I signed up for my first marathon relatively late in 2010, and the only one I could find nearby was the inaugural Sussex Marathon the following April. I followed a very basic training plan and included a few runs round Richmond Park as I knew it was going to be hilly. The route was a six-mile loop around Battle and then an out-and-back twice to Ashburnham up and down some vicious hills. I managed to run the first 18 miles but then walked up the remaining hills and my 4:20 target slipped to a time of just over 5 hours.
The next year I signed up early for Brighton, and also joined the Ealing Eagles running club. I got to know Kelvin who was doing his coaching qualification and he offered to coach me as he needed someone to practice on. He drew me up a sixteen-week plan and we met every week to talk through what I’d done, and what my targets were for the week ahead. I was between jobs at the time so I was able to arrange my life around my training. I relished the challenge of the different types of sessions, and really appreciated having such an encouraging and positive coach. But the disappointment of the year before nagged at me. I found myself thinking after each session, ‘Well I’ve managed that one, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do the next.’
And then one day it clicked. Marathon training is an act of faith. The running that I’d already done had set me up for the running that I was going to do in the future; I’ll be able to run tomorrow because I ran yesterday. I started approaching my next sessions, not with the dread that I’d fail, but with a curiosity to discover what my body was now capable of. You run with your whole body, not just your legs, and that means your mind and your spirit too. I’ve found the most difficult aspect of running is training my mind, developing that mental endurance that enables me to keep going when everything in me says stop. That’s where I need to trust the training I’ve done, the wisdom and experience behind the training plans I’ve followed, the encouragement and support of friends who’ve run more marathons than me, the belief of a coach who can see the potential that I doubt, the memories of the winter runs in the dark and the snow which have set me up for my Bethlehem race.
I am under no illusion as to how hard it will be, but this Sunday I want to have faith as I run the Palestine Marathon. And in the light of what happened this week in Boston, I also choose to have faith that the people who want to cause that kind of violence are few and far between and that they won’t have the last word. I have faith that the generosity, determination and resilience of the community of runners and the people who support us will overcome fear, and that will be what endures.