Today it’s going to be one of those posts that if you follow me on social media, or know me personally, you will have heard/read most of what I’m about to write… Feel free to move along, unless you want to know more details and see some extra photos! *wink!
As you know, I went to Madrid last weekend. I took Friday and Monday off, to have a couple of extra days available with my family, and to be able to rest.
On Friday, I was flying at 12pm or so. I took my train to go to London Bridge and take another one there to Gatwick, and bumped into a friend from work. We started chatting and when our train arrived, we got on it… or so we thought!
It turned out the train before was delayed, and we had hopped on to the wrong one! My friend realised when we were supposed to make a turn and we didn’t (I was completely oblivious until he pointed it out). I had had my doubts before jumping on the train, because I couldn’t read our destination anywhere on it, but since the main display at the station showed the correct information, we didn’t think it twice.
It was ok for me (ish) as I would have just enough time to go back to London Bridge again, but it meant I was going to cut it quite short. My friend’s plane however was leaving at 11am, so he didn’t have the time.
Panic ensued momentarily as we searched for options. Thanks to a train app I could see the next stop was Sevenoaks, and we decided to get off the train (and not go to Ashford International, or Dover Priory!) and get a cab, which we did. He got ready to make a run for it while driving there, handed me the cab fare and as soon as we arrived, jumped out of the cab and sprinted for the terminal. He had no time to spare if he wanted to make it to his plane.
After dealing with the cab driver, I also made my way to the terminal, with plenty of time to spare. I quickly realised my friend would have had a tough time getting to his plane on time, because there was quite a walk from the cab area to the terminal, but hoped for the best.
I love airports. All the shops and the people coming and going… I did my shopping (mainly food) and then received a text from my friend, that let me know that he had actually made a mistake and his plane was supposed to leave at 11:55. You can imagine I burst out laughing. At least he didn’t miss his flight!
The main reason I traveled to Madrid was the half marathon I was running on Sunday, as you know from all the dozen times I’ve mentioned it everywhere!
We took the car to go to the sports expo where they were giving out the bibs/timing chips. I took the opportunity to buy some sweets to give you more energy when running – I looked at the gels, but since I have never tried them, I didn’t want to risk it.
Of course, I was excited, but a bit worried. I hadn’t done my training properly because of a knee injury (my left knee has always been my bad knee) and a couple of trips, and then I got ill the week before the race. I had to manage to run 21k in 3 hours maximum, as they weren’t allowing any runners after that time, so they could open roads to traffic again. As you can imagine, I was scared I wasn’t going to finish the race.
I made my parents get up at 6am on race day, mainly because they insisted on driving me (no complaints there, I was sure I would need to be carried back home!) and we got to Cibeles, where the race started. And walked to my starting point. Since I was one of the slow ones, I was at the end, so I really started in Neptuno.
It took me about 9 minutes to cross the start line, due to all the people in front of me. It felt weird to run in my hometown, especially running through the streets that are usually packed with traffic, but I loved it.
The first issue was that when we got to the first water point, at 5k, after running under the sun all the way up, they had run out of water. We still had another 5 kilometres until the next water point, under the sun, through a wide avenue. I saw people picking up bottles from the ground, but I thought it was too gross, so I kept running. Problem was it was too hot. I had an internal struggle and finally decided that it wasn’t worth risking a sunstroke or withdrawing from the race so early, so I started looking for bottles of water too. I tried my best not to touch the actual bottle, and possibly wasn’t too successful.
Anyway, I kept running and running, and it all went great. I saw my parents at 14k, and I asked them for water again. When I left them, I ran along the marathon elite runners, which were on a lane to my left. I saw three of them, and it was amazing to see how efficient their strides were, especially compared to mine.
I had plenty of energy during the whole race, and didn’t really hit that infamous mental wall. At some point, my phone ran out of battery, so I didn’t have any music to motivate me, but I was still fine. Then, at km. 18, I met my downfall. We had to run around the Retiro park, and this side was uphill. I tried, but the pain in my legs, the impact of every stride on my hips, the heat, the soreness in my lower back, made it impossible for me to run all the way to the next marker, so I had to walk. I walked and drank small sips of water, and kept walking, and kept sipping.
When I reached the 19k marker, I began running away, but my body wasn’t happy about it. I entered the park walking. It was packed with people cheering all runners. I was on the right lane, with the half marathon runners, while the full marathon runners were arriving on my left. People were cheering, and shouting words of encouragement. Someone cheered me on and told me to keep going, to run the rest of the way to the finishing line, and that gave me a bit of strength. I wanted to keep running, it was my body that couldn’t, so I jogged as slowly as I could.
I finished the race in 2 hours 45 minutes, which is an outstanding time in my opinion. I’m chuffed with it, as you can see in the photo below (which I obviously didn’t take myself… It was either my dad or my mum that took the pic)
Of course, I spent the rest of the day in my pijamas, putting ice on my knees and resting.
On Monday, on my way back to London, I injured my good knee carrying my suitcase around, and now I can’t walk properly, so I’m taking painkillers and wearing a knee support. The muscles on my legs are still sore.
It was worth it.
I challenged myself, and I gave up a million times, but I proved myself that I can do it, that I can do much more than I give myself credit for. I know many people will think running a half marathon is nothing or silly, or that runners are always showing off and talking about running and our achievements. It wasn’t nothing to me. It tested my strength, my resolution and my resilience. It showed me that when I thought I couldn’t give anymore, I actually have some more left. It also showed me that there are thousands of people sharing the same goals as mine, and during the race, we were encouraging each other. Perfect strangers called me champion, and warrior, and told me I was amazing, just because I was doing something like this. Kids wanted to high five all of us.
When I was running, at some point I remembered some campaigns I’ve seen online and on TV or the cinema, and a slogan came to my mind – I run for those who can’t.
I wasn’t fundraising or anything this time, but it made me realise that we don’t normally live to our potential. We normally conform ourselves with just drifting along, taking it easy, not really challenging ourselves. I saw blind people running, others pushing wheelchairs, and others on hand-bikes, and all those people were challenging themselves physically, which made me realise once more how lucky I am.
Anyway, I always get emotional when I take part in a race, and I always end up with a tear in my eye, amazed at the human endurance and the strangers’ support.
I probably won’t be running a half marathon any time soon, but I will definitely try to beat my time and run it again.