Nobody ever wants to hear the words “you can’t do this event”. However, after a good few months training, by some stroke of luck, I had managed to earn myself a calf strain (a tear in my muscle). To put it lightly, this was really bloody annoying. Due to my anxiety, I have always been a huge hypochondriac when it comes to injuries. I’ve only got to feel the slightest ‘niggle’ and I am convinced I am injured and immediately start firing texts at my physio, Arron. Fortunately, Arron has the patience of a saint and put up with my ridiculous messages about the effects of (accidentally) kicking turbos or announcing the discovery of a dent in my shin.
So, after several false alarms of paranoia I find myself back on Arron’s ‘bed of pain’ with his thumbs digging around in my calf when he announces – “looks like you have got a calf strain”. One of my biggest worries is confirmed and I am prescribed at least a week resting and a daily routine of calf
raises and ice.
The next two weeks after this involved a delightful array of sulking, temper tantrums and tears. Unfortunately, with exercise as my main remedy for my mental health, without it I am left with what can only be described as an overwhelming fidgety emotional itch. An itch, that I can’t scratch.
After two weeks of my fussing and sulking it is not surprising that my coach, Jon Brown, noticed that I was having a mini meltdown and arranged an emergency ‘talking to’. The conversation kind of went like this:
Jon: “How is your calf?”
Jon: “Right. And how are you?”
Me: “Not great.”
Jon: “How bad is your calf, have you tried running on it?”
Me: “It’s bad. No I haven’t because I am scared of making it worse”
Jon: “You might have to pull out of Brighton Marathon if you are not careful – otherwise you’re going to put Barcelona Ironman at risk”
There is a long pause.
Me: “Well I am not pulling out.”
Jon: “Try a small gentle run in two days time then and tell me how your calf feels after that.”
I came away from this meeting feeling equally shit and furious that I was being told there was a possibility I wouldn’t be running the marathon. So, the next evening I thought ‘sod this’ and I went for what turned out to be a rather enlightening run. I realised two things:
1 – I really am a massive hypochondriac – the calf is in fact fine. A bit weak, but fine.
2 – Jon apparently knows how I work better than I do myself and has applied reverse psychology on me without me knowing – how brilliantly annoying!
After hurling some abuse at Jon about playing games with my brain, I thanked Jon and asked him to help me get to Brighton Marathon in one piece.
With the help of Jon and his mind games and Arron with his nauseating thumbs and ‘dry needles’ (another story entirely) – I can gleefully report that I made it to Brighton Marathon ready to rock and roll.
In the spirit of being a calamity, the marathon weekend was not all plain sailing. It is the Saturday before the race and Mum, Dad and I have rocked up in Brighton at the campsite in the sunshine bus (our orange VW Campervan :D) and there we have our accommodation for the night. (You may think that I am crazy sleeping on a camp bed the night before my first marathon. However, I will have you know that the campsite was full of marathon runners – full of all 4 out of 20,000 of them. So there.)
We have picked up our race packs and checked out the course so the next thing to do is eat. Time to carb load. We have planned for a large late lunch so boy am I hungry. I am bordering hangry (anger caused by hunger) and ready for my homemade Spaghetti Bolognese. It is during WWIII, the battle of the awning, that I hear my Mum cry out that the gas bottle has run out and the bolognese has not been cooked. This was the end of the battle of the awning and the start of the battle of who’s fault is it that we have no cooker. My hanger now peaking being stuck between the firing line of insults and accusations I quickly phoned a local Italian café who amazingly delivered three portions of spag bol and some garlic bread – who knew?! By 4pm I had finally eaten my bodyweight in pasta and was ready to slowly wind down for an early night. It was a beautiful evening and thankfully I got off to sleep just fine!
The next morning I wake up to the sound of the kettle boiling and the smell of toast all snuggled up in my blue sleeping bag, which I always think makes me resemble Heimlich from A Bug’s Life, and realise the day has finally arrived to run my first marathon. I have a cocktail of excitement and nerves as I unzip my sleeping bag and climb out ready to face the day. After a slice of peanut butter toast I head over to the shower block to get ready. It turns out that at 6pm on a Sunday morning on BBC R2 you will have gospel music blasted at you. It was hilariously perfect and I had a good old boogie and serenaded the other early risers in the shower block whilst I got ready. It was then a case of making my, what turned out to be gag worthily thick, porridge pot and jumping in a taxi to meet the rest of the gang at the start in Preston Park.
I arrived to a field of thousands of people all nervously fluttering about, preparing themselves for what was ahead. The atmosphere was electric as I found the JBR gang consisting of Jon, Julie, Tracy, Karl and my Dad that were all running as well. My excitement soon came to an abrupt halt, not because of my pre-race nerves, but because of the damn queue for the toilets. Majority of the time before the race therefore was spent discussing bowel movements with Julie and Tracy, whilst waiting in line to do the classic pre-race nervous poo. After (finally) having a successful mission, we all headed to the start line.
This was it – we were off. Julie, Tracy, Karl and Dad had set off ahead leaving Jon and I to pace each other around the course. Other than a few hills, the start was great and before I knew it we were out on the promenade heading towards the 7 mile marker. If there is one thing I can say about this course, it is this:
It was bloody hot.
Now some clever clogs decided to wear the all black club t-shirt. Mistake. I could feel myself getting hotter and hotter. I knew Jon had realised something wasn’t quite right because he kept asking if I was okay. I remember thinking “jeez louise – am I going to be this hot all the way round?”. I was also conscious that I was coming up to the 13-mile mark. My longest training day was a 13 and then 7 miles split across the day so in the back of my head I was feeling extremely anxious about how I would feel post mile 13. It was at this point that Jon turned to me and said “Right Crampton, I’m done. You’ve got this. Bye.” With that, he gave me a hug and a shove and I was on my own. I knew it was the right decision for him but bloody hell, what timing!
I was suddenly on my own feeling a bit shell shocked and still very very hot. I looked around me at the spectators cheering us on and at the other runners plodding along around me. At this point I realised I had a choice to enjoy the remaining half or continue to beat myself up. I knew what I had to do. I grabbed a handful of jelly babies, ripped their sugary little heads off and got to it. As I passed through into the residential stretch of the course I found I had a new lease of life. Whether it was because of the jelly babies or the hilarious sight of a man running in a thong I didn’t care, I felt good. As I ran towards the 17 mile marker, Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life blaring out of someone’s front garden at me, I honestly felt on top of the world. I have made it past 17 miles without hitting the dreaded wall.
I came storming back out onto the promenade with a grin from ear to ear. Then the industrial park appeared. I had been warned, and quite rightly so, about this stretch of doom. What a contrast. I was at mile 20, the furthest I had ever previously ran in one day. The lack of spectators became quickly apparent. With my soundtrack now the pitter-patter of runners plodding and panting through, the silence allowed me to become aware of my legs getting heavier and heavier. It was hot with no breeze and nothing to look at but other miserable looking runners. These 3 miles definitely felt the longest of the whole course and I had to keep reminding myself that all pain is temporary and before I knew it, I was gratefully clear of the industrial park and into my last 4 miles.
Brighton Pier was finally coming towards me and a sudden wave of excitement passed over me. “I can do this”, I said to myself. “Yes you bloody well can!” answered another runner. It was at this point that I started to really take in the rainbow of charity shirts and listen to the names of strangers that spectators were cheering on. This is what it is all about. Ordinary people doing extra ordinary things. I didn’t think about the heat or the pain in my legs from that point. In that moment, the world truly was a brighter place. My main concern now was to avoid becoming an emotional wreck!
As I ran into the last 400m, feeling slightly euphoric, I heard someone shout “GO ON EMMA” and there were my Mum, Dad and friends who had come to support me. “CRAMPTON!!” there was Jon a little bit further along. This was it. The finish line was there and I charged across it wailing with elation.
I can honestly say that I loved my first marathon experience. From training with the JBR gang and following Jon’s gruelling training plan to charging (plodding) round the 26.2 miles and witnessing some bloody amazing people. I will definitely be back for more.
All of this built up in to one moment results in me wailing “AHHHHH – I’VE F*CKING DONE IT!!!!” on Brighton seafront. Goodness knows what my emotional outcry will be at the end of Ironman Barcelona but I do know that now I can’t wait for it.