How not to run a marathon.

Well, Budapest was lovely, thanks for asking. Just about managed to get under the radar of the stag and hen nights, and was able to see some historical stuff that was really, really interesting, albeit tinged with some pretty unpleasant context. So, if you fancy a romantic weekend away, get yourselves along to the secret nuclear bunker underneath Buda castle, and spend a couple of hours at the House of Terror, the former White Arrow and Soviet secret police headquarters. That should quell your ardour for a bit. And definitely get to the thermal baths, first thing in the morning when the steam is coming off the water, and the mist is down low so that you can only see about six foot in front of you. This means that when a mysterious and obese local in Speedos appears in front of you, it feels like you’re on the set of the Ipcress Files. Very strange.

But, unless you’re particularly twisted, probably best not to try to combine the whole romantic weekend bit with running a marathon. Unless, of course, you’re confident about romping round the course comfortably, slinging your medal on and then skipping down to the thermals with the missus for a bit of a splash about. Unfortunately, I went into the weekend with just this level of confidence and my bravado was undone slightly faster than it took Mrs E to win a short game of ‘I told you so’ tennis.

I’ve run quite a few marathons, and I can bore at international level on what you should and shouldn’t do to stay in one piece. So it’s with a certain amount of embarrassment that I present to you here a guide to some of the most gormless things that a marathon runner can do, with a few lowlights from one of the most gormless runners in the Budapest 2014 starting lineup.

1. RTFM, or read the manual, as we help desk people used to say….
Even though you might have seen something a couple of weeks before that said the marathon was starting at 0930, it might be a good idea to check the night before. Then you’d know that the time had switched to 1100. Then you wouldn’t have had to wake up at 0530 for a 0600 breakfast on your own, never mind irritating your partner by going to bed stupidly early. An early ‘I told you so’ from Mrs E, and the score is love 15.

2. Watch your step.
When you get to the start, and you’re wandering around in the dark, speculating why there’s nobody about (see above), watch where you’re walking. Because you might bang your foot very hard and very painfully, on the fork of a fork lift truck. And it might hurt so much that you swear really loudly, at which point you might be aware that there are actually quite a few people around, it’s just that they’ve been relaxing inside the volunteer tents. Love 30.

3. Relax before the start of the race.
Don’t feel the need to jog back two miles to your hotel, just to tell your wife that the race start is 1100, not 0930. That’s a 6 mile warmup, never a great idea. Also, she’s not stupid, she’s read the programme by now, and will greet your arrival at the breakfast table with a solemn shake of the head. Love 40.

4. Don’t make your head hurt.
Every single training session you’ve done is based on minutes per mile, right? So just because this race has kilometre markers, and just because you’re in a pen that says 4:30/km, doesn’t mean you should change the settings on your watch five minutes before you start. Cos if you do, you’ll spend the whole race trying to calculate your splits into something you understand. Also, there’s a fair chance you’ll start off at the wrong speed. First game to Mrs E.

5. About that ‘fair chance’.
You feel great at the start of a marathon. You’ve trained, you’ve tapered, you’re pumped up. All is good. So you set off at a comfortable pace. Which is, of course, too fast to maintain, but even though you know this, there’s a little voice telling you that you can gets some minutes in the bag now, so as to give you a buffer later. Ideally, you need to tell that little voice to do one. Second game, love 15.

6. Not having a plan B exhibits stupidity.
I’ve had cramp in my last five marathons. I’ve not done anything particularly different training for five years and guess what? I’ve had cramp in my last five marathons. Honestly, how bloody stupid is that? Anyway, if you know you’re going to have a problem, and you know, at 20 miles, that a combination of stopping, stretching, walking and jogging until you get cramp again is just going to make you miserable and not able to walk properly for the next three days, why not have a plan B? Like walking off the course and getting a bus. Or training properly in the first place. Love 30.

7. Maintain your inner monologue.
If, at 26.1 miles, you’re overtaken by the pacing group who you really ought to be miles ahead of, and you just can’t lift your legs to jog over the line with them because every time you do, the cramp feels like Edward Scissorhands is giving you a deep tissue massage…keep your thoughts to yourself. What ever you do, don’t shout out in a really loud voice ‘Oh, For F***’s Sake’. Apart from anything else, quite a few Hungarians can speak English. Love 40.

8. Be prepared.
You know your legs are going to be sore, don’t you? Now you might not have planned that when you took your shoe off following the race that you’d have a lump like an egg on it, courtesy of the forklift, and that you’d not actually be able to walk…but you really should have packed some sort of pain relief. What you probably don’t want to be doing on a Saturday night in Budapest is taking a series of trams and metros on the off chance of finding an all night chemist. And then having a difficult conversation with your partner about possibly having to stay in bed the following day if you were unable to walk. This bit has a happy ending, as it happens, as we managed to get hold of some anti inflammatories that, according to Mrs E, would definitely be banned in the UK, but which she encouraged me to take anyway, which had me springing around like a mountain goat the following day. Almost.

Two games to love on the ‘told you so’ front. No doubt these are all lessons for the future, and I firmly expect to have forgotten them all by the time the next marathon comes around.

Oh, and if you’re reading this dear, you were right. Next time, of course, it will be different x


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