And in one short moment, that was how I came to run this year’s Reykjavík Marathon. It was never a conscious decision made out of a sense of duty, or charitable altruism, but a challenge made under the influence of alcohol that, for some unfathomable reason, seemed to stick and take on a life of its own. It was even more inexplicable when I actually started training…
Back in the UK I played rugby and had run a few 10k runs, but running a marathon was like nothing I’d ever done before. A whopping 42 kilometres of long, arduous running, not at all helped by the fact that I had the body shape you wouldn’t associate with someone who runs marathons (my standard jumper shape is “egg,” and I have man breasts that could put Ásdis Rán out of business).
So if I was to complete this race, I had to be serious in my training. I started off by watching all the training montage clips from the ‘Rocky’ movies back to back. When I realised that this was going to be of no use to me at all, I contacted my brother (who had run two marathons) for advice. “There’s no other way around it. You have to put the hard miles in,” he said, laughing as he put the phone down.
But here’s the thing they don’t tell you: running is BORING! Sure, guys like Haruki Murakami may get a Zen kick out of long distance running, but I bet he never had to run along Sæbraut during a January snowstorm where the wind whips your nipples to bloody shreds. And then there are the shin splints, tearing muscles, and the exorbitant cost of running gear. Yes, running is hell. End of story.
“DUDE, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!”
But as the weeks ground on and my distances increased, things started to improve. To stave off boredom, I found myself rekindling a long dormant love for ‘90s drum and bass music, creating long playlists with fast paced ambient beats from the likes of Photek, LTJ Bukem and Source Direct. I slowly began to cut out alcohol and reduced my bacon intake to five times a week. All the while I was motivated by the word of encouragement I received from my social group:
“You know, if you want to change to a half marathon, I wouldn’t think any less of you as a man,” my wife said.
“Run a marathon? HAHAHA! That’s a good one. Oh wait you’re SERIOUS? Why the fuck would you want to do that?” my co-workers said.
“Dude, you are going to DIE!” Grapevine intern Byron quipped.
THINGS FALLING APART
On race day itself, I was a bag of nerves. What if I don’t make it? What if I collapsed and was found wheezing in a ditch after only a few kilometres? However, when I gathered with the thousands of other runners I felt a strange sense of confidence. True, there were loads of serious looking, cross-fit addicted, athletic types, guzzling on sport drinks, but there were many other people of different shapes and sizes, all trying to do their best and looking to have a good time. Maybe I can do this, I thought.
As mayor Jón Gnarr started the race, things started off well. I forced myself to go slow and steady. And after 10km, I was actually going well and feeling OK. Then at 15K, it began to slowly fall apart. The muscles behind my right knee slowly started to ping and cramp. I put it out of my mind and ran through the pain, although at a slower pace. Then at about 22K, my left calf muscles started cramping up. “OK, this is not so good,” I thought, “but I have to keep on going.” That was a great idea until I hit “the wall” at 26K, where everything cramped up and I slowed to a crawl before stopping and stretching for five minutes.
Somehow I managed to get back to running, although by this time I had adopted the running posture of those old guys who look like a tortoise on their back legs. And then, somewhere around the 33K mark, the muscles at the back of my right knee completely gave way, forcing me to walk the last nine kilometres in excruciating pain.
NICE GUYS FINISH LAST
But despite this, when I approached the finishing line, I naturally had to sprint the last 200 metres, pain carved over my face and limping. But I did it! I actually ran a fucking marathon! As my wife hugged me, I turned to the sky and screamed “DRAAAAAGO!” whereupon I went straight to the pub and had a pint. Well I think I at least deserved it!
So how do I feel two days after this event? I’m not sure. Physically, my legs are in bits. I can’t bend my knee that well, and I almost need a hoist to get out of my chair. But the sense of achievement that you get from doing something that only 674 other people had the guts to undertake can’t be discounted.
Will I do it again next year? You are joking, aren’t you?