Don’t believe those Instgrammers and Facebook runners who make it look like every run is a dream. For every running high there’s a running low. It’s the way of the universe. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, you have to accept there will be orange creams in your Quality Street. It’s just life. To mentally prepare you for those inevitable runner problems, here’s a list of the irritations you’re definitely going to encounter at some point in your running.
This London Marathon magazine cover hitting your doormat
In 2018, more than 40 million people applied for the Virgin Money London Marathon. But every year only 65 people get in.* As anyone who’s ever entered the ballot will know, the lovely people at the London Marathon have devised a fun way of letting you know whether you made the cut. It goes like this: One day you go to your front door and there on the mat is 100 pages of hand delivered disappointment in a lightly translucent red wrapper. At this point you realise it’s time to Google ‘spring marathon alternatives to London’ and steel yourself for a trip to Paris.
That pre-race toilet queue
You’ve already been to the loo 15 times before you left the house or your your hotel but the minute you reach the Start Village – which is really just a load of tents – you still need to go again. And this time it feels like it might be the More Serious Business. You wander towards the portaloos to find lines longer than the queue for a knock-down jar of Nutella in a French supermarket. At this point the following two questions enter your head.
1. Can I run 26.2 without shitting myself?
2. Is there enough protection behind that bush to fertilise the undergrowth?
The answer of course is ‘No’ and ‘It’s worth a look’.
That pre-race toilet once you hit the front of the queue
Because you’re not 100 per cent sure you want to join the One Sock Brigade you eventually decide to tough it out in the queue. With 3 minutes before gun time, you finally make it to the front of the queue and bravely pull black that plastic door. The activity of the 700 runners who came before you means all of sudden you’re not so sure you need the loo any more.
You now know that for the next 37km, you’re going to spend more time chucking water into your face than you are actually drinking any.
Getting to the first water station and seeing it’s plastic cups
At 5km into your marathon, you hit the first water station and realise the race organisers have done the right thing for the environment and opted for recyclable cups. You now know for the next 37km you’re going to spend more time chucking water into your face than you are actually drinking any. You’ll try to find a technique to get more than two sips from one of the plastic cups into your increasingly dehydrated body, but no matter what combination of squeezing, slowing down, tipping and tilting you attempt, it’s all going to be a big futile wet-chested failure. The only thing you’ll hate more than the race organisers at this point will be, um, nothing.
These marathon clocks
You came so close to breaking the arbitrary barrier you’ve been chasing your whole running life that you can almost taste it. We say almost, but what you can actually taste rising up your throat is the bitter flavour combo of disappointment and what if. What if you hadn’t stopped for a pee in the first mile? What if you hadn’t been held up behind the masses at the start? What if you’d just run a little bit faster? What if the water wasn’t in cups?
Not getting the runner’s high
You’ve been running for 40 minutes and there’s no sign of those lovely endorphins, cannabinoids of whatever the heck it is that makes running enjoyable. So you run a bit more because they’ll kick in at any moment. Won’t they? Won’t they? But they don’t. And you get back to your front door feeling like you’ve been robbed.
When you drop a gel
Some runners carry enough carbohydrates to fuel a spaceman to Mars but you’re smarter than that. You’ve carefully worked out your fuelling strategy so that you’re only taking exactly what you need. And then, as you pull one of your vanilla and tonka bean gloops from your belt one of the others flicks out and hits the ground. Stop and you’ll almost certainly be killed by the stampeding hoards behind. It’s gone. You need to let it go. But it’d be easier to move on if you’d just dropped the winning Euromillions lottery ticket.
This message on your watch
At some point during a race you look at your running watch and you see these words. All of a sudden you’ve got no idea where you are, who you are, what day it is, or what you’re doing. Despite the regular mile markers, you’ll start to question your very existence in time and space. You were a number and now that number is gone. There’s nothing left. There’s no way you can possibly go on. Then the numbers come back and everything is ok, except now you’ve got a lot of very tired maths to do for the rest of the race. Which, of course, you won’t be able to do.
When that finisher’s technical t-shirt doesn’t fit
You already own a thousand technical running t-shirts. In fact they’re currently taking up much needed space in your house and you’ve been meaning to ship them all to charity for 11 years now. The last thing you need in your life is another running shirt. But then you rip open the cellophane packet of the one you’ve just been handed from your latest run only to see it’s an XXL. You’re irate, heart broken, betrayed in a way you haven’t been since 7-year-old you dropped your ice cream on the floor and your mum refused to get your another one. And then you stick the XXL on the pile anyway.