I over thought 24/7, seven days per week and felt horrific anxiety and fear. Fear that my husband may be encouraged to switch off my life support machine in the early days. I also suffered severe boredom, sleeplessness - because you slept out of boredom during the day - and experienced graphic hallucinations, that no one warned me or my family about. I was scared shitless of dying, then at other times, I wished I could physically pull the plug on my own life support machine.
Way back in 2013, I took part in my first run and on 21st January 2017 I completed my 85th. Those that know me will tell you that I never tire of telling anyone that will listen of what a great concept parkrun is and how I love the inclusive environment that you can take advantage of a free local 5k run.
'Oh god, have you been at the gym again?' I arrive to dinner with friends carrying a tell-tale sports bag, and inwardly wince at their reactions. The joking 'you're obsessed' comments, the well-meaning but misplaced concern that I'm doing too much, and even worse, the implication hanging in the air that somehow my attendance at a spinning class makes them feel bad, or a bit lazy.
Nothing could have prepared me for how I felt when I first saw the empty infinity stretch out in front of me. I could hear it goading me. What right do you have to be here! It shouted. This was mankind's most deadly theatre. It had consumed armies; halted dictators and sucked the life out of the unprepared. It was going to chew me up and spit me out. It told me it would destroy me. It would spare my life but not my dignity. I nodded politely but then stared it down, hard. I had other ideas. "Let's see", I said, as I turned and walked back down the hillock of sand (I tripped a little as I got to the bottom).
On the 23rd January myself and 32 others will be starting an attempt to run 7 marathons in 7 days on the 7 continents around the world. The challenge starts on a glacier in Antarctica and then travels through Chile, Miami, Madrid Marrakesh, Dubai before finishing in Sydney. I will have 168 hours to cover 183 miles with around 60 hours of flying thrown in for good measure.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of running my first marathon*. It was the London Marathon in April 1997. Over the same period of time, longer in fact, I have also been an observer and analyst of Middle Eastern politics. Reflecting on two obsessions that have been important in my professional and personal life, what have I learnt from marathon running that can be applied to my analysis and observation of Middle Eastern politics?
Today, walking to the pub for a Sunday roast, one of my friends observed we were engaging in what she called 'Jan chat' i.e. the art of chatting about all things depressing (Brexit, Trump, not drinking, death etc.) during January, which I guess summed the month up for her. It seems most people find it a pretty miserable month.
Tower-running does exactly what it says on the tin: racing up the stairs of daunting sky-scrapers as quickly as possible. The radical running format was first introduced to the UK by Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, when it launched the Vertical Rush fundraising challenge back in 2009 at London's iconic Tower 42
We wandered up to the start line and I snaked across to the first-aid tent and whilst I knew sanitary products didn't feature in an emergency response bag, I had hoped that some kind organised female would have one in her bag. After embarrassingly relaying my story to her she kindly produced something from her bag...