My need to vomit is strong and immediate. It rose the instant I crossed the finish line. I slow to a walk, hips and legs already seizing. Runners all around me, jostling, stumbling, bumping. Behind me runners flood across the finish line. It’s November 2015. I’ve just completed my first marathon.
Within seconds the elation I carried through New York City’s 26.2 mile course evaporates. It is over, already history. Even as the final uphill metres fell away, step by step, I quietly wait, curious, for the wave of joy to roll over me. I run another mental scan. Perhaps there’s a tear in there to squeeze out, gating a flood of euphoria. I process the data. I just want to puke. Numb. Too tired to feel anything.
Ahead, race volunteers bestow finisher medals around sweat drenched necks. Wooden A-frame coat racks dripping with marathon finisher bling.
“Great work runners”, “Awesome job“, “Congratulations”. Praise and support from the volunteers.
I hadn’t wanted a medal so bad since I was twelve, playing school rugby in regional finals. Today I fixated completely on this finisher medal. A symbol. Concrete, undeniable, proof positive, that I had completed what I started.
I waddle forwards, stiff, part of the flow now. A volunteer drapes and tapes a space blanket around my shoulders. The sweat of the last few hours rapidly chills.
Official finisher photo sets line both sides of the road. Temporarily buoyed by this confirmation I indulge by joining four different lines to ensure I nail my victory pose for future validation. In the first I meekly mimic the person in front of me. By the last I’m confident I have good a picture.
“Dad’s going to get a real kick out of these”, I remind myself. He got me through two tough miles today. Over the last four months I built him into an increasingly central part of my marathon experience. I want for him to share this.
He was an active club runner in his youth and has been passionate about athletics for the longest time. My big brother inherited that. As a kid we trailed around athletics meets for what felt like countless weekends, usually in the cold. I was never a fan.
I’ve come late to sharing this passion of dad’s, but not too late. He has aged in the last few years since two strokes left him half blind, took his car, and sucked at his self confidence. I’ve seen black and white prints of him competing, the young man before I existed. Recently he unearthed a decades-old training diary. We had a good evening reading and laughing over it together. I leant heavily on his love of running through four months of training runs, sharing my own training journal with him online, knowing he was following me.
In raising money for the charity that helped him adjust to his new normal, in running my marathon, I hoped to send him a message. Somehow this all seems easier than telling him.
“Thank you. I love you”.
I’ve just returned from finishing my 4th NYC mararthon. My dad has already completed his 1000th mile walking in the year and continues to push himself, honoring his values around fitness. In April 2019 I’m running my first London marathon, once again fundraising for The Stroke Association. My brother is running London as his first marathon, also fundraising. It’s going to be a great Spring!
Please DONATE here.
I would very happy if you would support my first London marathon for The Stroke Association.