Daniel's Marathon Magic

24 Apr 2017

It is unlike me to not be able to find the words to express my thoughts in the immediate aftermath of something important. That is probably a reflection of the toll that running a marathon has taken on my brain today.  But I feel a desperate need to remember things I did and saw for fear of forgetting them in the mush that my mind has become.

The day started early. Having spent the few days before suffering from Maranoia (which is actually a thing, google it), I did not sleep well. Up at 1am , 3am  and then 5am, I decided to have breakfast and set out to Greenwich a little earlier than planned. I met up with the inspiring Josh Domb (a co-Jewish Care runner) on the walk from the station to the park and the arrangements for bag drop and start line were timed to perfection. We also met Yael Kohn too who has travelled from Israel to run for Jewish Care. 

Standing in the starting pen is a rather remarkable sight. I was in 8 (out of 9) and the sea of tens of thousands ahead was simply awesome. But the disadvantage of being at the back is that it takes nearly 20 minutes to reach the start line. 20 more minutes for all the doubts to set in, to question whether I really feel ill or is it just the adrenaline? 20 minutes to recount the training runs and wonder if I did enough.

So I spent the first few miles just trying to breath and settle down, interuppted once for a quick trip the urinals at mile 2. Finding a stride is hard when there are so many others around you but by mile 5, I was feeling good. Pace was a little too fast and much of the early stage is downhill which makes it harder to slow down. But by mile 7, we were running flat again and the first major landmark appeared as we ran round Cutty Sark. By then I was starting to think about the first Jewish Care cheer point at mile 11 and made sure to call ahead so that the Jelly Babies were ready. They were. As were the cheers and screams from family and colleagues and that feeling of simple yet beautiful support spurred me on for the next few miles - jelly babies helped too!

Then as if from no where we turn a corner to see the imposing  Tower Bridge, in the glory of a sunny London day. Half way. And I am feeling good. Relaxed, consistent with my speed and making sure to hydrate every other mile. 13/14 and 15 lead up to Canary Wharf - new London, and from nowhere my legs start to feel heavy. I have not prepared mentally for this. I was hoping to reach 20 before that happened. No doubt the heat played a role and whether it was or not, it felt uphill for a few miles. Nothing is more motivating than being overtaken by a rhino, or the fella running barefoot with a giant crucifix on his back. I needed some intervention. Low and behold. I see the running Rabbi!! Rabbi Odom Brandman, the local Rav and he too appears to be feeling the heat just a tad. So I switch off the headphones and we chat as we run. I'm not sure I'd call it divine intervention but it was enough to distract me from what felt like ever increasing pain. We reach mile 17 together and he says '9 more to go'. That is when I realised I could not stop. Stopping would have meant walking and probably not being able to start running again. This was the moment that defined my marathon. The moment when I had to remember my #reasontorun, for all my colleagues over 20 years, for all those who had supported me, for me and all the hard work I had put in before the day. There is digging deep and there is reaching beyond what is normal for a human being to do, to achieve a lifetime ambition. It was like an out of body experience, my life literally flashed before my eyes and in that moment I learnt what we are capable of. I learnt that it is truly the case that 'thinking the impossible' does make things possible.

And all of a sudden I have reached 20 miles. Sounds like not long to go but when you figure it is another hour of running and you are already on zero, believe me, those 6 miles are tough. But I made a key tactical decision at this juncture. To stay close to the crowds of spectators. Because virtually all of them are screaming my name as I run by and this is what I need. By 22, I am slowing but not yet walking and all I can think about is 25, the next Jewish Care cheer point. Close to 25, I see some friends and they fire me up. I have a second wind and reach the family and team knowing there is just one mile to go. I dont even care about my time now but make the downright stupid mistake of stopping sharply for some hugs and kisses. Cramp, a pain like no other, so sudden and crippling. But its only in one leg and I figure I can carry on, but no. I crouch down and have a moment when I think I am not going to make it. A very brief moment because I stand up and think that stopping is going to make it worse. 1000 metres to go. That sign is the most beautiful sign I have ever seen. I jog it off and two colleagues scream my name as I reach 800. I am close now. And for the first time, I am crying. The pain is indescribable. As we turn into the Mall, I am listening to Robbie Williams, Love my Life. 'I am powerful, I am beautiful, I am free' - no words will ever be more apt in a moment.

26.2 miles. 4 hours and 56 minutes. No blisters - with thanks to Adidas Ultraboosts, the finest of my 7 pairs, a slightly dodgy tummy having consumed more carb gels than is normal. And all my toenails seem in tact.