The things running marathons has taught us
“I want to run lots of marathons and join the Hundred Marathon Club. I also want to get the club’s crest tattooed on my backside.”
These probably weren’t the exact words of my husband, Jon, but then again it was about four years ago when he embarked on his goal and there have been so many races that some of the detail has become a bit fuzzy.
We’ve been running marathons for four years, in nearly 30 countries, and with about 140 races between us, to be precise. Jon and I have run under the Brandenburg gate at kilometre 41 of the Berlin marathon and shed a tear due to the sheer emotion of running under this iconic landmark (and maybe partly out of pain and relief that the end was near). We’ve traced the French Riviera from Nice to Cannes, running a scenic but undulating 26.2 miles with picturesque coastal views. We’ve raced in Morocco, against a backdrop of the Atlas mountains and the city’s terracotta walls, palm trees and many camels (131 over the 26.2 miles course, yes, I counted!). Now, the taste of Milo chocolate milk transports me back to sensation of taking the first sip of a post-run carton in south east Asia, and if I close my eyes the incessant honking of tuk tuks and smell from local street vendors start to return as well.
Alongside our vacations spent running marathons, there have been holidays like every normal couple, to relax and take a break from our usual routine. But when there are events on the horizon, running inevitably finds a way to invite itself along, and before you know it you’re unpacking your running shoes and navigating the busy streets, experiencing the sights and smells from a completely different perspective than your average tourist – something that makes me feel very privileged to be a runner. On a recent holiday to Sri Lanka, daily morning runs barefoot along the beach reminded me of how beautifully straightforward running is. Away from the noise about complicated training plans, nutritional advice and fancy gear, it made me appreciate that you can run pretty much anytime, anywhere, and I felt grateful to be in good health and that my body is capable of running 26.2 miles and beyond.
For each unique, overseas marathon there has been one on home soil. Running these marathons has been every bit as memorable as the exotic ones. Travelling to Margate to run a marathon in the same place I holidayed as a child, memories of spending days on the beach seeming like they were only yesterday. The Richmond Park marathon – a personal favourite – close to home and also to my heart after it helped to restore my faith in running shortly after a tough spring race season and a personal record that wasn’t to be. Or the Bacchus marathon, the UK’s answer to the famous Medoc race in France, around a vineyard on the North Downs Way. Being handed wine in plastic cups rather than the usual energy drinks and surrounded by runners in an array of fancy dress costumes, it really was an event where runners united and showed the world they know how to have a good time too.
Although most of our race trips have gone smoothly, familiarity can breed complacency, and there have been a few packing disasters, like the odd forgotten medical certificate. Or the time two left trainers packed on a pre-Christmas trip to run the Pisa marathon (only discovered on the morning of the race) meant Jon had to run 26.2 miles in a pair of leather brogues, rather than forsake the event all together. But it’s reassuring to know that emergency bananas and running fuel can be picked up pretty much anywhere in the world.
As race memories fade and our medal collection grows larger, sometimes I stop and wonder what would fill our life if we didn’t run. Running marathons may define us as a couple to some, but to experience the wash of emotion crossing the finish line of a marathon in a new city, to be fortunate enough to see a new part of the world through the eyes of a runner, to realize that four years on, as Jon’s marathon goal approaches (he’ll be running number 100 in May this year), our hobby hasn’t just shown us the world. Running marathons has shown us that nothing is really out of reach and that life is a lot of fun when you run.
What have you learned from running marathons? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.
Copyright header image: Maridav