It was 2012 when I took on and met my first full marathon challenge, 5 years ago, one of those “things to do before you’re 40” bucket list kinda things I suppose, plus I’d already been managing half marathons previously for a few years and wanted to push up the challenge.
A lot had happened since that last event in my life, amongst them the agony of a Mortons Neuroma in my left foot, which made even walking painful for over a year until FINALLY after doctors, podiatrists etc. sent me back and forth then eventually for the scan that confirmed I did in fact have the MN that I had guessed I had through googling and observation of my symptoms. This meant I could be referred for a cortisone shot in 2015 that reduced the pain I’d been suffering so long. I could not understand why they could not have just sent me for the scan at the start and saved me so much stress & discomfort!
In addition to this I had been on a hike/walk over in Millport, a small island off the West Coast of Scotland, where, after taking a wrong walking route, ended up in a field where I was bitten by something on my leg. To this day I do not know what it was, all I know is I had 2 bites that flared up every few months and a heap of Lyme disease or Autoimmune type symptoms that caused me to feel awful most of the time in one way or another, it was like my body was under attack and I didn’t even know what the enemy was. Again the doctors, only at my request, tested me for Lyme, late stage, as this was now a good couple of years that these bites kept reappearing as if I’d just been freshly bitten then subsided but never went away completely, it was very odd, stressful and incredibly tiring. Not only that the doctors made me feel like I was silly to suggest the bites were the same ones that kept flaring up, and the Lyme test came back -ve, but they tried a course of anti-biotics which again still left me having to just try to manage to get through suffering. A friend on FB suggested a course of Oregano Oil and very kindly sent up some for me to try. I dosed myself with a few drops every day in ginger/lemon/honey tea and low and behold a few weeks later I felt just a bit better, certainly the edge of symptoms seemed to be taken off but I was still in a land of health limbo totally unsure if or how I would be able to feel “normal” again. It was depressing, debilitating, lonely, tiring and a chapter I am very glad to glance back on now in a far healthier state and be far removed from, but it took a battle, discipline with food, reducing inflammation in my system and sheer determination to get well again.
Then as if dealing with all that wasn’t bad enough I opened myself up into the first close personal relationship I’d had in years and that turned out to be yet another battle I had to face as it did not end well to say the very least, this left me in another health mess of CPTSD and struggles that almost broke me, again, receiving assistance and the right support seemed hard to get, so I just had to read, study, self help through online resources, in my cocoon of safety until I felt I could peek out, maybe even stretch my wings and then attempt to fly again, or maybe even truly for the first time! At least I had music to keep me going through these trials.
2017, all of that drama behind me, mentally stronger than ever, physically almost back to my old self, already running good distances, and the email reminder for the Edinburgh Marathon hit my inbox around Xmas/New Year. Something pulled my gut towards signing up for this challenge and I decided I was going to go for it! My “come back” run, a 26.2 mile stamp of my feet to everything that had tried to break me and show it all that I was stronger, that all that stuff didn’t win, that I was the winner!
Towards the tail end of 2016 I had begun hillwalking, still with some residual foot pain from the MN, but bearable, what was less bearable was being grounded and not getting to enjoy outdoor adventures and exercise in life the way I wanted to. It’s amazing how grateful you can be for a relatively pain free walk when you’ve had to endure months where every second step was in some way painful. I was determined to heal this thing, I’d read it was possible. The support of hillwalking boots and insoles seemed to help over time, and it wasn’t long before I got roped into climbing my first Munro!
2nd January we hit Ben Lomond and I had a couple of slips on the ice, just enough to cause my right knee to have issues for a while, so that was me out of commission for a bit and somehow I overdid it that day and it brought on a bout of CFS and generally feeling pretty awful again which was pretty horrid, not only that I was now wondering if I’d be able to keep training for the marathon.
Managed by end of January to get out for a run again and began building my strength back, it felt so good to be able to run again, a few aches and pains here and there but nothing compared to the pain of not running, for mind, body and soul, it had for years become the injection I needed.
By March I even braved a few more MUNRO climbing missions and I was upping my distances, it was looking good! The marathon gig was on! Whilst injury free and not wanting to temp fate I cut out on the MUNRO missions to focus on just running, getting my distances up and doing my utmost best to stay injury free!
It was all going pretty well, hadn’t quite pushed up my distances up as far as I’d hoped by tapering time but 19 miles was going to have to be close enough. The next 3/4 weeks was just spent enjoying shorter 10 mile runs in different locations, even back to the island I got bitten on. I ran round it on a lovely sunny day, just for a change of scenery, briefly remembering the episode of weird symptoms that began there years before and was just so glad it was over!
The final week, Monday, I was all set for the run the following Sunday, a slightly unwelcome disruption that I could have done without, my flat was having new windows fitted, so I had to move stuff to allow for the works, get my cat to my friend for the day and have my day turned upside down. I helped my neighbour move a chair for the same reason and thought nothing of it till I woke that Monday morning with a ridiculous hamstring/glute pain which seemed to have come out of nowhere, the only thing it could have been was the chair lifting! Ahhhhh….PANIC!!! Of all the things to happen!
By Tuesday it wasn’t much better, I was having to have a chat with myself about the possibility that I may very well just have to cancel the run altogether but I had a few days to do everything possible to get this mystery pain to go. Resting, compression, massaging, hot baths, cold compresses, the works…and by Friday it had eased enough for me to try a short slow paced 2 mile jog with support bandage, which I did and nothing tore or left me in agony, so I decided I was going to AT LEAST try to run the marathon but be sensible to chuck it if it got too painful.
Saturday prepared, kit all layed out, food shopping done and housework done so I didn’t need to do much after I returned from the event in whatever state that may be! Lol! Saturday night got crazy indigestion and couldn’t sleep so was awake till about 3am and was up at 6am to get breakfast and be in time for the train to Edinburgh that would get me to the start line in time.
Tired I got on the train, nervously excited, the buzz of all the other runners around, about to descend upon the streets to undertake this mission of endurance, all likely similar to myself with some focus or reason in their mind for doing it! Met an interesting lady from New Zealand on the train, a fellow spiritually conscious empath as serendipity would have it, and we hardly stopped chatting the whole way, from deep intellectual tangent topic to tangent and before I knew it we were there!
A short walk now to dump my bag on the truck that would take it to meet me at the finish line and then to the start point at Regents Road! This was it, I was here, and determined to beat the odds and do this thing! The sun was shining, it was gonna be a hot one but I wasn’t going to be pushing it too hard for speed PB’s I’d decided, today it was just about making it through the finish line! I ran the first 10miles or so at a pretty decent pace but my foot and knee began nagging a bit and with the heat on top of that the next 8 miles or so was the most gruelling! Took a couple of paracetamol and extra carb sachets around 17 miles and found a second wind! The last 8 miles was actually pretty good and unlike the first time I was running the last mile struggling, this time I was happily running to that finish line, so thankful that the wee legs had held up, that the mind had not given up when it argued with me to stop, that the music on my playlist in my ears had helped me focus away from the pains of endurance.
It was lovely to have the crowds shouting your name read from the number tags we had pinned on our tops! Go on Susan they shouted, well done, you’re almost there! And then that was it…I was through the finish line, it was like a blur, time becomes almost non-descript when you’re running for that long, it’s almost like a parallel universe place that is entered, perhaps that’s why I love it so much!
A slow dazed wander now to retrieve my bag from the lorry, collecting my medal and goodie bag on the way, and stopped some chaps to ask if they’d kindly take a finish picture for me with my medal on. Turned out they were from Washington DC, maybe some connection to the recent visit from Obama, always nice to meet interesting people!
I glugged down the banana protein shake, chatted briefly with a girl from London next to me and ate a banana whilst basking in the heat sitting on the grass with hundreds of other tired but happy people. Next headed to get the bus back to the city centre to catch the train home where I met a guy from Aberdeen and one from East London who had travelled up to do the race with his fiancé. Lovely to encounter such a diverse mix of lovely positive folks during my day out.
A wander through town from the station to get home with the goodie bag in hand and medal rattling round my neck, nods and smiles of acknowledgement to the other occasional entrant passed on the way also making their journey home from the day.
It was over, mission accomplished after all these months of discipline, pushing myself to train, testing times, injuries, faith and focus. Like a weight had been lifted, a new sense of lightness and freedom tied with gladness that I had successfully met my goal, in my own mind I had won, and more than just a medal.
Woke up the next morning feeling like someone had beat me up my legs in my sleep! Lol! I could hardly get up out of bed and laughed as I struggled with the DOMS onset, by day two and after an Epsom salts bath the pains began to ease a bit and I was now looking forwards to the summer ahead with that feat of endurance behind me!