How was your weekend running?

Yesterday was my fifth London Marathon and I’ve never seen the course like that: walkers from as early as 10k, so many collapsed runners by the side of the road I lost count (and hope, fervently, they are all ok). From the cold, windy deluge at Boston, to the hottest London marathon in six days: I’m not sure who angered the gods of marathon running recently, but whoever it was, please apologise and make the appropriate carbohydrate-based offering to appease them. Otherwise the next World Major will take place in an ice storm …

The support was, as always, incredible – and the weather perfect for spectating. For running, however, it was far too hot. To go from training runs in under 10 degrees to racing in that was asking too much for most. I know an awful lot of people who took on 26.2 yesterday and of them, I can think of one single person who achieved their goal and got a PB: hats off to my friend Maria, who did it on her birthday to boot. Every single other person (ok, possibly excluding Mo Farah) was a country mile – or more – off their targets. I know people aiming for sub 2:40hrs who scraped under 3hrs. People aiming for sub 3hrs who came home half an hour or more after that. And every single one of them should be proud. It’s all very well saying that some races have been hotter, that people from warm climates have an advantage, but there is a reason that the optimum temperature for running – wherever you come from, wherever you train – is a good 12 degrees lower than it was yesterday.

To battle through that, and come home with a medal is an achievement to be proud of, never mind that the numbers aren’t what you wanted. Marathons are unkind: the pros know that if it’s not their day, they drop out before 30k and live to race another in the near future. Us foot soldiers slog on, destroying ourselves in pursuit of a small bit of a medal on a ribbon to hang round our necks. But hey, if it was easy, the beer wouldn’t taste so good …

So, congratulations to all of you. And particularly to our very own Tara. I had the privilege of running with her yesterday and I know how early on she started to feel the heat and the effort – the body is trying so hard to dissipate heat, it just can’t sustain what would normally be a comfortable pace. There are races you run for time and feel proud of yourself for achieving them. Then there are the battles. They last for hours, hours in which you could, at any minute, just stop. And yet she didn’t: not once. That is, in my book, every bit as much of an achievement. Getting a PB is a victory lap, but finishing a race like that is surviving a war of attrition, and those medals are the ones you really earn. It might not feel like it on the Mall, but give it time and you start to realise that what you did makes you tougher, stronger and more resilient than you were the day before.

Plus, did I mention, it makes the beer taste so much better?

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