will I have enough layers on? Will I get sick during the night? Will there be enough toilets? What if I get an injury and have to give up? At first light I was relieved and exhausted. After forcing down a peanut butter-and-honey toast, I started the final preparations…. Chaffing cream in all the appropriate places, taping up the feet to avoid blisters, two pairs of socks, sunblock, waterproof make-up (there are always lots of photographers on the course!!) and race number in front. There is a little strip at the back of the number to record your time as you run over the mat at the start and finish line.
Vicki carried the bag with pain killers (marathons hurt!) sugar lollies and special gels for instant energy, blister pads, water, energy drinks (marathons exhaust!) bananas and nuts… and more chaffing cream for just-in-case.
About half an hour before the start, runners began to move to the starting line to place themselves according to their ability. The fast runners in front and the slowies towards the back. By that time I’ve been to the toilet three times (marathons are nerve racking!) After the race briefing, I heard the hooter and … bang, we’re off!! My legs felt heavy, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest and my hands were numb! For a brief moment I wondered why am I doing this.
It took about two kilometres to find a comfortable running space amongst the thousands of runners. We left the town centre and I found my Zen spot after about 20 minutes of running – the moment you feel as if you can run effortlessly forever. The aid stations were spaced about 5 kilometres apart. There you can drink water, Powerade, get medical attention and visit the portaloos.
This time I was running in a bright orange singlet and a pink cap, because Vicki said if I wear black I look like all the other runners and she might feed the wrong person. So this time I was confident that I would stand out. After running for more than 25 km I saw a big, bright orange sign (to match my singlet) with ‘GO JEANNE’ on it. Vicki and Simon were waving, jumping and yelling, “MUUUUM I’m proud of you! Don’t stop mummeeee!! Go! Go! Go!” I taught myself to eat and drink on the run, so Vicki or Simon would fall in next to me, handing all the treats, while I ate without losing a beat. Every three to five kilometres my bright sign was waiting for me with Vicki and Simon handing out the necessary treats with shouts of “I love you mummee!!! Run faaaster! Go! Go! Gooo!
Everything went according to plan until I reached the 35km mark. Then all the wheels came off. My legs didn’t want to listen to my brain’s instructions anymore. My arms were numb and swinging all over the place. Every muscle ached. The last 7km seemed never ending. Big men were cramping, vomiting and crying. I felt sick. ‘Don’t puke, don’t puke’ became a mantra. Vicki’s voice yelling support seemed to come from far, far away. Ambulances were now a frequent sight, picking people up and taking them away. It took all the strength in me to put one foot in front of the other. I tried to think happy thoughts, but couldn’t. Blank. I just put my head down and got on with business. When I saw the 40km mark I thought Yuss! I can make it! Simon appeared from nowhere to run with me and I got a sudden surge of energy. People were clapping and cheering and I felt wonderful despite the aches and pains. We turned into the Government Gardens and I could see the finish sign in the distance. At that stage it was more beautiful than the Pearly Gates! Vicki yelled, “Spriiint Mum, SPRINT!” I wanted to say “I am, I am,” but no sound came out. Barely had enough energy to give her a thumbs-up. I ran through the finishing arch with 4h15mins flashing on the digital clock.
Running is my way of celebrating life. It takes determination, willpower, focus and dedication. And I’m always only one run away from a good mood!
“At mile 20 I thought I was going to die. At mile 22 I wish I could die. At mile 24 I knew I was dead. At mile 26 I realised I had become too tough to kill.” – Anonymous runner