Ditzy's original patented guide to running the London marathon - repurposed and redirected for all you snazzy lock-down, long-distance runners.
If it’s too late and you’ve already posted your Just Giving page on social media then proceed to Plan B:
Enjoy the huge endorphin rush you have when you first sign up. Front load that sweet sweet social gratification. Watch the fb likes roll in, revel in the glowing praise you receive from your friends, the admiring slap on the back you get from your dad.
Now the best bit of the marathon is safely behind you indulge in a week of zealous researching online. Download ten apps that will help you plan your runs, read about nutrition, running shoes, health schedules and the like. What a master you are with all those sticky notes and schedules on your fridge! You’re basically half-way there
Now it’s time to spend lots of money. Head down to some flagship stores in Oxford Circus to kit yourself out with flashy shoes, impossibly tight reflective lycra, cold weather thermals, warm weather gore-text, iPhone arm holsters, fancy bottles and supportive socks. You are now 72% on your way to completing the marathon
Take those energy gel sachets for a test run. Feel the sweet, sticky tropical-flavoured goo slipping down your throat. Enjoy the free-flowing poo explosion that will ensue in the following week as your bowels open to the heavens and you realise you’ve discovered the best lucozade laxative that money can buy
5 months to go and you trot off for your first training run. It’s drizzling as you pound glumly round your local park for lap one of 3,632. Start to wonder if that 20 minute ‘run and become’ playlist you downloaded off Spotify is going endure the wear-out of 20 weeks continuous play
Slowly begin to realise that running 4 times a week is going to require some ‘sacrifices’. Most of these ‘sacrifices’ seem to be coming out of the ‘things I enjoy and are a bit bad for me’ category: fags, alcohol, staying up late, fun, feeling pleasure in the world, not getting up when it’s dark etc.
1 month in and you have become that person who seems to talk a lot about your running routine. You start to notice people’s eyes glazing over when you talk, but you keep telling them because really everyone should know about the religious, transformative experience that running is and how really you don’t miss the booze and fags at all really
You ARE running now. You breathe it. You think it. You dream it. You perform little running jerks in your sleep like a dog chasing balls through his dreams. You laugh and sneer at those spring-time runners, the fair-weather joggers who haven’t been with you through the bitter winter
You think in concentric circles. You have performed 3,495 loops of your local park. When you stand you naturally lean to the left. You know the minutiae of your local area at every cycle of the seasons. The autumn leaves filling up the empty paddling pool. The bored park-keeper filling it up for summer. The sun filtering through the leaves and dappling your path with a rustling light. The material world is seeping away, you don’t read the news, or the group whatsapps
Your shoes smell, your big toenail has fallen off three times. Your feet are blackened husks, calcified in blisters that have grown over and over themselves, forming jurassic layers of rock. You may never be able to date again, unless you find someone who likes people with trotters
Race day is approaching. The gels no longer leave your bumhole quivering, you’re more pineapple-flavoured electrolyte than person. You are friends with the homeless man in the park
Your body is a chiseled, supple statue of rippling muscle, running sores and vaseline. Oh vaseline, no place that is sacred from its soothing lubrication. People wearily default to asking you about the marathon in conversation, as they already know it is the only thing that you like to talk about
Three days to go and you’ve going full throttle on the carb buffet; you’ve read somewhere vaguely about ‘good starch’ and ‘gluten storing’ and although you’re not hot on the details you’re 98% sure that this is all important preparation for THE BIG DAY (™) as you tuck into your carbonara for three
Your body, sensing the pain climax is near, starts hopefully simulating little injuries. You develop a bizarre limp, your right arm goes numb, your left nostril is quivering. Another toenail makes a bid for freedom down the shower drain
You wake up at 5am on THE BIG DAY (™) in a cold sweat. Slowly you drag your spasming limbs out of bed and start to slick yourself in a thick layer of vaseline and wrap your calloused hooves in bandages. You stand thoughtfully in front of your race bag and for the first time start to consider how you plan to transport 17 gels sachets and three litres of water around 26 miles. You doubtfully add some masking tape to your bag
You stagger up to the start line covered in solar panels of silver gel packets, the tape already starting to pull agonisingly at your leg hairs. Your bowels are threatening to empty themselves at any moment, you can’t remember how to walk. You wander if there’s still time to back out but the crowd has already set off at a gentle jog and there’s no going back now
The first 3 miles your legs are leaden, each breath coming in a rasp like a corpse emitting its final death rattle. Your feet are flopping around on the hard tarmac, sending judders up your knees which are grinding dangerously
8 miles in you hit your stride, time begins to get bendy. You begin to enjoy the public vending machine of snacks being thrust out in your path by the crowds. For 7 minutes between mile 15 and mile 16 you almost possibly start to enjoy yourself.
You see things happening under Blackfriars bridge that definitely don’t belong there. Dark things. Grown men shitting in the street, rivers of vomit, rats eating the vomit. The bodies pile up, a man gets taken down by an over-zealous throw of gummy bears from a bystander around mile 19. You try not to think about anything but the next step in front of you, and the one after.
Around mile 22 you see God and time seems to slow down. Mile 23 is mind-bendingly fast. Mile 24 you’re off your rocker on electrolytes, your brain has departed leaving a pounding rhythm that every cell in your body knows - a thrum thrum of foot after foot after foot. The sounds around you are oddly muted, the colours bright. You start to feel a pathetic well of emotion for your fellow runners, something bordering on - dear god - patriotism. The houses of parliament are approaching, you well up. Your body is screaming, the crowd is screaming, your knees are screaming (do you even still have knees?)
You stagger over the line and spend the next twenty minutes bobbing aimlessly in the crowd like an empty coke can thrown into a river. Each muscle slowly starts to make its presence known. Just as a sense of deflation and the first rumblings of exhaustion start to roll over you, your drunk friends descend on you and carry you off to the pub. You sink 2 pints and a couple of paracetamol, then pass out face down on the sticky table. It’s all over.
Written by Jess Bird
Image: Ugo Bienvenu, thisisnthappiness.com