Things You’ll Only Know If You’ve Run A Marathon

Training for a marathon puts your body through, well, absolute carnage. As Erin Cardiff only knows too well...Illustration by Karolina Burdon


by Erin Cardiff |

Extending from my belief that the only thing separating me from a figure skating career is my terrible balance, to my unwavering conviction that, if we were ever to meet, Dolly Parton and I would be best friends, I’m full of bold claims. So, when I told my stepdad I’d run the marathon with him, I wasn’t expecting him to take me seriously.

Imagine my delight* (*sheer horror) when he texted me a week later to tell me he’d signed me up.

I crossed the finish line eventually – albeit with 20% less toenails than I started with. But it took far more than 26.2 miles to get there.

Here are some of the things I learned en route to race day...

You can’t help but become ‘that guy’

I promised myself I wouldn’t turn into the quintessential Running Douche. You know, the type you get stuck talking to at parties about carb loading and personal bests?

The thing is, it becomes such a part of your life that you can’t help it. There were times I had to bow out of nights out because I was doing an 18-mile run in the morning (and, as I learned from the Great Vomiting On A Treadmill of ’13, running with a hangover is terrible) or avoid Topshop because I had to buy new workout gear instead.

Luckily, my friends were super supportive – despite thinking I was joking when I first told them what I was doing. They even took to texting me Destiny’s Child lyrics as motivation. What can I say, those girls know me.

READ MORE: Fun Runs You Can Sign Up For Instead Of The Marathon

You learn to not care how you look

At first, I was really self-conscious – not least because I’m from a ridiculously small town in Sussex, one where you can’t leave the house without bumping into half your primary school, your old babysitter and that boy you got off with at an under-18s night in 2005. It seemed as if whenever I went out running, everyone I’ve ever interacted with was there to see me in all my wheezing glory.

But as the training got harder and the miles started to add up, I found myself too focused on putting one foot in front of the other to care how I looked. Yeah, I’m sweaty. Yeah, I’m a particularly violent hue of red. Yeah, I forgot to take my mascara off again so I look like Alice Cooper in a sports bra. GIVE A SHIT.

You find creative ways to keep it interesting

Running is fundamentally boring. Music helps, but once my training runs started to creep into double figures, I found I needed a little more than Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves on repeat to get me through. I started constructing imaginary arguments in my head to pass the time. For the record, I was pretty eloquent.

READ MORE: Here’s Why It’s Time To Take Up Netball For The First Time Since You Were 15

When it comes to injuries, the struggle is real

From twisted ligaments to losing two toenails on the Big Day itself, I put my body through some serious carnage. One particular injury stands out. I hurt my ankle on a 12-mile run, so my stepdad helped me limp to the nearest pub to wait while he got the car. So far, so unspectacular.

Turns out, said pub was holding a private Christening party, so I ended up propped up awkwardly in a corner, wondering where I stood with helping myself to the buffet. I was perfectly comfy, until a half-cut attendee came over with one of those creepily life-like dolls, forcing me to hold it while she talked me through its different outfits. ‘This is it,’ I thought. ‘This is how I’m going to die.’

READ MORE: Some Ways To Exercise That Don’t Feel Like You’re Exercising

Stairs were invented in the deepest circle of hell

You know that thing people say about not being able to walk the morning after a marathon? That is completely true. I had to text my mum to come and help me out of bed, and descend any staircases by sliding on my bum like a toddler. It was a very glamorous time.

But despite the blisters, the disgusting energy gels, the pulled muscles – I kept going. Because there comes a point when you aren’t just running for yourself. I was running for my friends and family, who waited patiently at the finish line with their ‘Run Like Prince Harry’s Waiting’ banner. I was running for the Samaritans, a more-than worthy charity. I was running because, out of the 18,000 others who’d signed up too, why should I be the one that gets to stop?

But most of all, I was running to collect the £20 my sister had bet me that I’d bottle it.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

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Follow Erin on Twitter @ErinCardiff

Picture: Karolina Burdon** **

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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