Last weekend I ran 20 miles. When I say "ran", the reality is more that of a limping, wounded gazelle but you weren't there, you didn't see and so whatever lycra-clad fitness goddess you initially imagined, stick with that. The reality is nowhere near as glamorous.
I can't really explain how this has happened. I mean, we all make ill-advised decisions from time to time, but I appear to have made a colossal one in that, in two weeks time, I'm running the Virgin Money London Marathon 2015. There appears to have been a terrible mistake. My training plan calls this stage "tapering". I'm calling it "denial and sheer terror". Let me start by blaming some other people.
A couple of years ago, I broke my foot. Quite spectacularly, in four places. Quite unspectacularly, by being a bit pissed and tripping down two steps. For this, I blame my friends Tom and Lucy for having steps leading into their bathroom. And BungaBunga for unlimited prosecco. It was the year of the London Olympics. We were surrounded by ad campaigns urging us all to get off our arses and do some exercise but I couldn't, even if I'd wanted to. Through a combination of my bones being a bit slow to get their shit together, and contradictory advice from the three consultants I saw on rotation, my foot took longer than hoped to heal. Then when I got the all clear for "impact" sports, something odd happened. I decided I was going to go for a run.
I didn't get very far. Well, I got to the gym and onto the treadmill. And ran for about 30 seconds before I couldn't breathe and I got a bit embarrassed. So I got off the treadmill. I can't imagine this is how Mo Farah's career began. Then someone mentioned the Couch To 5k app, so I downloaded that and went back. Running at first for 30 seconds, then for a minute, then for 90 seconds. And sort of just kept going.Until I got to about 3k and lost the will to live. Enter Jane, previous flatmate and general purveyor of sense, who had to put up with all my moping when I couldn't walk. She'd previously trained for the Paris marathon but had to pull out due to injury. She said running outside was less boring.
I don't know how to explain how terrified I was of running outside. I have wobbly bits that somehow seem okay in a gym (where there's always someone more wobbly) but I always thought were some sort of crime to take out in public. Surely if I tried to run down the road, someone would take me to one side and gently usher me back indoors as I was making grown men cry? Would children point and laugh? Would I look like Phoebe from Friends when she ran through Central Park? Enter main culprit Kat Brown, who shoulders 90% of the blame for this running nonsense.
Kat told me to read a book called Running Like A Girl by the utterly brilliant Alexandra Heminsley. I have yet to meet another female runner who hasn't found it ludicrously inspirational, and have bought and gifted more copies than I'd dare count. You MUST read it for yourself, but what I took away from it was this: Nobody is watching you. Nobody cares what you look like. If your face is red and you're limping and wheezing round the park, it might be because you've just run 20 miles, not because you're horribly unfit and drank too much prosecco the previous night (even if the latter is the truth). I trudged on.
And so, in June 2013, I ran my first 5k. In October 2013, I ran my first 10k. In May 2014 I ran my first half marathon. And in April 2014 I watched Kat run her first marathon. A few months later I applied to run this year's London Marathon in support of The Mental Health Foundation. And the blighters gave me a place. So here we are. If you'd like to support my fundraising efforts you can buy a ticket to Funny Peculiar at The Udderbelly Festival on Mon 20th April - http://www.udderbelly.co.uk/whats-on/funny-peculiar