“No human is limited”
This was the statement made by Eliud Kipchoge following his record breaking run in Berlin on Sunday 16 September 2018. He beat the marathon world record by over a minute, running most of the second half of the race on his own, having outpaced his pace makers. A stunning performance.
As I waited in my holding pen on the start line, we cheered Eliud as he set off on his run and before I had even crossed the start line, he was a quarter of the way through his race. What a privilege to be part of history, with 50,000 runners from over 100 countries, all having arrived here with their own story to tell.
So, what was my story?
I am hoping to trek to the summit of Mera Peak, Nepal, in October (as I explain in The long trek to the summit of Mera Peak) to raise money for the wonderful charity, Cancer Research. To help me keep fit for this challenge, I ended up entering three long distance running events in 2018, having completed the Chicago marathon in October 2017.
At Christmas, I printed off three training programmes. One for the London marathon, one for an ultra marathon and one for the Berlin marathon. I looked at them all and thought that, even for me, I may be taking on too much, particularly given that I was doing the running solely to keep me fit! But I marked all the runs in my calendar and it just about worked. It would mean training for, and completing, the London marathon, going straight in to the second half of the ultra marathon training programme, completing the Race to the King ultra marathon and then going straight in to the second half of the Berlin marathon training programme. I pinned all three training programmes on to my fridge and started ticking each run off.
Never did I believe I would actually run all three events. I assumed at some point that I would get an injury or simply get too tired and decide I needed a break. But that hadn’t happened. I had a very tough but rewarding London marathon (which I talked about in The long trek to the summit of Mera Peak: via 26.2 miles in London), an inspirational Race to the King (which I talked about in The long trek to the summit of Mera Peak: via 53.5 miles and my first ultra marathon) and arrived in Berlin, having run 1,230 miles in training in 2018, with tired legs but with a huge amount of excitement.
I had three objectives for the Berlin marathon. Firstly, with my trek to Mera Peak under three weeks away, I had to come home from Berlin with no injuries. Secondly, I wanted to enjoy the day and to complete the marathon with a smile. And thirdly, I wanted to run well. I didn’t set myself a time target as it was, again, hot and I wasn’t sure how my tired legs would hold up. But I wanted to be proud of myself and to make sure I gave it my all.
The start of the Berlin marathon is fantastic. You are set off in waves and each wave is given its own ‘start’ with loud music, a countdown and a gun going off. For those slower runners like myself, this feels very special as in most marathons I simply cross the start line half an hour after the ‘proper’ athletes with little or no fanfare to send me on my way. This time it felt amazing!
The first few miles were fantastic. I felt strong and the crowds were great and incredibly encouraging. I saw my husband at mile 5 and got a big hug and carried on my way. It then got much harder. The sun came out and the temperature rose. I always have at least one mentally tough point during a long run and this time, that came between mile 10 and the half way point. My legs felt very tired and I started to question why I was doing this – a usual feeling at some point in a marathon! I kept going, reminding myself that this was to raise money for such an important charity, and I knew that my husband would again be at the half way point, which would be a huge boost. And it was. I fell in to his arms and took encouragement from his support. As I was running off, he shouted after me that I was part of a world record race. It brought a huge smile to my face, and to the faces of those runners around me.
I don’t really recall the third quarter of the race – all I remember are counting down the distance markers and following the blue line on the road! The last six miles of a marathon are always tough and everyone is going through their own particular challenges. It is that period when you call upon your mental reserves of strength. By then, I knew that I could finish and that I would then be on my way to Nepal. When I crossed the 40km mark, I knew that, if I ran fast, I could get under 4hr 20 mins, which for me is a very quick time. I pushed on and when I turned the final corner and saw the Brandenburg Gate, I started crying and raced to the finish line. I crossed in 4hr 19 mins which was a Berlin PB for me. I was delighted and smiled all of the (long!) walk back to the hotel.
It is hard to put in to words what a marathon is like. Everyone pushing themselves to their limits, and beyond. Everyone willing each other on. Everyone on that day, in that event, in that moment, equal, regardless of gender, nationality, background, age or any of the usual things that can divide us. It is a very special experience and one that I always feel incredibly privileged to be part of. If you want to see the world at its best, one way to do that is to take part in, or go and support, a marathon.
I was delighted that my friends had also conquered their battles and completed in fantastic times and with smiles. We celebrated afterwards in a time honoured tradition for us – with a plate of chips!
So now, I have less than three weeks until I travel to Nepal and the next blog that I write will be from Kathmandu. As final preparation, I am spending an hour a night using my altitude machine, sounding like Darth Vader! I also have a long walk planned for each of the upcoming weekends. I am feeling excited and nervous, in equal measure.
Eliud Kipchoge’s statement is so true. This year, I have pushed myself beyond what I thought my limit was and I hope to do so again in Nepal. I truly believe that each of us is capable of so much more than we imagine. But we can only do so with others supporting us.
I feel incredibly blessed. The support I have received this year, and continue to receive, is wonderful. It keeps me motivated when I need it, it lifts me up when I am doubtful and it makes me believe that I can achieve what I have set out to do. Thank you all so much.
Thank you so much to everyone who has kindly sponsored me for my trek to Mera Peak. I am doing this to raise money for the wonderful charity, Cancer Research, to help those who are suffering from the cruel disease of Cancer now and to help to find a cure to avoid others having to suffer in the future.