Snowdon Marathon. That’s a fucking hard one.
The biggest battle for me wasn’t the training, it wasn’t the actual race in the end, it was being brave enough to turn up at the start line.
I’d entered Marathon Eryri twice previously and chickened out both times.
The first time I shit out because the fear got me. The size and the reputation of the race overwhelmed me. I struggle regularly with self esteem and feelings of worthlessness and not being good enough and it got in the way of my training. I sold my place and instead went up for the weekend with friends to support the runners. Inspired by their heroic efforts and bravery I told myself I would enter again and actually do it this time.
Again, I believed I would fail before I even got half way through my training plan. I told myself I wasn’t running far enough or fast enough. I contacted the race organisers and enquired about setting off early and the response though kind was vague. I reached out to my running club but no-one was prepared to blow smoke up my arse and rightly so. I hadn’t put the miles in and I’d already decided I couldn’t do it and it was obvious. I sold the spot on again but this time stayed home with my tail between my legs.
I put my name down for a third time for 2018.
When I entered my details I knew there and then that there was no backing out. No not turning up and no not putting in the hard work. The last twelve months I’ve trained hard to prepare my legs but most of the hard work was on done on my mind set. Failure was not an option. I was doing it. I told myself this over and over again for the 9 months beforehand until I properly believed it.
Two weeks before the race I woke up with a stiff back. I thought I’d just slept awkwardly but standing to do the washing up was painful and my sleeping was disturbed by it. Two days before the race I pranged the car and my back was further jarred. That’s fine. That’s what they make painkillers for I told myself.
I was calm on race day. Considering this day was 3 years in the making I was not nervous. I wasn’t worried. It helped having a running partner who is the actual queen of chill and runs marathons weekly. I felt safe. I knew I’d done the training. I knew I could do the distance and I knew that my running buddy would make the tough bits easier.
People often burst into tears when they cross the finish line on a marathon. They experience elation and relief. Completing a marathon, well any distance, gives you a huge sense of achievement. But for me that’s what it was like standing on the start line of Marathon Eryri. I was here. I’d made it. After two years of feeling utterly useless and worthless and not good enough to be at an event like this, I was here. Me, Clair Stevenson, standing on the start line of the Snowdonia Marathon, wearing a number, being in a the race. Being a part of it.
The elation and the sense of achievement was immense. The sun was shining on my face and I felt lifted into the air. I had done it. Now all I had to do was go for a lovely run with my lovely friend.
Three ups and three downs
The first 14 miles passed in a blur of aggressive scenery, prescription painkillers and chatting away. At mile 14 I was on for 6:30 and feeling positive. By mile 15 the pain in my lower back felt like I was running wearing the worlds tightest belt which was getting tighter and tighter with every step.
At 17 we chatted to a safety marshall who explained that if we wanted to continue and complete the race we would do so unsupported. That was fine. Running buddy knew the way and we were still moving forwards.
Mile 19 brought us a visit from another safety marshall who explained that he had been sent to speak to the back of the pack. The day was getting on and the organisers were concerned about us completing the last part of the marathon in the dark as it was off road and over the top of a mountain. I politely explained to the marshall that withdrawing at this stage of the race was not an option and that to try and force me to pull out would be to endanger his physical being. In response he articulated that he was going to speak to the runners behind us and that if we hadn’t made sufficient progress by the time he’d returned we would be having a different conversation. I reassured him they would find his cold dead body by the side of the road before anyone stopped me finishing this fucking marathon.
At mile 21, the bottom of the final ascent, my heels, with perfect timing both split sending a burning pain up the back of my feet and legs. I stopped still and thought about laying down and dying on the spot. I remembered my friend telling me “your feet will do what you tell them to do”.
I told my feet to shut the fuck up and started moving forwards again.
At mile 22 I told my running buddy I couldn’t finish and she threatened me with physical punishment if I didn’t shift my arse.
The last 5 miles were easily the hardest of the whole race as they always are for me. Physically I was completely broken. My back was screaming with every step, my heels were stinging like a bitch and I was freezing cold. Then a miracle happened. A DOWNHILL.
Suddenly I was transformed. I was like a new born gazelle gracefully bouncing down the steep mountain. As I ran towards the marshall at mile 25 I shouted “look up determination in the dictionary, there’s a picture of meeeeee!” He hugged me. I’d passed him at mile 15 “See, I told you you’d finish” he was genuinely thrilled for me. a bit further on I passed a runner and asked her “is it still Saturday?”
I ran down towards town and the finish line. My part -human part- cyborg running machine friend had run on, finished and come back for me.
I felt like a warrior when I crossed that finish line. I slayed all my demons. Every single fucking one. My marathon time was 7:50. I fancy I could do it a bit quicker than that and registration opens on the 1st of December…………..