In which I finally complete my first marathon whilst hobbling across the finish line wrapped in a space blanket.

What I Learned from Running a Marathon

874 words about health — 07:00 · 21st Apr 2019

Every conceivable muscle is pulsating and my legs are screaming for an end to their suffering. My breath is shallow and strained as I steer to the side of the road to crouch down—in yoga, we call that the child pose.

I’ve just passed the 23 km (14 miles) mark and I still have 19 km (12 miles) to go.

Just over halfway, I’ve hit the infamous wall.

The wall (noun): A condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy which is caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.

I’m ready to give up.

What began as a strong start has turned sour—like my smelly feet.

Carlos Eriksson running the Brighton Marathon 2019.
Look at that posture.

“Why do I do this to myself?”

After much consideration, I have decided to not run for EAAA in next year’s London Marathon. I appreciate all the support and help you’ve given me along the way. I have reassessed my health, both physical and mental I realised that I’m not a place to complete it.

Last October I pressed send and released a sigh of relief realising I now had no obligations to run.

Now, the only person I ran for was myself.

I had gotten caught, as I’m sure many other runners do, in the excitement and grandeur of the big events. In the crowds cheering. And the medals and goodie-bags that followed.

But now I knew better.

Three days later my phone pinged as an email arrived in the inbox, “Congratulations! You are now registered for the Brighton Marathon 2019.”

Say what you will about Carlos, but he sure doesn’t know better for long.

Still recovering from the knee injury, I told no one about my new plans to run a marathon.

Partly so people wouldn’t worry and partly so I wouldn’t have to explain myself; If running had caused the knee injury in the first place then the only logical solution was to not run.

And with that, I made “not running” my plan.

My breathing is returning to its normal depth.

I get back up and hobble along until I reach the 30 km (18 miles) medical point where a group of concerned volunteers hand me a space blanket and ask me repeatedly if I want to lie down.

The cold breeze of the English Channel paired with my hobbling has cooled me down considerably and I can barely move my legs at this point.

I decline their offer and instead crouch down next to their tent in front of the intermittently warming sun, wrapping myself in the bright luminous foil.

“Maybe not training for a marathon wasn’t such a good idea?”

I watch as people run past, some still have a lightness in their step whilst others are dragging their crying skeletons along just like me.

“Is this where I end?” I think, taking the opportunity to let out the fart I’ve been holding for the past 30 minutes, “It better not be shit, again.”

It isn’t.

Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up. Dean Karnazes

I get up.

Asking the volunteers if I can keep the space blanket, I return to the race course and start running again.

“Go, Tinman, go,” a kid shouts as a loud rustling swooshes past him.

Carlos Eriksson wrapped in a silver blanket, pushing himself to finish the marathon.
Look at that lack-of-posture.

And I keep going.

Despite not running for 5 months.

Despite having no hydration, refuelling or really any plan to speak of.

Despite running in a new pair of shoes I bought the week before.

In the end, my newfound vigour is only temporary and I’m back to hobbling for the last 4 km (2.5 miles) but with that hobbling, I cross the finish line.

Despite what my inconclusive race results say.

“Never again. I’m done running now.”

What I learned from running a marathon

As an experienced runner will attest to, there are a few basic rules that you’re advised to follow whilst running, even more so when running a major event.

These are not those rules.

  1. Running a marathon is hard
  2. No really, harder than you think
  3. 1% of the population will run a marathon in their lifetime. I am now one of them.
  4. If I were you, I probably wouldn’t use myself as an example of what to do
  5. I can run a fucking marathon
  6. Always poop before running
Closeup of the Brighton Marathon 2019 finisher medal.
I estimate my finish time is around 5h and 50 minutes.

I wake up the next morning, having to lift my leg one-by-one from the bed onto the floor.

My toes feel like they have extra toes and stairs have become my nemesis.

Despite this, a thought stirs in my mind.

“I can do better next time.”

You’ve just read What I Learned from Running a Marathon.

In which, 3 years ago, I wrote 874 words about health and I covered topics, such as: marathons, running, brighton marathon, in memoriam, and journeys.