What it feels like to quit a marathon
Written 2 May, 2016.
With the marathon two weeks behind me I feel like I can finally put pen to paper now about how it went and why I don’t feel like a ‘quitter’.
With anxiety on my shoulders the week before the race, when I’d felt really under the weather and considered whether I was going to be able to go through with it, I ended up turning up on the day feeling fresh and ready to go. We were unbelievably lucky with the weather, the crowds were out in force and it was a great change of scenery to be running around the sea front in the sunshine rather than around canals in the rain!
Despite still being in the toilet queue as the race was supposed to be starting, I still managed to meet my friend Megan before and coincidentally managed to cross the start line with my friend Sam. I definitely started off too fast, which in hindsight may have been the route of the issue, but I was on track to finish on target between 4:05 – 4:09, until disaster started to creep in. Unfortunately my old IT band injury started to flare up around mile six and despite constant stretching, wasn’t going away. Three miles later I text my friends to let them know I was having a flare up, but managed to keep going - I saw them at mile 14 and raced past waving and smiling. As my knee wasn’t hurting at that exact point, I didn’t want to stop whilst I could keep going, and I was worried I would have a cry if I talked to them all about it. I kind of regret that now, as they might have given me the positivity boost that I’d needed.
I have managed the injury before by running slower and stopping every mile or so to stretch and walk, but as soon as I knew my race plan was going out of the window and the pain was getting worse rather than sub-siding, I was bitterly disappointed. At mile 16 I was in agony andnot enjoying myself, on tears down the phone to my Mum who was wisely reminding me I have a wedding coming up that I want to be able to walk down the aisle at. After getting strapped by St John’s ambulance and the situation not getting any better, I pulled out around 18.5 miles into a heap of friends’ arms and lots of tears. Gutted does not come close, but to be honest, I didn’t really mull the decision over or have a hard time making it as I know once that pain starts to kick in, if stretching doesn’t alleviate it then it gets worse and worse. Having fully done the injury before during the Bath Half and hardly being able to walk after (nor run for six weeks) I just wasn’t interested in killing myself over finishing the race. I wonder now if I should have carried on and walk/limp the last eight miles over a couple of hours, but at the time the thought of running out to the furthest point at mile 21 and then back in to where I was at that moment was not something I thought I could deal with. I also wondered if I could have managed the injury earlier on by slowing down, but there’s no point thinking through the ifs and buts of the situation. The worst part of the day was walking four miles back to the finish line to try and collect my bag, which took hours overall and was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Brighton marathon organisers might want to think about how to handle bags for those who don’t complete the race, as I wasn’t the only one struggling to get mine when I was already feeling really low and having difficulty.
I never want to be somebody who doesn’t see something through or who is a quitter, but believe me if I had felt at the time that there was another way to put the last 17 weeks of training to good use to finish the marathon, then I would have done. Even though I was devastated, having the wonderful support of my family and friends (especially my mum, step-dad, boyfriend and a load of AMAZING friends who all travelled down for the weekend including those of you who shoved a sandwich into my hands and a glass of prosecco as soon as I stopped) and everyone I have spoken about it to since, I feel more proud of myself for making the decision to not injure myself for the sake of completing the marathon, than for carrying on in total misery.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. For now I am concentrating on getting fit and enjoying being able to shake things up a bit and have a few drinks at the weekend! I’m not saying never again, but I think I need a break next Spring from the marathon training. I also am so proud of Sam and Megan for completing it and getting stonking times, they totally nailed it.