Texas Kingwood Marathon 2019

Time: 5:21:12

Medal: Obviously…

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Lacking fitness?  Haven’t been running properly in years? Still carrying a fair amount of that grief bulk?  Why not enter a marathon 3 days before it’s held? I mean, there isn’t anything I’d rather be doing on New Year’s morning than lining up in that distantly familiar cloud of Deep Heat and nervous sweat; under-trained, over-fed, but at peace with the fact that I’d likely be embarking on a very repetitive, and very long, and very repetitive speed walk on my quest to bring my Texas marathon medal haul to a respectable total of three.

Although in previous years I had entered this race the day entries were available, something compelled me to look up the event while I was visiting my family for Christmas, and I realized, elbow deep in tacos, that the marathon was not at capacity, and entry was still open.  I casually inquired about my parents’ plans on January 1st which immediately raised suspicion, and I was met with a very direct, “Is this your way of asking for a lift out to Kingwood at some ungodly hour again?” from my mother, who is no stranger to my impulsive decisions.

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Fun and safe activity 1: hanging out on railway tracks

With just over 72 hours until the starting horn, I decided to really begin my training in earnest.  I thrashed out a ‘marathon pace’ (translation = slow, causal, balls not even close to the wall) 5k on the familiar Rice University loop, but was most aggrieved when my mother refused to accept that my babysitting duties should be suspended temporarily to allow for a restful, successful taper.  Duties, I should add, that I take extremely seriously, and require my full commitment to allow for educational, enjoyable, and – most importantly – safe activities that allow my niece to flourish.

The evening before the race (traditionally referred to as New Year’s Eve, but whatever) I attended a little soiree with my parents, and indulged in two light beers and some Venezuela food, before tucking myself into bed just after the bells.  Rock and roll, bitches, this girl is wild.

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Roughly 27 minutes later, my alarm sounded, and I prepared myself (sans the garmin I had originally brought on holiday for swimming laps, but had then charged specifically for THIS MOMENT), and hopped into the car with my dad, who had been elected as the parental driver for the day.  Wading through the crowds, I eventually found myself at the start of the 20th annual Texas Marathon, and after the  usual pleasantries we were off, and I became, obviously, the embodiment of athleticism.

OK, so that may be a slight untruth, but. upon deciding I’d jog 5k, then operate on a run a mile, walk a mile basis, was surprised to find that I ran (jogged… potato, po-tah-to) over half the course, finishing in a not-too-crappy time of under 5 and a half hours.

What I had neglected to fully consider, in my overwhelming excitement, was the effect that the morning would have on my unsuspecting body – chiefly my hip flexors – and I was taken down memory lane to the aftermath of my very first marathon, and the cripple shuffle that ensued in the 48 hours succeeding. Thankfully, my bathroom at my parents’ house is furnished with a bathtub, and Houston has an abundance of fast food eateries able to crave my lust for salty foods post exertion, so I managed to survive (I mean, clearly).

With the benefit of nearly 10 months hindsight (considering how tardy I am in writing about this), I can safely say that my relative success in Texas did not spur me on to a spate of recklessly throwing myself into ill-advised, lengthy running adventures, which I am quite sure my bum knee would aggressively object to.  I have, however, taken to mixing up my workout routine with a few outdoor runs, of slowly increasing length, and it has reignited the joy experienced by the freedom of running without purpose.  So for that, I am grateful.

 

So. How’s everyone been?

I lied to you.

I mean, if it’s any consolation, I was lying to myself as well, I just didn’t know it.  I was not ok, and I remained not ok for about 18 months.  I did head to California and hike a little bit of the PCT, along which I met some incredible people and continued to believe I was harnessing my grief in a positive way, but after I left the trail and hit Portland and New York City for a while, I was mostly into full-blown self-destruct mode.  I was drinking for breakfast and fuelling my body with donuts and nicotine.

Healthy grieving:

Not healthy grieving:

Upon my return to the UK, and to work, I became increasingly aware of how little I cared about myself and everything I did.  I put on weight (near enough 25lbs), I neglected household chores (not quite on par with an episode of ‘Hoarders’, but not the usual standard you’d expect of a grown ass woman).  I stopped socialising and arranging to do things, opting instead to read books about death and loss and everything miserable so I could wallow in it.  I basically became a fat, melancholy hermit.

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But in October, 2018, I went to Switzerland with my friend Lisa with the intention to hike.  Hiking we did, but what shocked me was how unfit I had become.  I was out of breath, my hiking clothes hugged me a little too tightly, and – worst of all – the photos Lisa took were the kind of paparazzi shots you’d pay good money to shut down.  It was the wake-up call I needed, and as soon as I got home I took some ‘before’ photos and began my journey of self-improvement in earnest.  After all, on top of starting to come to terms with the loss of my brother, I had to consider the impact my health would have on my MS diagnosis (something I’d given very little zero thought to).

 

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2018 v. 2019

I started exercising more, improving my diet, and cutting out unhealthy activities.  I started to take an interest in things again.

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Although I have accepted that life is transient and, ultimately, meaningless, I also started to actually believe, as Miguel de Unamuno wrote, that “if it is nothingness that awaits us, let us make an injustice of it.”