I am stood in Berlin’s Tiergarten, quaking at the beginning of my first marathon. Seven weeks ago, I barely ran at all; the odd short jog was the longest I’d ever run, and every attempt to get into running was proof that I hated it. Four or five hours from now, I hope to be crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles: a distance that could be much greater than the sum total of all the running I’ve ever done before.
They say that during endurance events, when you’re pushing your body and mind to their furthest, it can be good to rely on mantras: simple statements that remind you why you are suffering so much. As I await the starting gun, a phrase does bounce around my head: “This is stupid. This is ridiculous.” It will eventually disappear, at the point in the run when even forming words into sentences will feel like an indulgent use of what little energy I still have left.
Over the four hours and 20 minutes that followed, I experienced some of the sharpest pain, deepest despair and most ecstatic joy of my life. But that was at the end of the journey, and on to a new life of running for fun. Through it, I came to think that maybe, on a good day, I might even call myself a runner.
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