It's amazing what an extra glass of wine will do to your ability to think sensibly at a dinner party.
We were at Simon and Gianna's place and had enjoyed lots of laughs, fantastic food, hilarious conversation and a few bottles of wine. With our dogs snoozing under our feet and placing a deliciously-stinking cheese platter on the table, Simon said, "I've just got confirmation that I'm in for the London Marathon next year."
We - of course - drank to his health and willingness to run his FIFTH marathon in a decade. We drank again to his bravery and a third time to agreeing to meet him at the finish line in front of Liz and Phil's house at the end of the race. Following those three quick glassfuls, my brain had lost the ability to censor my mouth and I heard myself saying, "I'd like to run it too."
So, on the 5th of October last year, I decided that the best way to make a vague idea firm up into a public commitment was to post it on Facebook:
My little brother David - a marathon survivor and triathlon regular - gave me his timetable of runs, as did my best buddy Jill. I also searched online to find other 'beginner marathon' lists, averaged them out and developed my own. Maths, people. Not my favourite subject but useful when it comes to spreadsheets, diary planning and run scheduling.
Each run - the date and distance - was recorded in my little paper diary. In green pen, so that it stood out among the blue and black appointments. The aim was to have four entries in per week with the end total slowly increasing. Every Sunday as I'd turn the page over, I'd (mostly) smile at the achievement.
Pointless? Possibly. Vain? Definitely. Lonely? Too bloody right!
As the treadmill moved from its locked-state of 6km slowly upwards, maths became even more important. 10.5 kilometres is one quarter of a marathon..... Fifteen kilometres is 5/14th of a marathon... How the hell would I be able to generate the stamina and willpower to run the remaining 9/14ths?
Trust was key. My trust was placed entirely in the gathered wisdom of the all-holy running timetable, now reverently covered in a plastic slip to protect it from sweat stains. Some easy runs, some scary long ones; some slightly shorter runs: all helped take the decision-making and potential for procrastination out of my hands. If the timetable had a particular number under a particular date, then that was all there was to it.
Music was vital. Out on the roads, I'd never have anything clamped to my ears as it would be far too dangerous to not be able to hear oncoming traffic or the world around me. But when I was staring at my bedroom wall from anywhere between 36 minutes and three-and-a-half hours, it was the songs that prevented my mind from convincing my body to stop and to instead stagger (and fart) along to the beat.
At any given time, there were three layers of blisters on various parts of my feet, but my toenails stayed on. This was NOT the case ten years earlier when I lost two of them during my one and only half-marathon attempt. That was the same race that had me throwing up at the 15 kilometre mark and swearing never, ever to attempt anything further than a fun run every again......
By the time that half-marathon and twenty-something distances were reached before Christmas, the treadmill died. It was still under a service agreement and was surprisingly (it's Switzerland, remember) affordable to get a new running belt and motor. The mechanic was impressed: "It's not often we get a treadmill that's worn out before its warranty has ended." My vanity level soared sky high until I realised that my stomach rolls were still very evident and still prone to unravelling each time I bent over to untie my shoes....
Despite my distaste and avoidance, it was time to do some 'street' runs. These were more nerve-wracking than increasing the distances as I worried about looking and feeling vulnerable, uneven footpaths, crossing busy roads, dodging walkers, prams, snogging picnickers and the biggest dread of all - running uphill.
Love Chunks had a route that involved a nice run downhill towards the lake, then along the foreshore, through the park and up towards the Botanic Gardens.
The horrific hill climb commenced as the track wound past the reindeer enclosure, making its presence more painfully felt when passing by the flamingos and spotting the rebel peacock strutting his stuff by the woodpile.
The hell increased many more times as I staggered my way past the World Meteorological Office to the UN headquarters, wheezing so loudly that tourists taking photos of the flags were given plenty of time to step aside and let the dying lady through.
It was only eight kilometres back to home, but the height increased as it evilly turned left past the Korean embassy, along the side of the Hotel Intercontinental and a final nasty hill through Petit Saconnex before my stinging, sweat-filled eyes spotted our building in the distance.
We spent Christmas in New York and when booking I made sure that it had a treadmill that I could use.... The Caribbean cruise we went on after New Year's had an enormous gym and using a treadmill on lolling seas added an extra dimension of difficulty.
Love Chunks accompanied me on my first long street run. He made an absolute mockery of my months of training when he not only ran his usual 8km, but then accompanied me on his bike for the second 8km and then ran the third 8km again on foot. I was incredibly envious and more than a little insulted. He was - and is - naturally fit and does ride his bike to work, jogs as often as he can and works out at the gym, but surely he should not have been able to bounce through a 24km session and still be able to cheerily chat to me with barely a wheeze throughout it all? Cocky little git!
The week after, he was keen to do it again. This time, he wasn't so lucky, pulling up with a very sore ankle after the second round. I gulped my water and Gatorade and left for the third round.
"You could have waited for me," he sulked. "I was out there HELPING you."
It was my turn to flare up. "Nope, no way. I have worked my not-inconsiderable arse off for ages on my OWN doing this, and the training schedule is MY schedule. You either keep up or you don't." I'd never be as fit or as thin or as fast as he was, but the plodding regularity meant that my joints and muscles were used to the distances and could handle it. It was on that day - although not fun for either of us due to having that argument - that I knew I'd be able to do this.
My beloved running timetable worked and I managed four rounds of his 8km route on three separate occasions. 'Andrew' the peacock was less scared each time I passed by his hangout by the woodpile, progressing to standing in my way during the last lap.
Running 'in the thirties' is only recommended two or three times in marathon training, and even then, no more than 32km. "Any longer than that and you're just trashing your body," Jill told me. 'Trashing' is a polite way of describing the bone-jarring, shattered feeling of knawing, clawing exhaustion that pounded in every cell of my body after those efforts. The entire day was given to running - and then recovering - from 'the thirties' that resulted in the sweat drying on my face and turning into finely powdered salt to moaning in the bath and wondering just how I was going to lift myself out of it.
Carbo loading used to be a week-long phenomenon back in the 1980s, but these days it is only recommended as a mere three day fest. Despite this, it was particularly enjoyable to inhale spag bol for dinner on Thursday, leftovers for Friday lunch and bread/fondue entree followed by steak and chips for dinner.
Apart from the off-putting sounds of my greedy eating, the week leading up to the marathon was a quiet one - only two x 3km runs. On the other hand, the sweat levels were as high as any of the longer, harder runs.
My heart rate had reached 172-180 BPM and didn't go much lower in the week leading up to my flight to London when I wasn't running. This was making me more nervous than my wedding day.....