If you’ve ever run a 26.2-miler you’re sure to be familiar with pre-marathon paranoia. Euan Crumley shares his experience ahead of Sunday’s Stirling Scottish Marathon
“Am I getting a cold?”
“Does that sneeze mean it’s the flu?”
“Is that only a slight twinge in my leg or have I just ruptured my hamstring?”
“Should I run today?”
“Have I done enough training?”
“Am I eating the right things?”
“Why do I feel so tired when I’m hardly doing any running just now?”
“What’s that strange nervous feeling in my stomach?”
This is a sample of what is going on inside my head right now and it can only mean one thing – I’m about to run a marathon. A brand new marathon, in fact. The Stirling Scottish Marathon.
This the eighth time I’ve taken on the 26.2-mile distance and, while I’m a very different runner from the cotton t-shirt clad, football-short wearing newbie who lined up in London in 2001, I’ve never ever felt like I’ve properly got the hang of this classic endurance event.
I guess, though, that is part of its charm.
My colleague Paul Freary, our AW products guru, is running in Stirling too and we’ve been comparing notes on the various grumps, groans and ailments – real or imagined – which have coloured this past week or so.
It was during our chat when it really hit home (again) that, by entering a marathon, you are doing something a little out of the ordinary. It seeps into your everyday life. That background hum that’s been with you for the past few months? It’s been the process of getting ready to push your body. REALLY push it.
As Paul said: “If you were getting ready for a 10km or a half-marathon you’d maybe get nervous the day before and then be done with it, but the marathon is totally different.”
And he’s absolutely right.
The nerves begin to increase as the mileage begins to decrease and the dreaded taper begins.
I find this the worst stage of the whole training process – it’s when you have time to think and, runners being runners, this generally involves forensic detail and analysing too much.
Then again, there’s a lot to consider. The right pace, the right race kit, the right nutrition, the right hydration, the weather…everything about the marathon just seems, well, bigger. The stakes are higher because the investment you’ve made is so much greater.
I find there’s a kind of unreality about it all right up until the starting gun goes and you find yourself on your way, left with no choice but to start putting one foot in front of the other and to see what happens on your journey.
And it is a proper journey. In the process of completing your entry, of going on the first training run and having that feeling of “how on earth am I going to do this?” (it happens every time), right through to the race finish line, personal lessons have been learned and discoveries have been made as the miles have been clocked.
The prospect of finding out yet more, not to mention the element of plain and simple excitement, adds to the nervousness too, of course.
For me, the feeling is heightened further this time around by the fact that Stirling is my home town. I love that it is being given the chance to show itself off to the running community and that my family will be there to cheer, that my older sister has decided to take on the marathon too and that there will be many friends running as well as lining the side of the course.
It will be intriguing, too, to get a very different perspective of many places and landmarks I’ve known inside out for many years.
So I can’t wait for Sunday morning, for that chance to see Stirling from a new angle and to test myself in all sort of ways again.
Of course, it might all go horribly wrong – so much has to line up perfectly for a marathon to go just as you’d like it, after all – but, then again, my race plan might all fall perfectly into place.
I have no doubt that, at some stage, there will also be a ‘never again’ moment. Then it will be time to start planning the next one.
For now, I’ll go back to turning down that annoying chatter in my head… and start thinking about a finish line.