The real marathon stamina

Watching the London Marathon on the telly today has brought a nostalgic tear to my eye, remembering all those fond memories of having completed those 4 big ones over the last 6 years. But what do I remember most about those life-changing experiences? What were the big learning curves that have impacted my life? I could waffle on about some deep emotional and personal issues – blah blah – but I won’t. So you can breathe a sigh of relief. There are a number of other elements of having completed ‘the distance’ that make me bristle with pride that don’t involve any teary stories which I could bang on about.

The key skills I am most proud of, and have recounted to many over the years, is not the fact that I mustered up the stamina to run 26.2 miles, 4 times, but about my strength and ability to ‘hit the ground running’ back to my normal pre-marathon self, the moment the race is over, in a somewhat – to many – unsavoury manner. I am thrilled to be able to share the fact that at the end of every marathon – almost immediately – I have sparked up a fag and gone for a pint – a ritual that has increased with competence with every medal I have slung in the back of the knicker drawer.

After the first marathon in 2005, I didn’t do well, just going for one pint (lager top, in fact, even more shameful) at my local boozer. Pathetic. The following year I showed a marked improvement by hobbling home with a 10 pack of Marlborough Lights and a four pack of Guinness. I even threw in a kebab. Score.

The third marathon in Berlin, 2007, I did myself proud – as my friend Joel Davies who is running the London Marathon as I am writing this will testify. Not only did he witness me smugly lighting up amidst a huddle of disapproving straight-laced European athletes (“Oi Le Vay, put that fag out!”) he promptly took me to a local bar, after I bagged a quick shower, and we put away several pints which led to far more mischievous behaviour which I think I best not expand upon here (sorry mum).

But, it was the last – and final – marathon in 2009 where I really found my defining moment in the stamina stakes. At the finish line not only did I spark up my ritual smoke, but I didn’t even go home to shower to regroup before heading out. I sat in the middle of thousands of people, peeled off my sweat and dirt encrusted top, cleaned off the grime with wipes and brushed my hair, put on some clean clothes, applied eye-liner and lip gloss – and went straight to my favourite pub, the Coach & Horses in Soho. Here, to the amazement of my friends, I put away 5 pints and chain-smoked 10 fags. They didn’t actually believe I had run the marathon I appeared so normal.

Now that, dear friends, is marathon stamina…

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