I haven't written a blog in a while, and my life has moved on quite a bit since my last entry - I've moved home, finished my PhD (officially a Dr. Price!), I've started a new job and I've run my first marathon, so I thought it was about time I wrote another blog. I've missed writing down my ramblings more than I realised.
So it's been three weeks since I RAN MY FIRST MARATHON(!!!) and I still can't quite believe it. I signed up for the ABP Southampton Marathon on the 15th October after receiving my commiserations email from London. I thought if I was willing to run London - then I should take on the challenge anyway. So, without any idea of where I would be living, if I would have passed and finished my PhD, what job I would have (if any), I had in my head that at least I would know where I would be on the 22nd April 2018 - running my first marathon.
One of the reasons I had decided to take on the challenge of the full marathon was to mark 5 years since loosing my beautiful mum to Mesothelioma in November 2012. When she passed I had just started the final year of my undergraduate and in all honesty I wasn't in a great place for a few years after (but that discussion is for another time), now, looking back, running really helped me find myself again after a couple of years of numbness, and I will be forever grateful for what running has done for me.
After deciding to run in memory of my mum I decided to raise some money for Mesothelioma UK. Whilst I was thinking about fundraising I realised that a lot of the time diseases become alienated by their name. People may not have heard of a disease, and it almost immediately becomes impersonal. I think frequently we forget that behind every disease and illness, there are people. People that should be remembered. Not remembered as being defined by their disease but remembered for the incredible fight the disease put them through and their courage and determination to keep going.
For one, my mum was given 2 weeks when she was finally diagnosed and fought for 5 months. The will and determination for life that she expressed, even in her last weeks, was something I could never imagine.
I decided I wanted to start a campaign - the people of mesothelioma - to honour and remember all of the past and present mesothelioma warriors. The idea was that I would carry all of their names on my running kit while I ran Southampton Marathon.
I didn't expect much of a response but was over whelmed by the response the campaign received. I carried 32 names of past and present fighters over the finish line. A moment I will never forget.
In the lead up to the marathon, in all honesty I was just terrified. Terrified I couldn't do it. Thinking I was stupid for even trying. Scared of failing, scared of the heat expected on the day having trained in winter, scared of not fuelling properly, scared of the crowds, scared of the hills and if I'm honest, scared of pooping myself (not the most graceful first marathon appearance). The one thing that got me to that start line was the support from all of the people that put names of warriors forward. I can't thank them enough for the support they gave me.
The night before the marathon I sat in a hotel room with one of my biggest supporters (my sister), and looked through photos that people were tweeting me of the people I would be carrying the next morning. I couldn't help but well up, how much this all meant to me was hitting me right in the chest in a way I could never have imagined.
The morning of the marathon I woke up, feeling incredibly tense and terrified but I put my Mesothelioma UK vest on covered in the names of #thepeopleofmesothelioma and was taken over by an intense feeling of determination. There was no way I wasn't finishing.
With fear in my stride I walked to the race village in silence with my sister and partner along side me chatting. I couldn't deal with that now. My way to deal with anxiety is to become silent and as still as possible (minus the shaking ;)). As I was about to go into the baggage tent to drop my change of clothes off, a woman approached me and asked if I was Eugenia - I had her dads name on my top. She thanked me, along with the people that were with her. I couldn't speak. I can't at the best of times due to my social anxiety, but this was even more intense, I said thank you for coming up to me and held in the tears. As soon as she left I just looked at my sister, and we both cried - I needed this. After seeing the family of people I was running for, I was more determined than ever. I dropped off my bag, went for one last loo stop and went to the start line.
The wait for the gun to go off felt like a lifetime, I was surrounded by people, and they were all getting closer and closer, squishing me. I tried to just keep my breathing calm and kept looking at my hands where I had written 'you've got this' and 'yes you can' - something to remind me that I was capable when my mind started faltering.
6 minutes or so after the first wave of runners I finally crossed the start line and I was off! Around 1/2 a mile in to the run I saw a running friend, Jonathan. We've been friends on social media for a while but never met in person. I saw him and my nerves almost got the better of me, but I shouted 'Jonathan!' and I'm so glad I did. We had a friendly chat (and of course a sneaky selfie c.o. Jonathan) and this gave me a boost of positivity I carried with me throughout the run.
|Southampton marathon route. Find it on strava here.|
|Southampton marathon elevation profile. Find it on strava here|
The route was fantastic - although a two lap course I have to say this is one of my favourite races so far, and despite all the horrors I heard about the Itchen bridge prior to the race, it really wasn't that bad (until you're going up it for the fourth time XD!).
The course takes you through the town, over the Itchen Bridge, around the seafront, through a bit of housing, through the stadium, past the harbour and through parks. The course features really diverse scenery - just what you want to distract yourself.
The run was going surprisingly well until the second loop, just after the half way point. At the start of the loop I started laughing hysterically at a woman next to me asking 'are you regretting doing the full now too?!' having already endured the heat and hills for 2 hours.
At this point I saw my supporters for the second time and they ran a little bit with me cheering me on like I was Mo Farah. At first I thought all was going well - over 13 miles in and I was still doing OK. This lasted until I went up over the Itchen Bridge for the 4th time.
I had to walk. Something I never did in training and didn't intend to do on the day. But it was the only thing keeping me going. I was pooring water over myself at every station, soaking myself, but I was still way too hot. As soon as I was a hundred meters away from the water station I was roasting again.
I had to keep going so I convinced myself that if I ran for another 10 minutes I could walk for 30 seconds. This went on from miles 19 miles to 23.5.. playing a to and fro mental game with myself to keep going. Around 19.5 miles I started crying, I couldn't contain it, I don't know why. I was hot, I was tired, but I was OK, I just couldn't stop the tears. I managed to keep it in for a while and then I saw my sister and boyfriend again at around 20 miles. This would be the last time I saw them until the finish, and unlike the first time I saw them at the same place (at 6 miles) where I flung my arms up in a peace signs, I couldn't even properly look at them. I tried to smile but instead floods of tears came out. What I was managing to keep in was suddenly an open dam. The thought that I had over an hour left to run was tearing down my defences. I ran on with huge shouts of 'DO IT FOR THE PEOPLE OF MESOTHELIOMA' behind me egging me on for the final 10km as I wiped the tears from my face.
When I got the 38km mile mark I knew I could do it. I had 4km to go and the managing director of the company I work for was waiting with her family at 25 miles to support me. Knowing that this final boost of support was a mile or so ahead and that there was half an hour left I had a new lease of life. I put one foot in front of the other, grinned and waved as I passed Elaine and her family, and just kept running, I passed the 25 mile marker, the 26 mile marker and suddenly I was in the finish tunnel madly searching right to left so I didn't miss my sister and boyfriend. I needed to see them, to know they were there with me.
It wasn't until I was steps from the line that I saw them - my sister shouting her lungs off and martin grinning and cheering next to her. I threw my arms in the air and was filled with a huge surge of pride, like something I had never felt before in my life.
I was done. I had ran a friggin marathon! Thousands of steps, breaths, tears, heartbeats and 26.2 miles in 4 hours 39 minutes. I carried 32 names across the line and I'm sure that all of them were there with me. I had no doubt my mum was looking down on me with so much pride (I hope so anyway).
All I can say, is a marathon is another beast compared to any other race I've run. I had emotions I have never experienced before while running, and it's something I will never forget. People told me that it would be a few weeks before I wanted to run another, it was a few moments. I will be back marathon - you're a beast I can't wait to tackle again - and maybe next time, I can be mentally stronger and run every single step.
Looking back now, one thing I want to say is if you want to run a marathon DO IT! I have incredible amounts of self doubt at the best of times (I'm working on it), and if I can do it - so can you. Hell or high water, if you want it enough you can do it and I will be with you every step of the way.
The fighting force that the warriors of every disease carry with them in their spirit is something we should all strive to embody. I truly believe that if people like my mum can fight a disease for 5 months, fighting for every step, every breath and every moment, any of us can run a marathon. It may be a fight, but it will be nothing compared to what many people are fighting every day behind closed doors.
This has been a long one - so thank you for reading and finally, thank you to everyone that has supported me, through donations, sharing my posts, spreading the word and getting involved.
I couldn't have done it without knowing so many people were willing me to finish.
Live strong, live happy, live free.
Until next time - always remember, that sometimes, freedom is only a run away.