: January 2013
Fellow triathletes, I seek your forgiveness for I have sinned.
It has been four weeks since my last confession, and in that time I have strayed from the path of true triathlon enlightenment, and spent my time... running. Nothing wrong with that you might think, except that I haven’t been running as training for a triathlon – but for its own sake!
I realise this admission will probably raise your tempers hotter than Peter Stringfellow’s hairdryer because the universal law of triathlon states that running should never be engaged in as a stand-alone activity, because that is wimpish. Triathlon is a multisport full of danger and gadgets, and for triathletes 5ks are ‘a leg stretch’, 10ks and half marathons don’t count unless you cycle to them, and marathons should only be completed as a ‘training session’ for an Ironman.
However, I broke this golden rule by cancelling my gym membership and giving up cycling and swimming for eight weeks to concentrate on training for a marathon, in a bid to finish under the magic three-hour barrier. Having completed my previous two marathons in lovely Stockholm and not-so-lovely Leicester in 3:05hrs and 3:08hrs, respectively, I decided that if I wanted to enhance my image as an athletic egotist wedged so tightly up my own sphincter that I’m basically just a burly haemorrhoid, then I needed to have a marathon result that starts with a ‘2’. Also I needed something – anything! – to distract me from the fact that the tri season has finished, and it was either this or spend the next few weeks pinned to my mattress by an invisible goblin of woe.
I chose Abingdon Marathon as the scene of my shameful exploit and began running – lots and lots of running. As far as my triathlon friends were concerned, news that I was “just running” was treason that should be repaid with death. I was told to either pledge loyalty to the God of Triathlon and live out my days as a wealthy lord with rich lands and many sons, or they’d have my head on a stick. But by this time I’d already begun my training plan, so it was too late to turn back.
Training is a necessary evil – by which I mean it is vaguely necessary, but definitely evil. Training enables greater effort, harder sessions, and the need for more and more kit; in other words, it enables most of the sh*t in my life.
However, without specific training I can categorically state I would never make it as a runner because it hurts too bloody much. No freewheeling, no using your arms, no having a crafty rest in transitions – just hours and hours of endless effort that gives your legs the same flexibility as a two-pin plug.
Marathon runners are a strange, solitary breed who list their hobbies as things like ‘training’, ‘cold baths’ and ‘preparing for the war against the machines’. So it came as a relief that, on race day, there were plenty of triathletes doing the race, easily identified by their headsweat caps, skinshorts, compression socks, special belt for holding gels and the latest, shiny gadget on their wrists. They did not, however, identify me because, such was the extent to which I turned my back on triathlon, that I wore just a vest, a pair of running shorts and carried my gels in my hands – shameful stuff.
The race itself was flat and twisty, and when I set off at my 6:45min-a-mile pace, half the field swarmed past me in a way that suggested that either a) I was crap at running or b) half the field was over-optimistic about their fitness. There’s not much to say about running races really – they’re certainly not as exciting to describe as triathlons, and the only incidents of note were a stabbing pain in my groin that made me consider changing my name to Screaming Lord Crutch and duelling for five miles with a baldy runner with ill-fitting dentures who looked like Nosferatu, only much more real.
I finally shook off Mr Baby-New-Potato Head at mile 15, by which time I was steadily making my way through the over-optimistic portion of the field. At mile 18 I had a gel that tasted like Gollum dung and spent two miles gagging on vile glop. But by mile 21 I was striding forth at 6:30min-a-mile pace and waiting for the infamous wall to rear up and smack me in the Jacobs.
26.2 miles is a long way and by the end I had the same bandy-legged gait as someone who had spent their life working on the waltzers. At the finish line I was so thin I had to eat five Curly-Wurlies before I became visible to the human eye, and despite being desperate for a pint I was offered a cup of tea by a marshal so young he couldn’t have understood the phrase ‘give me Guinness’ if I’d spelled it out with sticklebricks. Yet all this fandango was worth it because the time as I crossed the line was 2:54:26. Boom-shakalaka-boom!
So there we are – a sub-3hr marathon achieved, which goes to show that nothing is impossible. Although the person who coined that phrase has clearly never tried to cancel their gym membership.