You know how it is. You’re turning 40, you thought your sporting days were behind you, you’ve gotten fat (very fat), fitness is gone out the window. You’d never run before, but always said you’d run a marathon before you were 40, but what can you do? Life got in the way.
This was me in the late summer of 2011. Then a local runner announced that he was going to organize the inaugural Tralee International Marathon for the following March. Sometimes opportunity knocks. Sometimes it kicks the f'ing door in.
I signed up. I’ve always been the type that jumps first and worries about building a parachute on the way down, and this was no different.
My wife ran marathons – how hard can it be?
I soon found out. I went training with the aforementioned wife. She still hadn’t broken a sweat when I was on my knees, retching. In fairness to her, she only laughed a little.
I went back to basics. A local running group, Born To Run, were doing a “couch to marathon” type training programme, and I joined. We started off running for 5 minutes, and walking for 5 minutes and built from there. The walking bit wasn’t too bad, but damn, the running was tough.
We soon progressed on to longer and longer runs. I remember the pride (and pain) the first time I managed 5 miles, then 10, then 15. I was still fat, unfit, and slow though. I was last in after every long run, and I was in constant pain. I kept pulling muscles I’d never heard of, and straining small, vital, and painful parts of myself.
On several occasions, I was so sore after long runs, that I literally had to be helped to my car. Running, it turned out, was considerably more difficult than it looked.
As part of the training, I entered a local 5k. I’d run further than 15 miles several times now, so this should be easy.
I made every rookie mistake. Started at the front. Stayed with the leading pack for all of about 200 meters. Pushed as hard as I could. Ended up walking in the middle. Got passed by old people and children. Eventually put on a burst for the home straight. Nearly died.
The training continued, and the pain with it. I don’t think it got any easier, though I did get more stubborn. It was a source of perverse pride to drag my sorry ass in on the long runs. I couldn’t wait for the day of the marathon, so I could end this misery.
Marathon day came, and I ran it. Slowly, painfully, I ran it. I bloody hated it. I thought it was the stupidest, sickest, most masochistic hobby any could ever think of. I must have considered quitting a hundred times, and only kept going for two reasons – my sons were at the finish line, and I couldn’t let them see me as a quitter, and the thought that, once this was done, I never had to suffer any stupid running, ever, ever, again.
I stumbled across the finish line in 6 hours and 2 minutes, in total agony. I went home and signed up for another marathon. I have no idea why. I ran that one, a few months later, well over an hour faster. And, just like that, I was hooked.
I signed up for another, and another, and another. I signed up for 5ks and 10ks and marathons, and ultramarathons. I even signed up for a triathlon, and had to learn to swim the week before.
I learned to love the training (sometimes anyway), and, as I got a little fitter, I found myself running with other people, instead of running behind them, and discovered that runners are a funny, brave, loyal, and brilliant bunch of people.
Since that day, less than four years ago, when I decided to run that first marathon, I have completed more than 50 races, including 17 marathons, and 5 ultramarathons. This year, with the help of Elivar, I will bring that to over 20 marathons, and I’ve already entered a 40 miler, a 100k, a 102k, and a 24-hour ultra.
Running has changed my life. The online diary I started so I could bitch about how tough running is, has become one of the most popular running blogs in the world. I’ve been interviewed for running magazines, nominated for awards, and been invited to run in some fantastic marathons.
I’ve never won a race, and I never will, but that doesn’t matter – marathons are like mullets – all business in front, but a party at the back. Most of all I’ve grown to love running, and all that comes with it.
Let this be a warning to you – let running into your heart, even a little bit, and before you know it you are one of those crazy bastards that runs 60 miles for fun.
Randall Wharton is Dad, Runner and World Famous Blogger! You can read his blog here