Finishing a marathon is an incredible achievement. As you cross the finish line you experience a wave of emotions as pride mixes with pain and exhaustion. With that medal hanging around your neck and glinting in the sunlight, you feel like a hero, invincible…until you try to move!
Shuffling around Paris post-marathon, Steve and I laughed and joked about our less-than-athletic movements, so following on from my observations about the things we’ve come across on our travels, here are some thoughts on the experiences which help you to know you’ve just run a marathon (as if your aching legs weren’t a big enough clue!).
- It seems like someone elevated all pavement kerbs by several feet while you were running. I distinctly remember Steve struggling with a step approximately half an inch high after completing the Loch Ness marathon a few years ago. In Paris, I can confirm that the already high pavements are a particular challenge 26.2 miles later!
- You think everyone is sprinting away from you, even when they are just casually strolling along the street. On several occasions, most notably walking through the airport, I kept asking Steve why he was walking so fast (he wasn’t). To be honest, I’m not sure where he found the energy!
- Putting your shoes on is a mammoth task. When hunger forced us to leave our hotel room, the biggest struggle we had was reaching our feet to put our shoes on. What athletes!
- It’s best to lie still all night. Any attempt to turn over alerts your brain to your sheer stupidity and something will hurt, waking you up in the process. Don’t do it!
- Getting out of bed requires lengthy mental preparation. Without fail, I wake up the morning after a marathon convinced that some rapscallion has put my legs on the wrong way round overnight. The knowledge that a) standing upright and b) taking a step will not be easy, means I need to build up to it for a bit. Usually the realisation that I’m starving is what motivates me to get up! Which leads me to…
- You want to eat ALL THE THINGS! And when you’ve finished, you’ll want to eat again. This can last several days and is my favourite bit of the marathon recovery.
- You feel like you’re getting an advance preview of old age. Your legs don’t work properly, you have aches and pains, and standing up or bending down results in you making an involuntary noise. Hard to believe you ran 26.2 miles the day before when you now have less agility than your ageing granny! Don’t worry, it doesn’t last more than a day or two.
- Stairs are your enemy. Up is ok, but down? Down is tricky. On our first trip to Paris it was only after the marathon that we realised how few escalators there are in the metro system. Steve has been known to walk down them backwards!
- One look says it all. When you meet a fellow finisher afterwards (easily recognisable by their finisher T-shirt/medal/limited mobility) then you can communicate everything you could possibly need to say with just one look. It’s the look that says everything from “well done” to “I feel your pain” via “aren’t we crazy?” without any words being needed. This is particularly useful at marathons abroad when you don’t know what language your fellow finisher speaks. I have mainly employed this look in Paris.
- You find a hitherto unknown affinity with random strangers. If someone came up to you in an underground station and began a conversation, you would probably make a sharp exit, wondering why the crazy person had to pick you. But if that stranger is carrying the same runner pack as you, then the bond of the runner means it’s ok to speak to them. If you were taking selfies at a well-known tourist spot and a stranger offered to take the photo for you, you would hesitate to hand over your precious smartphone. But if you were both standing with medals around your neck waiting to take a souvenir photo (and, let’s face it, there was no way they’d be running off in a hurry!) you’d happily hand them your phone and then take theirs to return the favour. Both of these things happened to me in Paris, and I was struck by how what would ordinarily be situations that would set alarm bells ringing in your head are suddenly perfectly acceptable when you’re in the “marathon bubble”. Runners are good people. We trust each other.
Yet despite the sore legs and funny hobble for a day or two, there’s just something about the marathon distance that keeps me going back for more. Running a marathon may turn you (temporarily) into a 90 year old version of yourself who needs a zimmer frame and stairlift, but completing 26.2 miles is always something to be proud of. And hey, it gives you great stories to tell later!
To finish, here are a couple of my favourite videos which demonstrate most of the points on my list. They always make me laugh!
Can you add anything else to the list?
What have been some of your most memorable marathon experiences?